Tag Archives: nanowrimo.2012

NaNoWriMo Is A Bust For Me

It’s time for me to admit defeat. I’m not going to “win” NaNoWriMo this year. And I’m not going to get this novella done before the end of the month. There are several reasons why, the least of which are schedule and other time commitments. The real issue is that the novella is not going as I’d like it to, which tells me that I am not yet at the level of skill to write it the way I want.

I think I’ve discussed this before, but one thing that really sets apart a “professional” writer from everyone else is the ability to push through and get the job done, no matter how much they struggle. I may not that be quite at that point yet. But I think there is another characteristic of a “professional” and that is knowing when to set a story aside. As a short fiction writer, you can’t get too bogged down in any one story and the story that I was writing for NaNoWriMo, like a story I tried writing several years ago, is getting mired in mud. So it is time to move on.

There are other distractions competing for my attention as well. I’ve become fairly obsessed with my re-reading of The Lord of the Rings, and when I should be writing, I am reading and then feeling properly guilty about ignoring my writing.

So what’s next? I wrote a short (1,700 word) story a week or so ago and I’d like to get the second draft of that done, and perhaps expanded a bit. There are also at least two or three other stories, much shorter than what I was trying to do for NaNoWriMo that I am eager to work on, and my gut tells me I should work on the stories that are exciting to me, and not get frustrated by stories that aren’t working. I used to feel guilty about this, but then I recalled from my numerous reading of Isaac Asimov’s autobiographies, that even late in the 1940s when Asimov was a well established writer, he would, on occasion, start a story that he just couldn’t finish. After a few tries, he’d cast it aside and move onto something else.

So, bottom line for me: I’m setting this story aside and moving onto other things, without the artificial pressure of NaNoWriMo. But I am still rooting for all of my friends who are competing, and I hope to see you cross that finish line with 50,000 words.

My Regroup And Catch-Up Plan For NaNoWriMo

This year, while I am participating in NaNoWriMo, I am not writing a novel. After all, I am not a novelist, but a short fiction writer. So I decided to make a slightly altered definition of NaNoWriMo the “No” part representing “novella” instead of “novel.” A novella, for those who don’t know, is the longest piece of “short” fiction. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) define it as something between 15,000 and 40,000 words. Most of the major short fiction markets abide by this definition. I was aiming for a 25,000 word novella. I would achieve my 50,000 words by writing 2 complete drafts in November.

Things went well for the first six days and then I kind of fell off the word cliff. True, I had a trip to the west coast in the middle of all of that, but let’s be honest, I could have written on the plane. The real problem was, despite planning ahead, I wrote myself into a kind of dead-end and I was afraid to tackle it. I kept putting it off and putting it off, and today, we are halfway through NaNoWriMo. People who are “on par” are hitting the 25,000-word mark today, while I have been stuck at 13,000 words for nine days.

But I am not giving up.

Over the last two days, I’ve read over what I wrote with an eye toward identifying the problem and correcting it. I think I have done that. Correcting it requires taking a new approach to the story, but that’s okay. My second drafts rarely look like my first. I went a little beyond just rethinking and identifying the problem. In correcting it, I also outlined a plan to finish the draft by the end of the month. My goal is still to produce a 25,000 word novella, but I tend to write long, so there is still a chance I’ll hit 50,000 words before the month is over.

Here is where I am today:

NaNo Current Status.png

Note that I was initially ahead enough that it took 4 days for me to fall behind. Today I should be at 25,000 words but I am at 13,000 so the slope of my trajectory to hit 50,000 words is a bit steeper than 1,667 words/day. As indicated, I have to hit about 2,300 words per day. How will I manage this?

One problem I identified with my novella was with the overall structure, so I switched to a more traditional 3-act structure with a present and a past narrative interweaving, something I frequently do in my longer stories. In doing this, I made a careful map of what I had to achieve on each day. The first act should come in at roughly 5,000 words, the second at 15,000 and the third and final act at 5,000. Here is how I plan to make it happen:

  • Act 1 (5,000 words): November 16-17 (~2,500 words each day)
  • Act 2 (15,000 words): November 18-20 and November 23-27 (~2,000 words each day with 2 days off for Thanksgiving)
  • Act 3 (5,000 words): November 28-30 (~1,667 words each day)

Of course, I’ve mapped it out in more detail than this.  I have a pretty good idea of what I’ll be writing each day, not just when and how much and that should help to keep me focused.

