Nano lesson #8: The Final Sprint

The good news is that we are now in that final stretch of NaNo. If you have been diligent, or did extra ahead of time to allow for Thanksgiving feasting and Black Friday madness, you should be in good shape.

I mean 1,667 words a day isn’t that much? I’ve seen plenty of comments on blogs from ethics to manners that roared past that number. I’ve seen run on sentences that sent on forever. How many of us finished that thirty page research project in three days for high school? Fiction can be way easier because you can make up shit. That’s why it’s called fiction.

NaNo whirlwind 2017, original neon whirlwind by Creativity103 without change, used under Creative Common 2.0

I easily average over a thousand words a day writing. I switch from project to project when one gets blocked or a plot bunny bites. Usually I do comments or blog entries, and write for two active fiction stories every week.

But doing nearly two thousand every day for NaNo lasts long enough that I have to prune my other activities just to get it done. The later in the month, the more has been has been pruned. TV and movies are much lower. Socializing too, but that’s been on a downward trend since college. Sleep has been hard hit, but that’s back to holding at six to seven hours. Some years, plot bunnies from EVERY other unfinished story attack to distract me, leaving fang and claw marks everywhere. Shopping for the holidays takes a big hit, even ordering online doesn’t help when the online system at Michaels told us they were out of stock three days in a row, but a friend walked right in and bought several from a flat. By the end of the month, family is a little better at not bothering you. A little, and only for humans. The four leggeds do not understand NaNo anymore than they get daylight saving time.

If you have made use of all this scavenged time, you should be over 40k words by today and hit 45k by tomorrow night. You may be tired and hate the story, but at this point you’re so close it would be stupid to stop.

And if you have fallen behind, you have only five days including today. Cut out more and write more. If you never really got rolling, write anyway. Write about the problems you had this year and how to avoid or lessen them for next time. Make it about a learning experience instead of about your lead.

Even after multiple successes, it is rarely any easier. The first draft is easy for a very, very inspiring idea that won’t let go. I think that has happened maybe twice in the last twelve NaNos for me. Twice were total wrecks and did not finish. The others were hard and sometimes brutal. But I made it through them. A majority of the stories were posted online as fanfic, or sit in a trunk hoping for effective editing and revision.

But there is always next year. There are also two Camp NaNo sessions where you can practice the pace or pick a different goal. Just keep at it. Someone will love your story, the tricks are to be clear in telling it and find your fans.

Get to it! And good luck!

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NaNo Lesson #4

What is this thing, timing?

Really these lessons aren’t new. I follow them most of the year. But then the looming holidays make November almost the worst month to hold a worldwide writing challenge. The only month that might be worse is February, but unless you are really caught up in groundhog day / candlemas or have delusions that Valentines will cure your romantic woes, the second month with thenty-eight days isn’t too bad. Here in the northern hemisphere in February, it is the depths of winter and pounding away at a keyboard during long winter nights is pretty good.

But you can timeshift your challenge! Camp NaNo answers for challenges two other times a year. You can commit to the novel in thirty days, or some other challenge. There’s a wider list of challenges. I’d participated once earlier this year. I commited to a major rewrite of a 12k story to clean it up for publication, and it almost doubled in length when I filled in with more character balance. (alas, major family illness and shortage of 2nd opinions meant I lost momentuum and I didn’t find a pub or haven’t self-pubbed yet)

Now if a mass of personal friends participating or hometown pride helps keep you motivated, the NaNo in November is better, much better.

Also coupons and offers are much better in November than for Camp NaNo, probably because of the higher visibility. The Autocrit automated editing service is offering a sweepstakes for their service during NaNo this year, Createspace used to have discounts on paperback copies if you pubbed through them, when they existed autonomously. There’s bunches of tools and offers, only slightly better for people who succeeded. (note: I’m listing these as a NaNo veteran, not from some kind of compensation. I use only free tools these days as my wallet is empty) But the benefits of the Camps will probably keep growing, and the offers from November have dropped. If prizes and discounts matter, participate in November.

If a few extre vacation days late in the month help, Thanksgiving’s your time. There is much more moral support with local writing groups and writing ins in November. College ones can get a little rowdy, but in my area they are often hosted in coffeeshops or libraries. Usually a handful of published authors, sometimes name authors write pep talks in November.

In Camp NaNo, the only real organized support are virtual tents of writers which seem as successful as random roomates in college. They’re hit or miss and mine was mostly miss. The different writing goals in Camp didn’t help, because we were at different stages of writing, They were trying to just get a draft down on paper and dropped out like flies. I was revising a problematic story. November is mostly to prime the pump, to build a new habit for writing discipline. Everyone is in some stage of that cycle. Revision has little to do with that, so we were speaking different languages.

You have three opportunities for a novel sprint under the official NaNo umbrella each year. Camp NaNo is more useful if you already have a writing group, or are just writing for yourself. If you want or like the extra support and goodies for your first draft sprint, do it in November.

But just do it. So many people say they want to write, have an really good idea. But you have to sit down and write steadily. Do it alone, or find solidarity in November.

Something’s Catching…

Been quiet for the last few weeks as I went from close relative with 2 weeks of flu, folowed by my own case of pneumonia that landed me in the hospital. Still on O2, but life is finally clearing out of the dreck in my head and lungs.

I’m finally able to start to assemble all my shorts from 2015 into an omnibus for electronic and paper publication.  The most annoying thing this time is trying to find a necklace image that includes multiple bead materials.  I’d liked necklace of stars, but the necklace constellation just isn’t detailed enough.  I’m also working on revision of my nano after that. I think I’ll need to block some short fiction as the revision analysis is sloow and no fun at this point….

Summer Doldrums

The heat has arrived in my corner of the mid-Atlantic, and the din of high-speed circulation fans adds to the whine of the A/C we have in one room.  That noise plus the still cloying heat when the outside cools below the inside as we sleep makes for a months of sleep deprivation.  I attempt every year to maintain my work levels, but my attention just dribbles down to the point where spider solitaire can occupy me for hours. (Damn you Win 8 for changing that game away from perfection!)  Some years I do better than others, but I usually take the opportunity revise my NaNo project. Do up a cover and format the layout.

This is relatively minor revisions. I have trouble with revisions, the major kind when you can almost see what the problems are, to make a more interesting conflict, a less cackling villain.  Major revisions are not enjoyable, no matter how much teachers tell me they should be. I cannot see why they would be. If I knew what was wrong I could fix it, but advice usually assumes you know already or their mindset fits you.

Maybe they are assuming that you already have an editor or canny beta readers. (those are worth their weight in chocolate, BTW, and it is very hard to find someone who can explain what doesn’t work and why) I can do a minor revision pass to clean up grammar and clarify my intentions, and my stories usually add about ten percent to their word count for this kind of revision. This is enough if you are writing fanfic, and many of those writers don’t even seem to use their spellcheckers or have passed their composition class.  But for original stories I want to do much better than that.

Look, a spider!