The End of NaNoWriMo

It’s over, finally. NaNoWriMo was highly motivational, with the online tools and forums and all that good stuff. Unfortunately (and you knew this was coming), I allowed life to run rough-shod over my goals for that little project, and I ended up with under 6,000 words in a month that was meant to produce 50K.


It was amazing what I was able to accomplish. A revamped, comprehensive outline of the entire novel is drafted out, and a prologue plus three complete chapters are written. I experimented with several point-of-view shifts before settling. I also did an analysis of several fantasy novels that provided me with new insight into how fantasy narrative flows. In short, I broke practically every NaNoWriMo commandment: don’t plot, don’t stop, don’t look back, don’t edit. But I still produced something I’m proud of, and I have confidence that I can build on that work. As the month went on, ideas for plot became clearer and made more sense, and characterization (which was my biggest stumbling block, really, trying to make my people do what I wanted them to do) started to gel. Overall, it was an exciting experience that pushed me to do something I didn’t think I could do.

It taught me a few things about myself and my life, too. I’ve been saying for a long time that I’m over-committed to volunteer activities, and mid-month I had a reason and the gumption to call it quits on two major responsibilities. Several people are unhappy with me now, but I tried to quit in a graceful way that indicated to others that now it’s someone else’s turn to serve. That may be the best accomplishment of the month.

Thanks, Office of Letters and Light. Even though I not among the 19% who reached the goal, I still appreciate the lessons learned in the attempt.

How to avoid writing

I spent over an hour today creating a better outline for the novel, which makes me feel like I am totally back on track. I typed it and everything. I divided the general outline I had before into Part I and Part II, then outlined rough chapter divisions and scenes. Maybe a little too confining, according to some who would rather wing it all the way. However, I need something in between the chaos of total unrestrained creativity (which turns out to be less fun than it sounds) and controlled structure. I think I’ve got that now.

But then…

I went back and edited. I know! I’m not supposed to do that, but it’s been very hard to avoid the temptation, so I gave in. I wanted to rewrite the whole thing in past tense, third person, which is where I should have started in the first place, but I tried in vain to plow on ahead and just change it later. Now it’s all consistent –whew! Sometimes being an uptight grammar teacher stinks.

Wherein She (Sighs) and Some Whining is Heard

I just need to get this out:

I’m really struggling with the NaNoWriMo novel. I’m making more time to write, but I keep getting frozen. Sometimes it’s there, and I write for like crazy for an hour or so. Presto, a decent scene happens. Other times, I’m just staring at it, and nothing is working. I have an outline and everything! I’m not feeling it, but I know it’ll come back because it has before.

I’m supposed to be at +15K, and I haven’t quite rounded 6K. I’ve changed tense and recently, point-of-view. Both changes were good, and I did not waste time going back to edit in the new modes. I’m trying to be optimistic, to believe that the plot will snap into place and everything will flow the right way.

Admittedly, I’m distracted by other things (teaching three classes, homeschooling, rebooting our pagan group, gardening), but at least I’m putting the time in. I’m pleased to report that I’ve officially quit one of the committees I was chairing at the UU, and I’m working on letting go of two other obligations. Very liberating, although it was very hard to initiate. I hate letting people down.

I’m not giving up on what makes me happy!

A Sample of the Novel

Kind of fantasy, the first of that type for me. In this scene, Ina, the protagonist, is recovering from a nasty knock given to her by her mother, the Queen Mother, while her bratty sister mocks her. Hopefully, it’s not totally dreadful!

In the kitchen, Martik sponged at my head with a rough cloth and wrung it out over a pail of cool water.
“What’s all the fuss?” my sister asked, using her foot to shove past the shaggy scullery dog that slept by the woodstove.
“Your sister bumped her head sparring, it’s only a scratch,” said Martik with a patient smile. He patted my throbbing head again, then handed the cloth to her.
“Here, Eresh, tend to your sister,” said Martik.
“What? Where’s Old Nish? I don’t want to!” Eresh said.
“Mind me, dear one,” Martik said in a gruff voice. Then, more gently to me, he said, “Ina, I’m heading to stables. Come back out when you’ve recovered a bit. Oh, I beg your pardon, Old Nish.” He stepped aside at the door to let an old woman pass in through the door from the courtyard, then went out. Old Nish stomped the snow from her feet and unwrapped her gray head.
“What’s this, then?” Old Nish said, glaring at Martik’s retreat and the muddy footprints around the hearth. She strode over and snatched the rag from Eresh. Her wrinkled lips pursed into a frown as she inspected the wound. “This gash will need herballing. Oh, yes, that it will.”
“Tsk, tsk. I thought it was just a scratch,” said Eresh in a mocking tone.
Old Nish ignored her, and said “Fetch some clean water, there you go, Eresh,” shoving the pail in my sister’s direction.
“But it’s cold out there!”
“Go now, girl, afore my boot finds your backside!”
“I thought fetching water was servants’ work,” Eresh said in a haughty tone reserved for those beneath her. She shot a significant glare at Old Nish’s back but was paid no mind. On the way out, she slammed the door a little harder than necessary.
“Oh, my pet,” crooned Old Nish, turning back to me. “What’s happened to you now? Sit back there, I’ll get your boots.” Adjusting her skirts, the old servant crouched near my seat by the hearth and removed each of my boots in turn. “Ah, yes, oh dear.” A sizable pebble fell from one boot.
“Just a bit of sparring, Nish. I’m alright.”
“Sparring with whom? Looks like a Southern savage has beat you about the head!”
“And the chest!” I opened my shirtfront a button or two where purplish welts could be seen.
“A pox on the Southern savage,” said Nish, smirking and busying herself with the second boot.
“Nish! Stop that silly talk,” I said with a laugh, but laughter was painful. I winced and ran my hand through my tangled hair. Black like the Regent’s and like the Queens of old. Black Goddess, they called my mother. My hand had a spot of blood on it. “I was sparring with Mother.”
“Oh, child,” Nish said. She straightened up and touched my hair tenderly, careful to avoid the injury. “It’s not an easy life, is it?”

