It’s been over a year, and let’s be honest, you thought I was gone for good. If you didn’t, you’re likely a new reader. Either way, I’m back. Life happened. Relationships, work, stress, personal revelations, and graduation swirled together into a perfect storm of distraction that devastated my already shabby shambles of commitment. But hey, I rebuilt and I’m gearing towards a life theme of commitment and integrity.
In particular, I’m attempting this with my writing. This month, though it’s possible I’ll continue my analysis of other works, I’ll primarily be focusing on my adventure as a first-time participant in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month; yep, they gave it a whole month). I’ve never written a novel before, I haven’t even attempted it and failed, which is weird because there are a few dozen dancing about the dark alleys of my brain (waltzing primarily).
The one whose dancing shoes I’m sacrificing on this autumnal altar happens to be co-authored by the lovely, ineffable Charles Llyr. He’s benevolently set aside his own projects to work on this with me. What “this” is, is going to be kept under wraps for now, however, the lessons learned during its conception, creation, and subsequent birth will be published here.
In an effort to pretend to be professional, I’ve skittered the web, hunting for other accounts of first-timers taking on the gauntlet of stress, impending daily-deadline doom, and creative contortion, but ultimately, what I found was mostly mock advice (re: silly buzzfeed-esque meme lists that have zero instructive value and barely provide basic entertainment [can you feel my contempt?]), other blogs posting Eeee! and flail-ridden first-time accounts of joy not yet spoiled by disillusionment, first-timer blogs well-spoiled by the disillusionment of peers in advance (I think I’ll fall into this category), and actual advice for first timers. Of the actual advice, Chuck Wendig’s blogs, which I will undoubtedly continue to reference, cite, and laugh at like Puck at the punch bowl (just think about that for a second) were some of the most beneficial.
This one, on why you should do NaNoWriMo, or conversely, why you shouldn’t, is great for perspective. One of the big things he stresses in it is that every pace, style, and goal is different and a writer shouldn’t blame themselves if this (NaNoWriMo) isn’t theirs. That said, doing NaNoWriMo and finding that out the hard way can still be beneficial.
We learn best through struggle. Honestly, for me, the struggle is commitment and consistency, i.e. writing every day. I’m far less concerned with the word count, which I’m fairly certain we can hit, or having a complete novel, which isn’t likely for most people battling their way to the glistening 50k at the summit of Mt. NaNoWriMo. Even if you do crest the peak and plant your flag, the 50,000-word minimum is on the anemic side of the average novel size. And I’m fine with that. You should be too. Rushing a novel isn’t a great idea, but denting the workload in a month is lovely.
With that in mind, for me, for us, this is a challenge to begin the legitimate book writing process. So where are we in that process right now? Well, when Charles was out here (read as: the mysterious mountain which I patrol with a territorial fervor) last month, we were supposed to plot and plan. That didn’t happen, but I did finally see all of the Evil Dead movies, discover the Steam game Town of Salem, and show him the criks and crannies of my mountain, so…there’s that. Basically, what I’m saying is that we’re at square one and a half. We have our main characters, we have personalities 3/4th baked in the oven, we have a general concept of an antagonist, and a vague idea of the primary conflict. We have…not a lot.
But “not a lot” is still a hell of a lot more than nothing. And that’s something I urge all you writers, and really, all of you doers of any kind, to remember as you work. If you have something, anything, you’re ahead of the curve. You are a few miles passed the people who haven’t even gotten around to starting, and leagues further than those who never will. That’s why I think the most important part of NaNoWriMo is a consistent application of time and effort.
My minimum goal for each day isn’t 1,667 words as recommended, but rather one hour of work. It’s Day 5 right now and I’ve averaged 2 to 3 hours a day. To clarify, our time spent isn’t solely on writing, but also on plotting, discussing, brainstorming, researching, reviewing, noting, and reading for inspiration. Our actual word count at present is 3,722 written since the month started for the ‘actual’ story, 526 written in characterization prep, 10,096 of story written from back when we started this project in December 2014, and then 3,555 words of brainstorming. It’s spit in a bucket compared to the 50,000 words of an actual novel (not counting all the necessary preppy bits and plotting pieces) mandated by the NaNoWriMo gods, but 50,000 is about 50,000 words, 10 drafts, and 3 editors short of an actual novel too so whatever. It’s all perspective.
Our goals is simply to work every day of November and walk away with experience, a clearer idea of where we’re going, and hopefully a healthy chunk of novel-hind to tide us over until Spring when all the little novelettes go frolicking in the fields and are fresh for the poaching. Now I want fried paperback. Sigh. Er…That metaphor got away from me.
NaNoWriMo: What are your goals? What are your worries? What are your quandaries? Are you tackling this thing? Wrestling it? Tangoing? Fencing? Challenging it to an ikebana duel to the death at dawn? Have you done it before? Let us know how it went! Do you have any questions you want us to look into? Ask! We’ll be here. And just to confirm, I (L. Alexandra the illustrious and over-caffeinated), am writing this, but I’ll be passing on the posts and comments to Charles as well. He may even do a guest blog (I haven’t told him this, so right about now he’s probably overcome with that creeping clutch of dread around the necky bits of his spinal column. Hi, Charles! Smile for the camera ;] )! With that, I’ll leave you with a few more helpful NaNoWriMo links.
The Official NaNoWriMo site
Plotting Last Minute: The Hailstorm Approach
And more from…
Terrible Minds//Chuck Wendig
P.S. As I go, I’ll be slapping some lipstick on this blog, maybe some strappy stilettos and a toolbelt, so check back on old posts for the prettified-version of things. In other words, there will be potentially-fancy pictures, more links, functional and full header sections and all those other flashy signs that say I take myself seriously, but not too seriously.