Hello, NaNo: My First NaNoWriMo!

Closeup of a computer keyboard. Text: Something for Sunday; November 3, 2019; Hello, NaNoSince 1999, thousands of writers have signed up to focus on writing by committing to producing 50,000 words during the month of November. The event is called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and is hosted by a fabulous nonprofit organization, sponsored by a number of wonderful businesses. I’ve never been able to participate in this event because, as a college professor, my November was already completely packed (though I have done a spin-off event called Camp NaNoWriMo). This year I’m retired, so I planned to do the real NaNo for the first time.

Things got complicated, though, because I’m in the middle of editing my book. Yes, I’ve been editing it for a LONG time, but I’m committed to getting it finished by the end of this year. So I’m not ready to start a new novel now. I worried that this would mean I couldn’t do NaNoWriMo after all.

Guess what – I decided I’m doing it. I will log and track all the work I do while editing, by which I mean I’ll count the final, edited version of each chapter I work on during November. I will also count the notes I write for myself as I work through the revision. If I finish all that and still haven’t hit 50,000, I’ll log the planning on my next project.

This means my first actual NaNoWriMo is kind of a Franken-project, combining editing one book with the planning of another. I figure if it gets me moving more efficiently with my writing, then I’ve met my goal!

Wish all of us diving into the NaNo waters this year good luck!

ON ANOTHER NOTE: I’ve made a rather momentous decision. I will officially be switching my blog from this free WordPress location to my actual author website. From now until the end of this year I will post all my blog entries (including this one) on both locations. Starting in January 2020, though, I’ll be posting only on the website. If you enjoy my content, please start following me at my site: www.celiareaves.com. I value every one of my followers, and I hope to see you over there!

The Lost Lamp: Life Gets in the Way #photochallenge

LampThe post lamp out by our front walk is drowning in plants.I had to take this shot from the second story just so it was visible at all. And you know what? The guiding light that’s been driving my writing is similarly buried in the thriving plants of the rest of my life. Here’s why this is okay for now, and how I plan to get back on the creative path.

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Consistency: The Key to Success

USPSEnsignThis flag is the ensign of the United States Power Squadrons, a national organization dedicated to education, safety, and enjoyment of recreational boating, both power and sail. My husband, an avid sailor, is an active member, and this past weekend participated in a regional rendezvous. One of the events, the Predicted Log Contest, inspired this message.

In a Predicted Log Contest, teams work one at a time to row a dinghy over a course that has a known length as many times as they want, timing themselves and figuring out how fast they go. When they’re ready they are given a new course, told how long the new course is, and predict how long it will take them to row the new course. They don’t have access to any timing equipment at this stage. The team that comes closest to their predicted time is the winner. This weekend the winning team finished only 33 seconds off from their predicted time.

I love this contest, because it’s not about how fast or how strong you are. It’s about how consistent you are. It’s about setting a pace and sticking to it. That’s what makes you a winner.

The message is obvious, isn’t it? In many aspects of life the main thing is not to be outstanding or exceptional, but to be consistent and reliable. As Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Some days it’s easier, some days it’s harder, but you just keep showing up.

I’ve learned to apply this to my writing through the Camp NaNoWriMo experience last month. I set a goal for words each day and I stuck with it. Now that camp is over I’m still writing, albeit with a lower word-count goal each day, but I have learned to really appreciate the discipline of writing every single day, without fail. The point is to show up. The point is to be consistent. I don’t need to do marathons and have huge word counts in any given day. I just need to know what my own particular pace is, and stick with it.

That’s life, after all.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015 – CHECK!

Camp-Winner-2015-Web-BannerI crossed the magical 50,000 word point today, so I’m going to gloat a bit. And I’m not even sorry.

The draft isn’t done yet, so I’ll be continuing to write for the next week or so until I can write THE END. Then I’ll do some quick surface edits before putting the whole thing aside for a while and coming back for the real revision. I will also need to track down some really gentle and tolerant readers to help me shore up the weak spots. So, yes, I know this isn’t anything like an end point. But it’s a mile post along the way, and I’m very happy to have made it this far.

Congratulations to all the thousands of people who’ve participated in Camp NaNoWriMo this year, whether they’ve “won” or not. The writer’s journey continues, as always. It’s been great to travel together on this leg of the trip.

