NaNoWriMo: Days 12 and 13

horses curving into the back stretch of a race

We’re on the back stretch now, and if this were an actual horse race, there would be almost as much distance to travel backward as forward, so stopping now would be close to useless. However, NaNoWriMo is an extended writing event, so we can take an easy trap door out of it at any point if we want to. Before we all push the Quit Now button, however, I want to point out a few things:

1. You will never be in the middle of this novel in the same way again. What I mean by that is simply that the last almost-two-weeks of writing has built a sense of tone and voice that fades once we step back from a project for a significant amount of time. It is very difficult for many—myself included—to rebuild the aura from an earlier time, mainly because as human beings, we change and evolve a little every day. If I pick up a manuscript a year later, I have a lot of additional work to either recapture the mood I was presenting earlier, or to reset the entire work in some consistent, new frame.

2. You may never get back to it. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to motivate people to finish a draft. Not to write a third or three-quarters of the way through and then stop. Even if I can only eke our 800 words like I did yesterday (this thin Denver air is getting to me), I use it to move on to the next day. I will not stop until I have a full first draft. Let’s get real, 50,000 words is a short book. I’ll probably wind up with 65,000 words or a little more. But if I can plunk my manuscript in on November 30 and “win” the contest, I’ll give myself a pat on the back. Anyone can start and not finish a project. We’ve done too much work to just quit in the middle.

3. The more writing you do, the better you’ll become. Quitting isn’t an experience to grow from, as far as practice writing goes. I said a few days ago that habits form only after a series of 16 repetitions. We’re not even at that point yet. Let’s see if we can plug away until Tuesday, and then reconsider throwing up our hands in failure. Because by then it will be easier to continue.

4. November 30, 2010 is going to roll around whether we’ve done our writing or not. I will say here that the goal of writing 50,000 words by 11/30, while nobel, misses a whole lot of points. Personally, I’d rather NaNoWriMo focus on daily writing than the final word count. If someone wrote half of the writing goal, but managed to grapple through 1,000 words a day, I’d drop a ball of confetti in celebration. Daily writing is what makes writers tick. Even if the writing stream isn’t what we want it to be, it’s not nothing. By the end of the month we’ll have more in our manuscripts than we did before we started, and that’s fantastic.

5. Always remember the bulk of the craft is in the rewriting. We’re just putting out ideas here. This is not James Joyce straight out of the box. All of the word craft and language choices, rhythm, careful, brilliant dialogue, that’s what we’ll focus on after this month is over—not that some of it isn’t present now. There is nothing artistic that doesn’t come from building something off of a foundation. A friend of mine who is a sculptor starts things with an idea, then a drawing, then a small model, a wire scaffolding, and finally, a layered sculpture. It is painstaking and sometimes it’s not particularly enjoyable. But we know that we’re building to something, and the payoff at the end is tremendous and satisfying. If we stop now? We’ve sweated and bled and cried and not been good enough to ourselves to get the reward of finishing.

You owe it to yourself to keep going. So keep going.

Photo credit: SkipWizard on Flickr

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Categories: ponderings


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15 Comments on “NaNoWriMo: Days 12 and 13”

  1. Hsofia
    November 13, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Thanks for the encouragement. Good advice!

  2. evmaroon
    November 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks, dear! I hope you’re having a successful writing day!

  3. November 13, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    I absolutely know what you mean with #1. That was one of my problems finishing a story in the first place. I’d wait so long between writing sessions, that I’d have to re-read everything I’d already written just to get a sense of where I’d been going. It got to the point that I didn’t want to go back to writing because I didn’t want to have to read that whole thing all over again… This daily writing thing has been the vest cure for that!

    • evmaroon
      November 13, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

      I’ve done that before, so I got in the habit of writing out my plots chapter by chapter; then if I picked up a project a year later, I at least had my notes on where I’d intended to go. Even if I didn’t follow the original plot, that was fine, but at least I could follow the train tracks if I wanted to.
      Now, however, I sit down to write at least once a day. Even still, I may pick up a piece for rewriting and need to get back into my headspace. So I’m a big supporter of notes and plot outlines. But consistent writing time really makes everything easier, as you’ve noticed!

