Tag Archives: nanowrimo.2010

Admitting defeat

Sometime around 10:45 last night, the NaNoWriMo novel died after a relapse of plot problems and increasing indifference.  The relapse began on Wednesday when I realized that, despite finishing Part 2, it was more or less unusable.  It wasn’t the direction I wanted to take things. At the time, I didn’t see this as critical. I was eager to write Part 3, but as I started down that direction, I realized that a rewrite of Part 2 would require some minor changes in Part 1 and who knows how it would impact Part 3. I found myself stalled, unable to move forward, and I eventually realized that this was a graveyard spiral from which there would be no recovery.

The novel died quietly in the night.

I don’t see this as a complete failure for several reasons:

  • Part 1 is really outstanding and I plan to cannibalize it and make it into a long novelette or short novella.
  • I learned more about the novel-writing process than ever before
  • I wrote a lot, and for me, any writing is good practice
  • Most importantly, it taught me that I am not yet ready to write novels and that I should focus on what I am getting better and better at, which is writing short stories.

This last point is the most significant thing to come out of any of the NaNoWriMo’s that I have so far attempted. Last night I realized that I should be focusing on my short fiction. I am not trying to be a full-time writer so there is no need for me to be writing novels. I don’t think I have reached the maturity or level of experience to write a novel successfully.  I think this might come with time, but that I shouldn’t force it. I should stick with short fiction and focusing on writing more of that, and moreover, selling more of that. I love short fiction, and I am getting better at it and I should be taking advantage of my recent successes to write even more of it.

This is what I will be doing, therefore. My goals for 2011 will reflect this, and I will discuss that in more detail when I post those goals closer to the end of the year.

I am partially done with Story #8. I also have a small amount of Story #9.  Story #10 will be the cannibalized version of Part 1 of the novel. I might not finish these three stories before the end of the year, but whatever I don’t finish will carry over to next year. Next year my focus will be entirely on short fiction. I may even skip NaNoWriMo next year to maintain that focus. I want to get as good as I can get at the art before I move on to something else. Maybe I’ll try novels again a few years down the road, but for now, it’s short fiction.

This is an invaluable lesson. You can’t be everything. I have friends and colleagues who are outstanding novel writers. I am not. But I’m getting to be a half-way decent short story writer and with more practice, maybe I’ll even be pretty good at it one day.

I’ll tell you this, though: when the novel passed last night, it came as an enormous relief. Admitting defeat was, in a way, cathartic.  I am looking forward to getting back to short fiction.

NaNoWriMo Day 31 – Struggle for Survival

I didn’t do any writing on the novel yesterday. I worked on the outline some, fleshing out the details of Part 3, but no writing. In part this was because I was busy with too many other things. But that is just an excuse. The truth is that I am pretty unhappy with Part 3 and because of that, even Part 3 has lost some of its luster. I feel like I am in a sudden struggle for survival in my attempt to finish the novel at all, let alone by December 15.

I decided yesterday that in the second draft, I am cutting Part 2 entirely. The plot just isn’t interesting enough in that part of the novel. I still think I have a pretty good Part 3 outline, but some of the motivation for the actions that occur are less clear without knowing what will happen in the new Part 2. I almost feel like I need to rewrite the outline for Part 2 before I can continue with Part 3 in any meaningful way. Of course, this will mean some minor changes in Part 1 as well, but I still think Part 1 is the strongest and I don’t think too much will change there.  Truthfully, I feel like I could use some time away from the story. I’m tempted to set it aside and finish up another short piece I’ve been working on just to get my mind off of it for a little while. But that doesn’t get the novel written. I know that I need to stick with it. I can push through by brute force, like I always do, and clean things up in the second draft, even if that means some wholesale rewrite.

I may use the short story as a carrot.  If I can get my 2,000 words on the novel done each day, then I’ll permit myself to work on the short story in the evenings–but only if I get the novel writing done first.

Anyway, since I’ve spoken about my daily successes, I felt a post was in order describing some of my failures.  Part 2 is a definite failure and it is impacting my will to press forward.  But press forward I will try. December 15 is looming ever closer and I’ve still got about 28,900 words to go.

