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Archive for December, 2009

NaNoWriMo: What I learned

     It’s a bit early for New Year’s resolutions, but I have resolved to update this blog more often. Of course, the bar is really low here since I have only been updating it once a month—so if I manage one more post a month, I’ve doubled my output. However, the goal is to update it once a week.
     My last blog was about National Novel Writing Month. I am pleased to report that I did it. I completed 52,542 words of a brand new story by the end of November. I have to admit it was hard. I never really appreciated before how busy I get in November. There were birthdays to celebrate, parent-teacher conferences to attend, the end of a middle school marking period—which meant a lot of scrambling to finish up late projects. (I am not sure why that involved me so much, but it did.) Finally, I had an entire Thanksgiving feast to cook during the last weekend, and some shopping to do afterwards. By that last weekend, I was still 6,000 words down. My marvelous reading buddies were starting to call me to make sure I was going to make it. I’m still not sure how I managed to.
     So, what did I learn from this? I learned I really am a compulsive editor. It was actually painful to not go back and change things. I had to allow myself to at least fix the typos or I would have broken down completely. I found that I tend to overwrite. I had never noticed it before because so much of it gets deleted when I start an idea over. At over 52,000 words I was still only a third of the way through the story. I was tempted to give up on it, but in the third week the story suddenly took off and became an obsession. It haunted me until I sat down and wrote out all the plot points in a two page list. Now, it is still driving me, but at a more reasonable rate. I am continuing to fast draft the rest of the manuscript—though I did allow myself to drop back to 1500 words a day (weekdays only) instead of the 2500 words I was attempting with NaNo. Finally, I discovered I am more productive when I force myself to continue forward without looking back. Of course, the real test will come when I sit down to pull the whole thing into a workable manuscript. (Oh, I found out that I use ‘of course’ a lot—I mean REALLY a lot.) At the rate I am writing now, I probably won’t begin revisions until mid to late January.
     Two things I loved about NaNoWriMo were the reading buddies and the letters of encouragement. It was very motivating to see all my buddies posting their word counts. I also enjoyed hearing their stories. The excitement was contagious. The letters were also motivating…and simply great reading. I joined two regions and one of my municipal liaisons sent  wonderful, encouraging letters that seemed to speak to exactly what I was going through. I have no idea how she found the time to write them. The director’s letters were also fun, but I think the best letters were the ones from guest authors. I discovered two or three authors whose books I simply must read (I made a list), and I received letters from two of my idols, Gail Carson Levine and Robin McKinley. Yeah, I know—they were just form letters, but there was something heart-stopping about opening my email and seeing their names in my inbox.
     The most important benefit of this experience is that I am writing again on a regular basis. I discovered that when I had to I could find the time to write. I broke through some bad habits that were blocking productivity. Best of all, I am loving what I do again—because, face it, writing is the best career in the world. I would do it for free…and right now I do. All in all, I am glad I did NaNoWriMo. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to write.

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