Yes, I know we're in the fourth and final week of NaNoWriMo; but as some of you know, I came down with a cold that put me out of commission for a couple of days last week.
It didn't stop me, however, from "winning" NaNoWriMo one week early. I called the first draft of this new novel "finished" as well.
Despite my feeling lousy, I was a woman possessed. It wasn't just about the word count. (Although, let's face it--the word count makes me uber-competitive.) I was on a mission to get the story on the page -- when that happens, it's a sign of just how in love I am with the story I'm telling.
Mind you, what I've got as of right now is far from Finished with a capital F. An important part of writing a novel is putting the manuscript away for a while (I'm giving this one approximately a month) and letting that mysterious piece of where it all comes from simmer. What I will likely find when I begin the revision process (and the revision process always begins with reading) are poorly worded sentences/descriptions, uneven pacing, aspects of character that need to be significantly developed, and scenes needing to be added, deleted, and/or replaced. But that's the fun part for me. The last three weeks were all about the typing. Revision is about the writing.
In the meantime, I'm catching up on other people's novels. And cheering my fellow writers on during these last few days of NaNoWriMo. You can do it!
We're halfway into the month! As you can see from my stats, I've jumped out way ahead. I'm almost 7000 words over the projected goal for today, and wrote a little over 20,000 words this week. In fact, this blog post is probably going to be short because I'm antsy to continue writing!
I love being in the zone. I don't know any writer who doesn't. It's a condition in which you don't eat, don't pick up your phone, don't jump on Twitter every five minute (other than to tweet I am so massively in the zone right now). There's a sense of urgency to get the words on the page before they get lost in your memory and mixed up with the words to "Rock Me, Amadeus" (which you didn't even realize you knew, and are saddened that they take up precious brain space). You wake up thinking about your characters. You shower and plan the scene you're going to write. You pull over in your car to jot down ideas for scenes later in the novel. You lose sleep and nutrients. You gain caffeine and stiff muscles.
I'm not concerned about whether any of it is good right now. Chances are I'll read it two months later, shake my head in bewilderment, and say, "This is what I was so excited about?" But for now I'm loving my characters. I'm putting the screws to my protagonist. I'm reveling in the secrets they're spilling, the plot twists that I didn't see coming. And once again, I've fallen in love with one of my male characters. No wonder I'm still single.
The competitor in me wants to get even further ahead in the word count, especially since I won't be able to write this weekend. I'm so in the zone right now that I'm thinking things like, "Heck, not only will I finish NaNoWriMo before Thanksgiving, but I'll also finish the entire first draft by the end of the month!" I have to be careful with such optimism, however. You can find yourself out of the zone as quickly and unexpectedly as you found yourself in it. As I said, the competitor in me wants to get ahead in the word count. The writer in me just wants to keep writing, keep telling a good story, stay with the characters a little bit longer. Better to defer to that part of me than the other.
Word count goal for Day 8: 13,328
My word count to date: 13,862
Words to go: 36,138
On my iPod Shuffle: "Heart of Rock & Roll," by Huey Lewis and the News
Recommended reading: How to Write a Novel, by Nathan Bransford
NaNoWriMo is officially one week in, and quite a week it's been for me. I got a head start by drafting close to 5000 words for the first two days, knowing I'd be traveling to New York this weekend and staying on Long Island for the week. My plans for the beginning of the week went awry -- that's a story for a Friends of Mine epilogue, perhaps. However, the good thing about a gig like this is that you can write just about anywhere at anytime. All things considered, that I'm about 500 words ahead of the curve is pretty awesome.
Despite the impressive word count and my having thought about this particular story and characters for months, I felt as if I got off to a sluggish start. I knew I'd dumped too much backstory in the first chapter, and that that entire chapter was likely going to be revamped come revision time. I tend to be an "improvisor" when I draft -- that is, I don't use outlines or plot my story beforehand. Sometimes I envision mental markers along the way, sort of like signposts, but for this one I was feeling like I was on a long and winding road, with no signs ahead.
Rarely do I get stuck in the mud so early into a draft. For the first time, I thought maybe my improvising strategy wasn't so good. Maybe I should make a map.
I stayed true to form, however, wrote through the mud, and I'm starting to get in a groove now. The signposts, although a little blurry, are at least in sight. I'm starting to fall in love with the story and my protagonist. I'm already putting her through the wringer, as any good storyteller must do. Whereas earlier in the week I worried I wouldn't be able to come up with anything to fill up the day's word count, much less 50K, right now I'm typing furiously and delighted to find that I've banged out almost ten pages, over 2000 words, and I'm itching to get back to it.
I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.
As always, I'm enjoying the dialogue most, and watching these characters spring to life. And I've already gotten teary-eyed at the end of a scene.
One thing that's different about this is that while I've been writing at my mom's house, I've been listening to my iPod Shuffle. Unless I'm writing at a coffeeshop, I normally don't listen to music, don't like to work with any distraction. But for some reason the iPod hasn't been bothering me. I have a feeling I'll go back to my normal habit of silence when I'm back in my writing studio. Or maybe I'll keep it up for this novel only. Who knows?
I know I'm talking in generalities rather than specifics here. The other day, at lunch with my mom and a dear friend of hers, when she asked me what I'm working on, I replied simply, "a new novel."
"What's it about?" she asked.
"Um, a new novel," I replied. I just can't bring myself to talk about it. Even at my brother's recording studio yesterday, I didn't ask him to play me anything from his latest album-in-progress, instinctively knowing neither he nor it was ready yet. I hope there's still something here in this blog post of value for you. Perhaps you'll reflect upon your own writing practices--what does and doesn't work for you. Perhaps you'll be motivated to keep going. Hopefully you'll feel good about where you're at, even if you're behind your word count. You're writing a novel, dammit! Be proud of that.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.