  4. November 14, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    This is my first NaNo write, and I have done more writing for it than I have for anything else. It has had the desired effect that I wanted, which was to stir my writing passions. Now if I could just stop dreaming about my characters/story, I would sleep better at night, which would enable me to write more!

    • evmaroon
      November 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

      Great to hear that you’re making such good progress! And that daydreaming about you story is a good sign that shows your brain is working on making it more real for you. Ilike to keep a notebook on my person so I can jot down thoughts when I have them, and then my mind isn’t as overloaded.

  5. November 14, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    Thanks for the such an insightful post as we turn on the backstretch towards to the finish line. I can’t believe we’re halfway through this writing exercise. As a first timer to #NaNoWriMo, #4 makes a lot of sense. My daily word count is more important to me that the cumulative total at the end of the week. It is the “practice” of writing daily that will get me to the end of this and beyond. Not the rush to catch up if I should fall behind. (Hope that made sense). I am learning as I go along, that it is daunting

    • evmaroon
      November 15, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

      It can be daunting, but only because we look at the big picture and that can get intimidating. So I just focus on the everyday, and the habit of writing and rewriting. Then I’m rewarded: last spring I looked back at what I’d done since October, and I was more than a little shocked that I’d finished rewrites on four short stories, mapped out a new novel, and drafted two more short stories. It’s a much nicer way of looking at the big picture, that whole retrospective business. Stick with it and you’ll accomplish things.

  6. Nicoline Smits
    November 14, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    I’m proud to say that I’ve stuck with Nanowrimo thus far and I’ll do my stinking best to stick with it throughout the month. I’m using it to write my memoirs, which may not be Nanowrimo’s intended use, but it’s very cathartic and it’s good to develop the discipline of writing every day.

  7. November 14, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    I clicked on your link through a tweet (thanks, @jeannevb). I’m not doing #nanowrimo. I’m in the midst of getting distribution for an independent feature I co-produced and several projects in development. What those jobs share in common with writing is that there is no clear start, finish or clearly outlined steps to accomplishing this kind of work. Well, actually-the finish is clear-published book, distribution deal, financing for next project. It’s all the in-between steps that are challenging–the Outline. Am I doing it right?! And sometimes that indecision is paralyzing. What struck me from your blogpost is the importance to keep moving. To keep doing. Something that moves you toward the goal. Incremental steps. Don’t worry about perfection, or making the RIGHT move. Just move. (What is it they say about sharks? Keep moving or die.) Your 5 points specific to sticking to a month long ‘contest’ of writing a first draft were so simple and sensible. It applies to all creative endeavors. What you wrote I already knew to be true, but you wrote it, it resonated with me, and I thank you for that.

    • evmaroon
      November 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

      Thanks so much for that feedback, Elizabeth. It is advice (keep on swimming) that sounds trite at first, but that over time, becomes more real. Maybe it’s the Velveteen Rabbit of writing advice, because it’s the path wherein people realize that they’ve been writers all along. And like many of my colleagues in authoring have said, even rejection letters are a sign of progress; at least they signal that some project was completed, and they usually come before an acceptance. There are many parts of the creative process that feel bad or frustrating, but every writer has experienced them. This is why we should only congregate infrequently at conferences, I suppose…

  8. zaelyna
    November 14, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    Huzzah, great pep!

    • evmaroon
      November 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

      Thanks! I hope it helped.

  9. Zanna Dobbs
    November 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    After this crazy month is over you need to check out howlwrimo on the coyote con site. We set our own goal each month and are supposed to check in with progress reports. It worked really well for me for a couple of months and I need to get back into it.


  1. Top Writing Posts of 2010 | Trans/plant/portation - December 23, 2010

    […] Motivation 101—How and why to see a project through. I wrote this as part of my near-daily NaNoWriMo pep […]

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