So tomorrow, I’ll be spending a couple of hours after the kids go to bed getting in my 2,500 words–or more if I can manage. And the next day I’ll do it again. And the next. But right now, I know what has to be written tomorrow and that’s what I am focused on. I may come in a little shy of 50,000 words in the end, but the result will still be a complete draft of a novella.

How is everyone else doing? Anyone still way ahead of the curve? Anyone struggling? Thinking about giving up? Don’t! Take a day to regroup, rethink, plan and start anew.

A Quick Update On My (Lack Of) NaNoWriMo Progress

If you’ve been following along, you know that in the first several days of NaNoWriMo, I managed 13,000 words and was very pleased with my progress. Then things seemed to grind to a halt. I could claim several reasons for this:

  1. I sat down to work on my story one night and instead ended up writing the entire first draft of a new story.
  2. I had to travel to San Francisco and was overly optimistic about how much writing I’d fit in to an already busy schedule.

But the truth is these have been side-effects that are only indirectly related to my lack of progress. It seems that around November 5, despite my planning ahead, I wrote myself into something of a dead-end. The story seemed to drag and I found it harder and harder to write myself out of where I was. At that point, I was a couple of days ahead of schedule, and I felt that I had some time to think the problem through. But I didn’t make good use of that time. Then I got behind and still, I had no solution. As of today, I’m 7,000 words behind par.

I won’t be writing tonight. Tonight, I’ll be regrouping. This is the point at which it might seem most prudent to give up, especially since I am not actually writing a novel, but two drafts of a novella. I’ve given my problem a lot of thought and tonight, I’ll be reworking my ideas to get myself out of the dead-end that I’ve crawled into. Tomorrow night, I’ll start writing again, with an eye toward completing my first draft over the weekend. That will give my 11 days to write the second draft, but seconds drafts are my favorite part of writing and they tend to go faster because I have a much more clear picture of where the story is going. I fully expect to write 25,000 words of second draft in those 11 days.

Look for my daily progress report updates to resume tomorrow evening. In the meantime, I am queuing the Rocky music…

A Strange Thing Happened on the Way To NaNoWriMo Tonight

I almost didn’t write again tonight. I spent my evening doing laundry and packing and a variety of other things before I head off on a very quick trip to the Bay area tomorrow. By the time the kids were in bed and asleep I’d all but given up on writing for the evening. After all, I’d have nearly six hours on a plane tomorrow to play catch-up. I even started watching a movie, but after about 30 minutes or so, I shut off the movie and decided to give the writing a go.

I opened my novella, added a new scene file, and was poised to start typing the first words of the new scene–when something strange happened. Instead of typing what should have been the first words of the new scene, my fingers typed out the title of a story. They put it neatly between quotation marks, and then they continued. They typed out a “1.” followed by a two word scene. I’ll tell you the words of that opening scene. They were: “We jumped.”

My fingers continued in this manner for the next–what? Hour? Hour and a half? I’m not certain. They typed out a total of 14 scenes before the story was finished. Those fourteen scenes add up to a hair over 1,700 words.

So I didn’t do my NaNoWriMo writing tonight, as planned, but I did write a new story, which is tentatively called, “And We Jumped Into a Sea of Stars.” The story is now in desperate need of second draft, but I am too tired to worry about that tonight. After all, I’ve got a five-plus-hour plane ride tomorrow.

At the present moment, therefore, on Day 7 of NaNoWriMo, I’m stuck at 13,005 words for the second day in a row, despite writing 1,700 words today. Those 1,700 words would jump my NaNo story to nearly 15,000 words, but that wouldn’t be honest. They are not part of that story. They are part of another story. One that I think is pretty good, for a first draft.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 6 Progress Report

On the sixth day, I rested. I was just too tired to write last night. I probably could have put some words down on the page, but they would have been there for word count only and would not have added substance. So I took the night off. It’s okay. I was more than 3,000 words ahead of the curve and even after taking the day off, I’m still around 1,300 words ahead of par and still have my writing to do today.

I travel tomorrow and will be out of town Friday, taking a red-eye back Friday night. Over the next five days, I’m hoping to come close to finishing the draft of my novella so that I can start ripping it apart to see where the story is. Then I get to begin on my favorite part of writing: the second draft.

How did everyone else do?

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 5 Progress Report

It’s back to the work-week, which means I am back to doing my writing in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed. Tonight I wrote for about 2 hours, and while a lot of what I wrote felt like info-dump, I am beginning to recognize the structure of the story and see all of the parts. And I know that it will look very different in the second draft. But that is a good thing. By recognizing that, I am no encumbered by worries of what I write on any given day. It is a sketch and I won’t start using ink to shape it until the next pass.

