Something New (or Lessons Learned in 2011)

I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time in November.  I wasn’t planning on it until I talked to my daughter Meredith Rose Ashe and she challenged me.  So, two days before the end of October, there I was wracking my brains for something I could easily turn into a novel — or at least 50,000 words of a novel.  I write long, so 50,000 words is really the first half of a novel for me.

I didn’t find anything I liked in my usual writing prompts, but Meredith and I had developed some characters for a pirate spoof we called Avast.  Why not do that?  I called her and asked if she minded.  She said go for it.  So I scribbled some quick notes, threw them into One Note (one of the best programmes in Office 2010 for organizing I’ve ever run across), bought myself a 4″ binder and some dividers, and hit the ground running.

Normally I don’t write by word count but by number of pages.  I set a goal of so many pages a day and try to hit it.  NaNoWriMo’s goal is 1667 words a day.  Every day.  Seven days a week.  If you miss a day you have to make those words up!  Like any writing, there are good days where the writing flows easily and others where the words are jammed at the fingertips, refusing to come out.  And of course, life happens while you are trying to write.  Not only that, but there is Thanksgiving to plan and Christmas…

Meredith hooked me up with a writer’s group on Facebook.  Most if not all of us were doing NaNo.  It helped to join Word Wars — challenges to find out how many words we could write in an hour.  It kept me focused and writing.

So what did I learn through this tremendous month?

I learned I can start a project quickly.

I learned I can write well even when I’m going on sketchy notes.  I didn’t have a lot of plotting going into my chapters, just sort of wrote a beginning and ending idea and some vague thoughts and then went for it.  This is not how I usually write, but I realized I can trust my creative side to know what to say when the editor is forced to stay in the background.

I learned I am capable of writing a lot of words quickly. I easily averaged my 1667 words, one day writing 4500 words because I was behind.  I found that I could write between 900-1200 words an hour with ten minute breaks in between.  So now I’m setting my goals every day of 2000-2500 words and reaching or exceeding them.

I took weekends for me.  I needed the downtime.  So in the end I didn’t get my 50,000 words written.  I wrote 42,500.  I’m okay with that for this first time.  Next year I’ll actually make my goal because I won’t take every weekend.

Going forward, i know I can write a lot of words and do it well.  it has helped me in the writing of my current work in progress.  I’m still learning to trust my creative self and tell the editor to go play on this first pass (my inner editor is very picky about what I put on paper).  It’s okay not to be perfect the first time round, but I know I’m going in the right direction.  And it’s FUN!

I’m nearly at the end of the current manuscript and struggling to finish it.  I know it’s because I love my characters and don’t want to let them go, even for a little while.  NaNoWriMo helped me learn to finish what I start, too, even though I’m only in the middle of what I wrote in November.  I’ll go back and finish Avast, and I’ll finish Energy Weavers, hopefully this month.

My goals going forward are to finish the last two chapters of Energy Weavers, finish a historical called Now and Then, and then start the sequel to Energy Weavers.  I’d also like to rewrite a book I wrote and had published back in 2002, perhaps publish it as an e-book.  That’s a lot for one year in which I have abdominal surgery at the beginning of the year and two months of recovery.  We’ll see what happens.  But at least I have the goals and something to strive for.  That’s all good.

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4 thoughts on “Something New (or Lessons Learned in 2011)

  1. Good for you, Deborah! I’ve thought of doing NaNo but haven’t yet. Maybe 2012 is the year. I liked your post because you sound like a real person and are not afraid to let the world see your warts (translate things that get in the way of writing.) Good luck on both your surgery and your goals.

    • Elaine, onee of the things I was afraid of doing was failing at NaNo — not getting all the words written — so for years I didn’t do it. But I realized that even though I didn’t make the 50,00 words I didn’t fail, I succeeded in writing 42,500 words more than I would have if I hadn’t started. I encourage you to try it next year. Actually, I think there’s one coming up this summer. Paula or Meredith, have you ever done it?

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