NaNoWriMo by the Numbers

Now that I have completed the 30-day NaNoWriMo challenge, here is a look at what I did “by the numbers”.  If you ask me, it’s pretty impressive:

  • 61,131 words in 30 days. That’s an average of 2,037 words/day
  • Wrote on 25 out of 30 days.  If you count just those 25 days, I wrote an average of 2,445 words/day
  • Wrote every one of the first 21 days without a break
  • My single best day: Friday, November 12 with 3,862 words
  • My single worst day: Sunday, November 21 with 1,875 words
  • I finished the month 11,121 words ahead of NaNoWriMo pace
  • At my high point on November 21, I was 17,027 words ahead of NaNoWriMo pace
  • I spent a total of 46 hours at the keyboard doing actual novel writing
  • That’s an average of 1,327 words/hour, or about 5 manuscript pages

Now consider that in addition to this, I also:

  • Wrote 6,621 words of short fiction during this time

That brings my total fiction for the month of November to 67,652 words.  That is utterly mind-boggling to me and it tells me that if I put my mind to it, I can write every single day

NaNoWriMo 2010 Day 30 — The End of Part 2

Once again, I didn’t get up early to write this morning and wrote at lunch instead.  It is a frighteningly interesting phenomenon where I can be under an arbitrary deadline like NaNoWriMo and get up early every day and write 2,000 words, but when I am on my own arbitrary deadline, it doesn’t seem to hold much weight. I think this is the discipline that full-time writers talk about when they say that it is difficult to write everyday when you don’t real deadlines hanging over your head.

But write at lunch I did.  I worked on Chapter 30 which is the final chapter of Part 2.  The chapter contains 3 scenes and I wrote all of the first two and the beginning of the last before having to bring myself to a stop and get back to work.  It totaled 2,043 words and brings me to a 30-day total of 61,131 words for NaNoWriMo.

I’ll have more to say on my stats for this month in the next post.

What I want to say here is that Part 2 of my novel, while virtually finished, is going to be completely rewritten in the second draft.  I don’t like the direction it has taken, and while there are interesting aspects to some of it, I don’t think it makes for a very exciting part of the story.  I kind of saw this coming when I got bogged down in the infamous middle-muddle, but I ignored it and pressed on in order to get the writing done.  What I see now are several plot problems that aren’t easily resolvable, to say nothing of trying to cram too much in without being able to focus on any of the more interest aspects of what I was trying to do.  I’m not sure what direction it will take in the second draft but I expect it to be a complete rewrite, and I imagine that of the 30,000 words or so that currently make up Part 2, I’ll retain only a fraction of that.  What that leaves me with is what I think of as a very good Part 1 and what I think will be a very good Part 3 and I’ll need something interesting to bridge the two parts.

That said, I think it was a good experience just forcing myself to write because it helped me to identify the problems and start to work on ways that I could attempt to fix them.  And when those fixes looked like they wouldn’t hold, it helped me realize when and what will have to go in order to make this the best possible story it can be, and for me that is crucial.

A word about the next 15 days or so:

NaNoWriMo officially ends today at midnight.  But for me, the process of writing my first novel continues and for the sake of consistency, I will continue my daily progress posts under the post titles of NaNoWriMo 2010 Day x.  The charts that I include at the end of each post will change slightly since I can no longer make use of the NaNo website’s automatically generated charts, but the principle will be the same and those following along can continue to follow my progress through this novel as I begin on Part 3.  I still have some work on the Part 3 outline and I hope to get some of that done tonight.  My personal deadline is to finish up the novel by December 15–two weeks from tomorrow, but my hard deadline is actually December 20, the day before I go on vacation.  I do not want the novel hanging over my head when I am trying to relax.

Be sure to check out the post that follows this one if you are interested in some of my stats for the month of November.

And as always, here are today’s numbers:

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NaNoWriMo 2010 Day 29 – Pushing Forward

I finally got around to posting my novel progress for the day.  I ended taking the weekend off because we had friends in town and between hanging out with them and dealing with 3 little kids, I was pretty much worn out for most of the weekend.  But I was back at it today, working through a rather longish Chapter 26.  The chapter was made up of 3 scenes each of which I’d estimated at close to 1000 words.  It results in a 2,755 words for me today, bringing my 29-day total to 59,088 words.  I was happy with all but the last scene.  That one will clearly require some work.

But it looks like I’m about 4 chapters away from wrapping up Part 2 of the novel and that means that on Friday or Saturday, I’ll start into Part 3 which I’m really looking forward to writing.  I’m still pushing to finish by about December 15, and certainly not later than December 20 since I don’t plan on taking the novel on vacation and I’d like to head out of town without the novel hanging over my head.

Tomorrow is the last official day of NaNoWriMo and after tomorrow, I’ll be writing a post on my experience with Scrivener 2.0 through this process, so stay tuned for that in addition to the usual stuff.  I’ll also be posting about how much time I spent writing in the month of November which was a record-setting month for me.

