Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cassy's Corner- NaNoWriMo

The fall is approaching rapidly and with that comes for many writers their preparation for NaNoWriMo.  Every November a wonderful group of writers join together across nations to try their hands at completing 50,000 words in a month. National Novel Writing Month. The plan is not to work on a current project, but rather to begin a new one and focus only on getting the words on the page. No editing, no self-recrimination, no letting the daily grind get in the way—just write.

It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? We want to write. Here is a full month in which you tell your family they are on their own for dinners. They need to channel surf quietly. They must understand that you are a writer and offer the respect that comes with that commitment. After all, you have pledged to write those 50,000 words and they should honor their belief in you give you the space to do that.

I did it two years in a row. Not this year. Why? I found that the focus was great. The word production was fantastic. The family did just fine. BUT. What I wrote took an extreme amount of editing. Two years ago I had a great idea- a sure winner. No doubt about it. I wrote a quick outline for a story that was surly to be a winner. As I was pounding out the pages meeting my daily quotas I stalled. It was dragging. No problem at all I thought.

So, I wrote scene after scene that I was sure would be important to the book. They just happened to be out of order. This certainly wouldn’t be an issue for I’d fix it in the editing process. I was accomplishing two important tasks at once. First, I was capturing parts of the story that might have been lost if I let the writing wait until I really got to that part. And, second, I was meeting my daily word count. Seems clear.

When the month was over (Thanksgiving was squeezed in there somewhere) I looked at my pages. Yup, I made the 50,000 word goal and received a computer generated plaque to hang on my office wall. And, the trouble began.

I took the scenes, printed each on separate pages, and laid them out on my long dining room table like playing cards. My outline gave me a full picture of what it needed to look like. Easy from here. I’d just shuffle the scenes into the order that would match my overall plan. Right?

It was a mess. A total mess. It took me a year to work through all the pieces that were missing, out of timing, wrong POV, lacking transition…the list is longer than that. I still think it’s a darn good story. It has lived on a thumb drive for three years. In its current state, it deserves to stay there. But I know it has wonderful potential.

I hope the NaNoWriMo group continues. I wish it all the best. Truly. It has launched winning writers. It has turned kids into writers. It has inspired many who thought they never could do it that, YES, they can. But, I wish they’d send someone here to rearrange all my scenes to make my 50,000 words into something that you’d want to read.

We need to write in our own style. We need to respect what works for us. Outlines, yes/no? Plotting, yes/no? 1200 words a day, yes/no. Writing from home, sneaking time at the office, booking a table at Starbucks, yes/no.

NaNoWriMo, I love you. I respect you. I applaud you. But, I will watch with excitement as I hear of your success as I stand on the sidelines.


Cassy Pickard said...

I'm interested in hearing of your experiences with events like NaNoWriMo. I'm currently doing KOD's BIAW (Book in a Week). It's been a good process for me. Not that I'm writing a book in seven days, rather I am increasing my awareness of pages per day. Kinda like going on a diet or exercise program- making sure you keep thinking about it. And you?

Liz Lipperman said...

I have never been a NaNoWriMo fan. Part of the problem is that I write longhand and then have to transfer each scene/chapter onto the computer. The biggest problem, however, is that I edit constantly, and consequently I could never do 50 K in one month. The good news is that once I finish a manuscript, the editong is not too bad.

I salute anyone who can write that much and will cheer you on from the sidelines, but for me--I have to do it my own way.

Unfortunately, that means slowly!!

Good luck to all of you taking the challenge.

Cassy Pickard said...

I'm with you, Liz. As I said, I've completed it twice. Both books have solid ideas but lack in their presentation. It's the old fashioned way for me. Well, not quite as old fashioned as you, but close. :-)

Lindsay said...

Several years ago I gave NaNoWriMo a try. I stayed on track and word count for the first week then started to lag behind.
Maintaining an average of 1,666 words a day and if I didn't make the count having to add the loss to the next days was just to much for me.
Now, I'm happy to average 800-900 per day. It's a comfortable number for me and I'm able to pretty much maintain that count.
Kudos to anyone who can complete the challenge.

Cozy in Texas said...

NaNo helped me to find what works for me. By writing every day it helps me to keep pace with the story although I do go back and edit, something not recommended for the competition.
Liz, I can't imagine writing longhand I don't think I could keep up with my thoughts which come in spurts.

Cassy Pickard said...

Lindsay, I hear you. It can be a challenge, hence my story of mixed up scenes as I raced to meet the word count.

Sorry for the delay in responding, folks. Just got off the road from Connecticut to New Hampshire. I'm here for my parents and didn't think texting and Route 495 made a good mix.

Cassy Pickard said...

Cozy in Texas: Without wanting to sound rude, every time I'm in Texas I seem to be begging for the AC! And, I'm one of the few people who actually was born in Houston.

I know what you mean about taking the focus to heart. It helped me a lot. But, then I had to go the next step. Keep the pace but do it with my story line as I could put it together.

And, YES, we all admire our wonderful Liz. She is the best. But, I do worry about her pencil budget.

Liz Lipperman said...

Cozy, that's exactly what happens to me when I try to write on the computer. I stare at the blinking cursor.

Lindsay said...

Liz the cursor is suppose to blink. If it doesn't that means there's something wrong with the computer

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, it only blinks when it's not being moved!!

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

I've always wanted to try NanoWriMo. But I have to admit the thought of just puking it out with no editing freaks me out. Could I do it? sure. But because i'm not necessarily at the computer every day to stay in the story...sometimes I have to go back and re-read and in the process edit. :-( sorry, but that's the way it goes.

maybe NaNoWriMo would force me to be at the computer everyday come hell or high water. Gotta make that 50K goal. sounds like a lot of pressure. And after hearing what you've gone through even after making said goal....I'm freaked out.

I love book in a week challenges. Our writing chapter does those every month. It's a way to press beyond what you know you are capable of. I like those alot. I don't always make my goal (I tend to set them a tad too high), but it's fun trying.

Good luck, Cassy!! I have found my page per day average and if I stick to it, it does work. :-)

KimberlyAnne said...

I was a 'winner' last year, and it was my first time participating. I really enjoyed it, and plan on giving it a go again this year.
However, I hear ya on many of your points. Last year, I would be chugging along and then get hit with a great idea for a scene, or conversation, or plot twist...etc for later on in the novel. So, I would add a few pages to my document and then go back. This did not prove helpful, nor effective. It really disrupted my 'flow' and I ended up changing things around or deleting them completely once the story got around to where that piece fit.
However, what I do appreciate about it is that it is a great practice for me, and the 30 day limit really pushes me to make writing a priority, which I want it to be in my life for the other 11 months as well. There are so many things I struggle with as a writer, and for me this has helped me to identify all the areas that could use my attention.
Finally, the write-ins and Word Wars were quite a bit of fun too. Meeting seasoned writers who would share their wisdom and advice was amazing, as well as meeting the rookies (like myself) who have always wanted to write and now we're doing it. The camaraderie and support, both in person and on their online community, was great.
I am interested in the Book in a Week, I will have to check that out!