I can see that NaNoWriMo is going to be interrupting my planned schedule for posting this blog. I had to fly on Thursday evening, so I tried to sneak in some writing at work, but it didn’t leave me any blog time. Posting the blog at work has been a near disaster so far. The LAN we use is hermetically sealed and I feel lucky I can even get to blogspot at all. I’ve also been fighting a cold and an abdominal muscle injury that is hampering my workouts considerably, but that really doesn’ effect the blog any, just my demeanor. But all that aside, trying to keep pace with my NaNoWriMo story is the real culprit. I could have blogged last night, but I’m doing the exact opposite of what I had planned, which is fall dreadful behind, so I hemorraged words onto the NaNo WIP.
I wanted to get out the gate and get ahead. Being ahead in NaNo is the sweet spot. The stress is low, you feel good about where you are, and can just enjoy the experience. I watched in amazement as most of my Writing Buddies racked up 5k and 8k on the first day! I think I hit 600 on day one. I took today off to take my wife to the annual craft fair at the local college, but I should have some time this afternoon to try to catch up. I’m lagging enough to keep myself at least a day off pace. I just need a good 5 K day to catch up and I know I have one of those in me. I know because I’ve done it before. It’s a nice feeling to know that, it’s what’s keeping me sane at the moment. I looked back at last year and I barely made any posts during November, simply because I spent every waking moment that I had free working on my NaNo project.
There are some valuable lessons to be learned from NaNoWriMo. The first and foremost is putting your butt in the chair. Nothing surpasses that one commandment. It’s very easy to find just about anything else to do, all the while telling yourself that you are brainstorming. There is more to butt in chair though. Even that isn’t always enough, you need to eliminate as many distractions as you can. Hell, even the little word counter in the corner is distracting. I feel my cheating eyes sneaking to the bottom left corner of the page to check our progress, only to be disappointed. Why isn’t it moving faster! I spent a good part of day 1 doing research, stuff that I could have done, should have done in advance. So even though my butt was in the chair, I wasn’t grinding out words.
So my advice is:
1. Sit down, preferably in a place with no internet connection and work those little fingers till they cramp up. Scrivener even takes the word counter out of view, and they even have a PC version beta out now. I think it goes live on the 7th.
2. Don’t go back and fix things (unless you must, it’s a personality flaw) keep forward momentum. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to keep moving forward. You will have until next November to revise it and make it shine.
3. Don’t think it has to be complete by the end of the month, 50K is not really a novel, more like a novelette, which is fine if that’s what you want.
4. Try to stay ahead. Believe me on this. You don’t want to be where I was last year knowing I needed multiple 5K days to even catch up, frantic in the last week to “win”.
If you give it a serious attempt it will help you develop a writing habit. I read somewhere that it takes 30 days to develop a habit. I know from practice that more writing makes for better writing. But don’t think you know everything, don’t stop learning about how to write better. It is a craft that can be continuously honed. Now go out there and mandibulate on the keyboard!
I’ve been studying structure and reading my favorite blogs in the off time when I’m not working on my rewrite. There‘s lots of great advice out there if you look for it but there is nobody to give you the “right” answer on how your book should actually start. I’ve started this book 5 different ways, each rewritten several times … a longwinded lead up to where the story starts, a hook that had nothing to do with the story, a start with no real hook, a start with a hook that actually has something to do with the plot but not the main plot. Would my real start please stand up?
It’s very good advice to get in as late as possible and get out as soon as you can, but defining those points is easier to describe than it is to accomplish. I’ve learned that the beginning of the story needs to relate to the main problem of the book, but there is also a lot written about making the beginning of the story grab the reader. I’ve also learned that it’s a great technique to introduce all five senses to the reader in the first few pages to make it a visceral experience. That’s a lot of stuff to balance at the beginning, so how do you find that perfect moment?
I feel like I am getting conflicting advice on this so I’m actually doing two beginnings: one that doesn’t start quite as fast then has a nice hook, and one where it skips past that slower part and introduces the main plot shortly afterward. I like them both, but I think there is actually a “right” answer here. What I’m afraid of is that the right answer will be different for different people. It’s making me write the first 5 odd chapters twice. The rest of the book will flow normally from there. I think the remaining edits will be pretty straight forward.
I’m going to see what my alpha and beta readers say I guess. Is that lame?