So I managed to add just shy of 2,500 words tonight, bringing my 5-day total to 13,005 words. Here are my official Day 5 stats:

NaNoWriMo 2012 Day 5.png

I’m getting into a groove, but I did think I’d be farther along in the story than I am, and already I realize that a lot of compression is going to be taking place in the next draft. Still, I am well ahead of the curve in terms of writing, which is good because I will be out of town on Thursday and Friday and I’ll need to try to cram my writing in while on a plane. Being this far ahead of par gives me a little breathing room.

I’m pleased with what I accomplished tonight, as you can tell from my photo below, taken just after I finished.

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Tomorrow will be interesting because it’s Election Day and I’m sure that when I’m doing my writing in the evening, I’ll be tempted to check to see how things are turning out. Maybe it will be good to have a 2-hour break and focus on something other than incoming polling numbers.

How’d everyone else fare today?

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 4 Progress Report

Today was another good day, but much more spread out than the three previous days. By that I mean that I started writing this morning, and didn’t finish until just now, but I wasn’t really writing continuously for the last 5 hours or so. I did it in small chunks. This was in part because of some research that I needed to do along the way. It was also due in part to my first major deviation from my outline. I’m not worried about that deviation. It turns out that it makes for a much better story. But it mean that I ended up writing several smaller scenes today, instead of what I had originally planned. Now that I have an idea of the new directions things are going, I’ll be updating my plan accordingly. (That’s another reason things were more spread out: I was jotting down a lot of notes on scenes that I’d already written.)

I finished the with 2,114 words on the day, less than half of what I wrote yesterday, but still well above par. I also passed the 10,000 word-mark, so that my 4-day total now stands at 10,516 words. Here are my official Day 4 stats:

NaNoWriMo Day 4.png

I had some insight today on how my writer’s brain works. There was a scene in which my narrator was discussing how certain information could be lost. He was talking with another character, and for verisimilitude, I had him working on a small garden as he talked. What was in the garden? I wasn’t sure. So I went with peas–and realized at once that choice was no accident. I then conveyed the story of Gregor Mendel, who used peas to tease out the laws of inheritance, only for those laws to be lost for a generation before they were rediscovered. So what started out as verisimilitude worked into substance and made for a good scene. I need to learn to trust my instincts more, like I did here.

Here I am after I finished up my writing for the day today:

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I’m going to treat myself to a Robert Reed novella.

How’s everyone else doing? Y’all had an extra hour,what with Daylight Saving Time coming to an end early this morning.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 3 – Session 2 Progress Report

I think I can count on one hand the number of days that I’ve written more than 4,000 words of new fiction in a single day. But that is exactly what I did today. I wrote nearly 2,000 words in my morning writing session, then, this afternoon while the Little Man napped, I wrote another 2,500 words or so. It brings my Day 3 total for NaNoWriMo to 4,459 words. My 3-day total now tops in at 8,402 words. That puts me 3,401 words ahead of my 3-day target. Put another way, I could pretty much skip 2 days and still be ahead of the game. Here are my revised,official Day 3 stats:

NaNoWriMo Day 3 - Session 2.png

And I couldn’t resist taking another picture of myself after this rather remarkable accomplishment:

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I’m probably done writing for the day today, but I fully expect to be back at the keyboard tomorrow, aiming to put another 2,o00 words or so into this story. Maybe I can pass the 10,000-word mark! That would be pretty cool.

Anyone else have a big word-count day today?

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 3 Progress Report

I had to get in my writing early today because Kelly and I are going out tonight. The whole family managed to sleep in until past 8am this morning, which may be a first. But Kelly decided to take the kids out to Gymboree at 9am and when they all left, I sat down to get in as much writing as I could. I managed another 90 minutes or so of writing, adding 1,950 words to my total and bringing my 3-day total to 5,893 words. Here are my official Day 3 stats:

NaNoWriMo Day 3.png

It is possible that I will get more writing in this afternoon when the kids are napping. If the opportunity arises, I’m certainly going to take it. But even if it doesn’t, I’ve gone beyond my quota for three straight days now and that feels pretty good. I also feel good about what I wrote today, and I once again left off at a point that I am eager to pick up.

And now, I have to dash off and meet the family at the local playground. Here I am just after finishing my writing session this morning:

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How’s everyone else faring today?