Here are the stats for today:

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NaNoWriMo 2010 Day 26 – A 2-session day

I was up at 7am this morning and did the first of 2 writing sessions today.  There were two scenes in Chapter 25 and I felt like between scenes was a good break point, especially since I had other chores to do this morning before our weekend guests arrived.  Actually, there were not originally 2 scenes in Chapter 25 but the way I ended the first scene made the subsequent scene a natural fit to ratchet up the tension, and overall, I think it worked pretty well.

I wrote 2,153 words today for a 26-day total of 56,333 words.  Despite my win on the 21st and missing 3 full days of writing, I am still more than 13,000 words ahead of pace, which is somehow pleasing to me.  Glancing at my outline for Chapter 26, tomorrow should be a pretty fun day as well.

Part 2 has a taken a turn from what I originally expected, and I imagine that this part will change the most in the second draft.  But at least the changes have helped me push past the middle muddle and get back to my 2,000 words a day without much struggle.

Here are the stats for today:

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NaNoWriMo 2010 Day 25 – Past the middle muddle

After a few days off, I was back to work early this afternoon.  I’ve been struggling lately with the “middle muddle” and felt stuck in the mud in the midst of Part 2 of the novel, but thanks to some reworking of my outline, and some quality thinking time cleaning 4 bathrooms and vacuuming all three levels of the house, I managed to push through it today and I feel good about it.  I managed 2,146 words for a 25-day total of 54,180 words.

I had intended to treat the holiday today as a “weekend” day and get up at 7am and do my writing, but I slept in.  I plan on being back to my normal routine tomorrow.

In the meantime, I was pleased with what I wrote today.  It was a brute-force push through the middle-muddle, but it introduced two significant subplots which will carry me through the remainder of Part 2 (roughly 6 more chapters) with what I think is a set of interesting and exciting story lines.  This is around where I died last year after winning NaNoWriMo.  For some reason, the pressure is off when you win, and that is a bad thing for me because I work so well under that competitive pressure.  Without that pressure, I have to work even harder just to get going.  But I think that today’s writing was a turning point.  I’m already looking forward to Chapter 25 tomorrow.

Here are the stats for today:

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NaNoWriMo 2010 Winner!

You can verify your win today on the NaNoWriMo website.  I just ran my verification and was validated as a winner for 2010:

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Now that I’ve verified my win, I’m about to tackle my 2,000 words for today.  Remember: I’m aiming for 90,000 words by December 15 so I still have quite a way to go.  Happy Thanksgiving!  And happy writing.

NaNoWriMo 2010 Days 22-23 (Win+3)

I didn’t manage to do any writing on Monday or Tuesday because I was in New York attending various writer events. That is really just an excuse, of course. In reality it was a combination of the fact that I “won” the competition which takes off some of the pressure (I wish it didn’t), laziness (being on the road is a good excuse not to write), and exhaustion.  As things stand, I have just over 52,000 words and while I didn’t get up to write this morning, I do expect to get some writing in today, and I plan on being back to my normal schedule tomorrow, now that I am caught up on sleep.

Part 2 still needs work and I think the fact that my outline did not start out nearly as complete as Part 1 is a big reason why I am having so much difficulty with it now.  I plan on getting the rest of the kinks worked out today, and I also plan on being certain that I have Part 2 fully-fleshed out, as I should be ready to start on that in about a week.

I believe the NaNoWriMo site opens for official “win” recording tomorrow, so I should have my “certificate” tomorrow, which is nice.

NaNoWriMo 2010 Day 21 (Win+1)

This morning was the first morning that I did not make my personal quota of 2,000 words, and it is probably no coincidence that it happened the day after I “won” the event.  Some of the pressure is off.  I finished up the morning with 1,875 words, still well above the NaNoWriMo pace, for a 21-day total of 52,034 words. I could make excuses for why I couldn’t squeeze out another 125 words, but I won’t.  I’m just happy I was able to get up at 5am on a Sunday and get 2 hours of writing in, despite having won the competition yesterday.  I hope it demonstrates my dedication to finishing up the first draft of the novel before December 15.

I wrote the first scene of Chapter 23 this morning and it wasn’t a great scene, but it added some background information to the main antagonist which I felt I needed to make her into a more fully rounded character, and give her the motivation for why she is opposing the heroes of the novel.  In that sense, it was a good morning.

