Throughout the month of November, I will be blogging on my progress, both as a motivation to stick with it and as a way for those unfamiliar with the event to get an idea of what the experience can be like. Also: writing craziness, random daydreams, tips, cheats, and caffeine abuse.
Alright, folks. Today is the last day of the month, which means that it's the last day of National Novel Writing Month. If you're anything like me (and have been writing this month), you'll know that November 30th is a bittersweet day. On the one hand, it's a relief to be done with the manic insanity of trying to write a novel in 30 days, succeed or fail.
On the other, at some point during NaNo a writer starts to hit a groove and can see real, decided progress coming along in the manuscript before them. Sometimes a character evolves in front of you without you consciously deciding to make them do so. Your novel has become a growing, almost organic thing, and there's nothing quite like having something both creative and constructive in your life.
For those of you who have "won" and validated your novel already: Congratulations! Enjoy your fancy PDF with your name on it (or your certificate if you printed it out). For those not in-the-know, when you "win" NaNoWriMo, you get a few icons that you can use for Facebook, Twitter, etc, and a PDF that you can customize with your name and novel title. That's really all you get for winning this event. It's totally worth it.
For those who have not yet won: Keep at it! It's that last day - finish strong! You can get those final words if you try. <Insert your own motivational encouragement here.> You know what you need to do if you want those fancy icons and that PDF. You can do it.
For those who are nowhere close to winning: There's always next year. Think about what you learned from this month. Try to remember the best parts for your emotional motivation next year and use the hurdles you might not have cleared in order to plan how you will do next year differently. Perhaps you've realized that you are a writer, but you need to do a smaller amount daily. There's nothing wrong with the NaNo structure not working for you. Writing isn't easy, but it is worth it. Find what works for you and then do it. There are hundreds of blogs and articles out there about how to make your own system that facilitates writing for you.
Now for some obnoxious bragging and "this is how I did it."
1. Last year I wrote entirely in the evenings and the weekends. This years I tried something different. Every week day I've been getting up at 5:30 in the morning to write before I go to work. The best I ever did was about 1000 words, but the usual number is in the 250 to 400 range. It's not a lot (usually less than a page), but it's more than I had before. Having a few words written in the morning also makes the evening sessions shorter and more enjoyable.
2. On weekends when I had nothing else planned, I wrote as much as I could stand. It didn't make for the best days, but having 7500+ words written every Saturday and/or Sunday felt great. In a way, writing is like tough exercise: it's not always pleasant to write, but it's usually pleasant to have written.
3. I carry a notebook around with me everywhere. Whenever a snippet of dialogue jumps into my head, I pull out my handy notebook and pen and write it down, later typing it into the manuscript in a chapter entitled "Random Stuff" which is just a mess of these things. It's not terribly long, but occasionally I could Cut-Paste into the actual story and save myself some headache. And even if they're never used, at least these snippets reveal character or setting or plot. At the very least, they help my word count.
4. The "strikeout" font treatment is your friend. Does a chapter suck? Like, really suck? Just cross it out. You'll skim over it when re-reading and know it's not officially part of the story. BUT it's still in your word count. I rewrote one chapter three times. That's a lot of words. If I decide to go back with some of the crossed-out text, it's still there, but I can always just erase it later. Add "Strikeout" to your [MS Word] ribbon in the upper left corner, and it will be a quick keystroke away. If strikeout isn't dramatic enough, change the font to white. It accomplishes the same thing.
Today I have over 70,000 words and I don't think I spent any more hours writing this month than I did last year, when I finished with just over 50K.
Future goals: Even after hitting my goal, I continued to write and I plan to keep doing so. I haven't been writing 1667 words a day because that requires addition/subtraction. I've been trying to write two pages a day. This is a much more modest goal, and more importantly, it's not all-consuming. I still have time to watch seasons of Doctor Who, hang out with my friends, and cook actual meals. In fact, I can get most of this done during my morning session. By keeping up with this, one year's worth of writing will be well over 700 pages. That's a sizable manuscript. Never underestimate the power of small amounts of consistent progress.
For those of you who NaNo'd your heart out, I hope to see you next year. For those who have never done it, maybe give it a shot? And for those who never want to write a book and just want me to get back to writing reviews...I'm getting to it. I promise.