The Middle Muddle

CookieMiddles can be yummy!

They can also be challenging.,

I knew that I would have the hardest time getting through the middle of my first draft, and that’s how it’s turning out. I’m still making progress, but it’s slow and hard. I think there are two reasons for this.

One is that I’ve never had as strong and pure a sense of my own middle as of the beginning and the end. I know where my character and her world start out, and I can clearly picture how the whole thing wraps up. Getting from Point A to Point B? Not so much. I have an outline and I know where I’m going, but it doesn’t grab my gut the way the other parts do.

The other is that middles are hard in general. Most things that have a sequence are stronger at the beginning and the end, weaker in the middle. In the cognitive psychology field we talk about the serial position effect: when learning a list, items in the middle are harder to remember. Speech makers are taught to put their strongest arguments at the beginning and end, burying weaker arguments in the middle where they’re likely to be missed. A racer will often start and finish strong, but have a harder time in the middle. So I’m not alone.

There are several ways I’m dealing with this. One is that I knew this would happen and built up a cushion of extra words, being a few thousand ahead of my goal before getting into these middle doldrums. This means that a few days of lackluster word count won’t put me behind. Another is connections with my cohorts in my writing cabin at Camp NaNoWriMo, who nag and support each other as we push through. Another is simple grim determination. Some days this isn’t fun. So what? Do it anyway. I’m constantly reminding myself that, as a teacher, I expect my students to write their papers and get them in on time even when they’re not inspired and even when life gets complicated. How can I demand less of myself?

So that’s me – muddling through the middle.

What parts of your writing are hardest? How to you keep going?

Camp NaNo – Beginnings

BudsAlmost a week into camp and things are going well. Spookily well, actually. So it’s a good beginning.

The folks at Camp NaNoWriMo have a good system. For those new to the term, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The “real” NaNoWriMo is November, but the same folks run one-month camps in April and July each year. They’ve connected me with eleven other people in a cabin, and we chat with each other online and encourage each other’s writing. As I write this I’m involved in a Skype chat about untangling a plot question in a fantasy story, about which Christmas movies are best and why, and about what motivations work best. I share with them the daily motivational images I put up over on my Facebook page. They share the word of the day from a calendar and inspirational videos. It works well.

On the story side, I’m a few hundred words ahead of the daily goal and the chapters have worked out almost exactly as I planned. I say spooky because I know this will not last. As I approach the middle of the book, things are bound to get trickier. But I’ll get through it!

Are you doing NaNo? Have you ever done something like that? What was your experience like?

MyNoWriMo Step 10: Logistics

Step10I’m SO ready!

I’ve got a spreadsheet that will automatically count my daily words, my daily word average, and my total words. I’ve made a decision to put the whole 50K draft into a single file, since that’s how I’ll need to submit it to Camp NaNoWriMo for verification. I’ll be using WordPad instead of Word for this file, so it will be smaller and I won’t be spending time on niggly formatting and such. I can tweak those details in Word later if I want to. For now, it’s all about getting the words down!

LATER: My brief flirtation with WordPad has ended – I’ve decided to stick with writing in Word. It’s what I’m most accustomed to, so it will go more smoothly. Also, Word will give me a total word count automatically. Word it is! As for other word processing programs: I have nothing against them. My husband uses OpenOffice all the time, and I once wrote an entire test bank for a college text book in WordPerfect, which I liked a lot. My office, however, standardized on Word years ago, so it’s much simpler to use that one.

Progress so far:

  • 3/1/15: Set the goal (a full 50,000-word draft, or half a novel?) – On time
  • 3/8/15: Develop my one-sentence pitch line – Early
  • 3/22/15: Establish major set pieces/beats – On time
  • 4/12/15: Develop a rough synopsis – On time
  • 5/3/15: Complete a rough outline or scene sketch – On time
  • 5/17/15: Map out each character’s story line – Late 😦
  • 5/31/15: Plan the beginning of the novel, from opening scene to first major turn – Early
  • 6/14/15: Plan the middle of the novel, including all the twists and complications leading to the ending – On time
  • 6/28/15: Plan the ending of the novel, including the climax and the final resolution – Early
  • 6/30/15: Get all my logistics in place (word-count log, file formats, backups, and so on) – Early

I’m READY! And I have to wait four more days to begin.