Alive and Humming

Back from FPG, and as usual, humming with extraordinary amounts of energy to DO something, almost to the point of being pained by it. I attended some amazing workshops and went to sleep at decent times, foregoing the crazy all-night pleasures of drum circle, at least for this festival. I enjoyed lots of intelligent conversation around the campfire, and I let my cellphone die (even while others were using theirs to obssess over Facebook and incessently check email). We roasted marshmallows (a lot), I unplugged! Except for the little bit (wah) of writing I did on the laptop, I didn’t miss being plugged in.

I didn’t take any pictures because attendees are really not allowed to, but you can see the photos the camp photographer took in Spring at the website; the ones for this past weekend should be up soon. Click the left scroll to see my ugly mug. That picture in the slide show is not the worst ever taken of me, but it ranks up there for my menfolk. That’s the joy of dancing all night, sleeping on the ground and walking around with bedhead (uh, sleeping-bag-head) because you left your hairbrush at home.

Part of the reason I enjoy this festival so much is the escape it provides from daily responsibilities. I can think better, more clearly, I can just BE, for hours on end. This always leads to some change in my thinking and my life, which can probably be seen in the posts related to the Spring festival. This time, I came back with a strange desire to attend seminary (really!), a more grounded sense of what it means to be a parent, and more insight into how I can better serve the pagan community. Makes me wonder what insanity/brilliance I could get up to if I had more opportunity for solitude/reflection.

Anyhow, I wrote something like 240 words the entire weekend; in spite of all the personal progress and relaxation I experienced, this sucks. I knew it would be tough to miss that many days during NanNoWriMo, but I thought I’d write more at camp. Wednesday through Sunday night was shot as far as NaNoWriMo goes. Strangely, I don’t feel too freaked by that, though. I spent some time working on the book last night and easily wrote over 400 words in about 45 minutes. It’s a passage I feel good about, so it’s not completely an issue of quantity over quality. For me, some words are better than no words.

At least I rounded the 3K mark! 47, 000 more to go. I’m doubling up this week to catch up.

The Aggravation of Present Tense

Working on the NaNoWriMo story, I realize something about my fiction; I don’t usually enjoy reading first-person present tense (for example, “Bring me the cup,” she says, “and I’ll prove it’s not poison. So, I walk over to where she sits at the table and hand her the wooden chalice. She drinks deeply…), but I keep writing in it. One of my ’09 Clarion submissions was written this way. I’m not supposed to be editing at this stage of the novel, but I had to go back and change to past tense before I went on (“Bring me the cup,” she said, “and I’ll prove it’s not poison. So, I walked over to where she sat at the table and handed her the wooden chalice. She drank deeply…), and it simply seems more natural. I recognize that it works better this way; hopefully this is breakthrough stuff because I’m already feeling a little freaked that the story is trying to write itself in some awkward way that’s not comfortable for me. But I am cranking some generally good stuff, I think.

Back to it.

Aahh! Progress?

I can’t seem to hit my NaNoWriMo word count goal, and it’s only the second day. Every time I sit down to write, I crank out a bit more, maybe a opening of a scene, then I start nodding off! What the hell? And, funny. I don’t feel sleepy now that I’ve stopped.

Still, 2585 words for what amounts to possibly three hours of drafting is not bad. It’s more than I would have done. The story isn’t exactly taking the shape I want yet, but the outline is there. Maybe I will post of synopsis of the outline on Tuesday.

Going to bed to try again in the morning. That seems to be my best time to write, overall, even though I am not a morning person.

Check out my Mighty Novel Progress Log! Cheesy, maybe, but what can I say? I’m a visual gal.

In the beginning…

In a little over an hour, I’ve managed 1557 words for the kick-off of NaNoWriMo. Admittedly, a portion was a prologue I wrote for this story a while back, but that’s the story I want to tell right now. After a busy day, I think the progress is not too shabby.

Falling asleep over the keyboard, gonna head to bed. More reflective writing tomorrow, I’m sure.

Here We Go!

I had ambitions to stay up late and complete my first few hundred words for NaNoWriMo–haha! Too much Halloween fun. But I have been working hard all week to mentally prepare, and I spent a bit of time this evening trying to convince my friend Mark to take the challenge, for mutual moral support. He’s a natural storyteller with three chapters down already, a synopsis of which I was happy to hear tonight (he’s building a YA story, kind of a Prairie-Home-Companion-meets-Practical-Magic, with several points of view, not something I feel good about doing in my writing).

I’ve been reading everything but my outline and notes, with plans to set aside No Plot, No Problem as well as Novelist’s Essential Guide to Creating Plot when the writing begins. Lots of how-to books on writing are terrible, but some are at least inspiring. Between the two (and I want it to be known that the latter was chosen without even a passing thought to the irony of the pairing) I’ve got a good feeling about the level of outlining I’ve done. I don’t want to overthink it, and I don’t want to work aimlessly.

One fun preparation activity suggested by the “NPNP” kit is called the Magna Carta I and II. Part I asks you to list novel elements you really love in novels (a few of mine were utopias, generation ships, forests and quests), and Part II asks for things you despise (such as rogues as love interests, bosom-heaving, evil children, and talking animals). Consider making lists like these for inspiration down the road.