We’re heading up to New York today.  Tomorrow, I have my Big Writers Day.  Hopefully I can continue my early morning writing unabated while I’m there.

Here are the stats for today:

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NaNoWriMo Day 20: THE WIN!

With less than a thousand word to go to “win” the NaNoWriMo event, I figured I’d throw in an afternoon session to push myself past the milestone.  I wrote one new scene that added 1,109 words–which gives me a 20-day total of 50,159 words, and which officially pushes me over the 50,000 word-mark.  For the second year in a row, I am a NaNoWriMo winner.  Here is a picture of the winner in his brand new NaNoWriMo winner’s t-shirt:

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And here’s a closeup of the shirt:

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And here is how my win looked in Scrivener:

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It’s pretty exciting to win the challenge in a mere 20 days.  But this is only the first step in my larger goal–which is to write a novel that is good enough to SELL. And that means the next milestone will take over as my focus: to finish the novel.  I completed NaNoWriMo last year on November 25 and I ended up with 60,000 words by November 30.  But I gave up after that, feeling that it was a good exercise, but what I had written wouldn’t work for a novel.  This year, I’ve tried to plan things better and at the 50,000-word mark, I’m feeling very good about the story that I’m telling.

My plan going forward is to maintain the same pace that I’ve been working since I started: aiming for 2,000 words each and every day until I hit 90,000 words (or finish the novel). At my current pace I should finish up the first draft around December 10.  I will continue to make my daily posts of my progress so that those who are interested can continue to follow along on this process.

All told, I wrote 3,617 words today, which is an extraordinary day for me.  I’m planning to be back up early tomorrow to get in my 2,000 words.  Very early for a Sunday since we’re hitting the road at 8am.  But I’m taking the rest of the evening off.

Here are the revised stats for today:

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NaNoWriMo 2010 Day 20 (morning session)

I managed a rather unexpected 2,508 words this morning in a mere 90 minutes, which surprised me, but which I think is due in part to a mid-course correction I made yesterday, which I will discuss in due course below.  This morning’s session brought me to a 20-day total of 49,050 words.  When I wrapped up this morning and saw that I was within 950 words of “winning”, I was tempted to press on, but I held back, deciding that I had a good session and didn’t want to press my luck.  There’s always this afternoon.

After yesterday morning’s session, I really felt that my Part 2 outline was not nearly in the shape it needed to be for me to continue without a constant daily struggle.  So I decided to address that by fleshing out all of the issues during my lunch hour yesterday.  Part 2 is more complex than Part 1, but that doesn’t mean it needed to be structured in a more complex way.  Part of my goal was to see if I could find some kind of simpler structure–like I have in Part 1–that would work in Part 2.  So I cleaned off the large whiteboard in my office and began to map out what happens in Part 2.  I tried identifying all of the key plot points, and how those points added tension to the plot, what characters were involved, when in the timeline they took place, and what forces were acting against them.  The result was the following:

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It might be hard read (which is good, I suppose, since it doesn’t give anything away), but the diagram I ended up with listed all of the events on the timeline, and in relationship to a barely visible narrative arc line that curves its way up through the center of the diagram. The items in black are major plot points and the red lines that seem to criss-cross between them are items of tension, things that push against the plot point to add tension to the storyline.  I started with a simple, “How do I get from A to B in an exciting way?” and worked from there.  It turned out to be very helpful.  And John, my next door office neighbor pointed out that what I had done was have positive plot points one side and opposite plot points on the other.  It was completely unintentional, but it gave me the simple framework that I was looking for and that I’d already achieved in Part 1.

It made filling in the rest of the outline for Part 2 much easier.  But it also means there is a fair amount of reworking that will be required in the first 5 chapters of Part 2.  I say “will be required” because I’m not going back to rework them now.  NaNoWriMo is not about rewriting, but  have the outline marked up in such a way as to identify what needs reworking so I can attend to that in the second draft.  Meanwhile, I think the results of this “mid-course correction” were apparent in my work this morning.  I wrote Chapters 21 and 22 and managed to get through 2,500 words in the space of 90 minutes.  A pretty remarkable pace for me.

The reworking isn’t quite complete yet and I expect I will spend some time this afternoon (thus, the “morning session”) fixing up what remains to be fixed (without deleting or rewriting) and at that point, I may try and squeeze in one more scene to push me over the 50,000 word mark.  I received my winner’s T-shirt yesterday and as soon as I pass that mark, I’ll post a photo of me wearing that shirt.

Here are my stats for today:

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