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 2 Progress Report

Today’s writing session was much better than yesterday’s, not in terms of quantity, but definitely in terms of pace and quality. In 90 minute, I managed to add nearly 1,800 words, 300 short of yesterday’s mark, but still above pace. Better still, I worked steadily and deliberately and I think the result is a scene whose voice and tone is much closer to what I was aiming for than what I wrote yesterday. My work today officially amounted to 1,791 words, giving me a 2-day total of 3,943 words. Here are my official Day 2 stats:

NaNoWriMo Day 2.png

I completed a scene tonight and left off at a point at which I am eager to get started on tomorrow. Tomorrow’s writing session will be earlier in the day, probably while the Little Man naps, because tomorrow evening, Kelly and I are going out, first to dinner and then to a party. By the time we get back it will be late and I doubt I’ll be in any shape to write. As it stands, I wrote this evening, having not slept for well over 36 hours–for some reason, after writing last night, I couldn’t get to sleep. No matter what I tried, I tossed and turned until it was time to get up and go to work.

But I made it through, and I’m eager to get started on the scene tomorrow. I’m not sure I’ll complete that scene tomorrow, as my plan for it is somewhat extensive, but it will be fun to get started.

Here I am, immediately after completing tonight’s writing session. (I wore my Superman shirt especially for the occasion):

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How did your second day go? Any problems? Any breakthroughs?

Another Possibly Useful NaNoWriMo Tip To Avoid Rewriting

One of the biggest challenges that writers face as part of NaNoWriMo is the urge to rewrite. After that first day of writing, you sit back and wonder: did I choose the right story? Am I telling it from the proper point of view? I think I did way too much info-dumping. The scene is crap–I need to write the entire thing over!

Do not do this!

NaNoWriMo is not about writing a perfect, or even near-perfect novel. It’s about getting a story draft down at a marathon pace. If you start to second-guess yourself along the way and begin rewriting, you will quickly fall behind and falling behind can lead to doom! Too far behind and you lose your will to continue. Of course, all of this can be avoided by resisting the urge to rewrite–something that I know is not easy. But here is the trick that I use–and it has worked for me in two previous NaNoWriMos:

Write your 1,667 words and don’t look back. Hold your doubts until you’ve met your quota. Once you meet your quota, go back and jot down some notes about how you will fix what you just wrote in the next draft. Don’t fix them, just write notes about how you will do it. Since I use Scrivener for my fiction writing, I make use of Scrivener’s “Project Notes” feature to capture these notes. I’ll make an entry for each date that I have concern. And, yes, last night, after writing more than 2,000 words, I realized I had a major problem. But rather than rewrite, I jotted down some notes. Here are what those notes look like:

NaNo Tip.png

And since that might show up a little small on the screen, here is what it says:

After writing the opening scene, it occurs to me that the epistolary form isn’t going to work for this story. I think I was going for something like Stephen King has in his novella “1922” but as I wrote this evening, it seemed like the narrator was too distant from the action and holding too much back. So…

In the next draft I think it should be a straight first-person narrative from the father’s POV and start with his meeting with Merrick as opposed to the lead-in I did in the first 300 words or so of the opening scene.

Too much info-dumping in the second scene but that will get worked out in the second draft. I’ll make the research the narrator does much more of an exploration than the narrative dump that is currently is.

Otherwise, some good stuff tonight, some so-so stuff.

I wrote that almost as soon as I finished last night–even before I wrote my blog post. Getting those notes down made me feel better because I identified what i thought were problems for the next draft, and can now move on without worrying that I’ll forget about them–and without spending precious time rewriting the scenes during NaNoWriMo.

It works for me–it might work for you, too, if you find yourself feeling that urge to rewrite. Consider giving it a try.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Day 1 Progress Report

My first writing session for NaNoWriMo 2012 is complete. In just under 2 hours, I wrote the first one-and-a-half scenes of my novella, and managed to get in a total of 2,152 words, nearly 500 words over my target.

Remember that I’m doing something slightly different than the norm. I’m writing a 25,000 word novella, but attempting to produce 2 drafts in 30 days (so in essence, the total is still 50,000 words). By the time NaNoWriMo is over, I’d like to have a draft good enough to send out to beta-readers.

I was relatively pleased with what I wrote. There is a certain voice I’m going after which isn’t quite there yet. Also, I feel like I did maybe a little too much info-dumping, but it is difficult to say since this story takes the form of a letter from a father to his son. In any case, I’m not too worried about it in this draft. I have a couple of days–November 16-18–to look at the structure of the whole thing before starting on the second draft.

So here are my official Day 1 stats:

NaNoWriMo Day 1.png

And here I am, giving a thumbs-up after successful completion of my first day of work on the novella:

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So, how did everyone else1 do on their first day?


  1. Participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Add me as a buddy.