NaNo Zombies

The Novel that will not die…

NaNoWriMo 2009: 2.4 billion words written. That’s nearly 50,000 novels of 50000 words. I don’t know how many of those words were written by people who finished, but even if it’s half of that number, it’s impressive.

I contributed about 50,000 to that grand total. Even though most people thought I was crazy, I was elated to finish.

It was a lark. I wasn’t even going to enter. The last week in October, I changed my mind. What the heck — I don’t have to finish it, I thought. And it might be a fun experiment, to see how quickly I can throw an idea into novel form. So I started it for fun.

It was a powerful feeling to see my word count going up every day, to pass my weekly goals and finally pass 50,000 – eleven days early! I so impressed myself that I started having grand ideas: I could write a novel every month of the year! Or at six novels a year, reserving the other six months for revision. Surely I’d have something publishable before I knew it. What a great thing deadlines are!

I took December off. January would be revision month, I decided. By summer, it would be done… I even wrote dates in on my calendar: Second draft, February 15, Final revision May 31.

Don’t laugh. I must have been hallucinating. More

And Summers Off

A few years ago the teachers of my school district came close to going on strike. Instead, though, the union decided that we should ‘work to the rule,’ meaning that we would only do what was in our current (expired) contract. Our hours would be 7:30 am to 3:00 pm each day, not a moment longer; nor were we supposed to take any work home. We were not to make any non-reimbursable expenditures, attend any games or activities, give up our lunches or conference periods.

My first reaction to all of this was, “How will I get anything done?” Though I have a free period each day for grading and planning, I used to do most of my work before and after school. Everyone knows that the worst thing a teacher can do is walk into the classroom without a plan.

But ‘working to the rule’ didn’t go as badly as I feared. Most of the papers got graded, and if they didn’t, nobody complained. Having in mind what I needed to do each day, I didn’t need written plans most of the time. I learned to be more flexible and spontaneous. In fact, though I had less time, I got more done.

And I learned something else: Any task will condense or expand to fill whatever time you give it. More

Words, Words, Words

For a writer, word count is a measure of progress. I like being about to say that I wrote a thousand words in an hour. If a published book would magically appear every time I reached 50,000 words, that would be even better.

Instead, I count words. Some days I delete more words than I write, but those aren’t necessarily wasted days. Revision is all about cutting superfluous words.

I try to set myself a daily goal, but it’s hard to know what is reasonable. During NaNoWriMo I averaged 2000 words a day, but that pace nearly ended my marriage. I finished, but of the 50,000 words I produced, about 40,000 needed to be deleted. I swore I wouldn’t do it again; but check back with me in October.

The best thing about NaNo is having a goal and the support of a group trying to achieve the same goal. As I’ve wandered around the internet, trying to avoid facing my NaNo-under-reconstruction, I’ve found a few goal-oriented groups that look interesting. I haven’t joined any, but I book-marked them in case I need inspiration. More

The Slough of Despond

Back in November, I finished a novel for NaNoWriMo. (if you’re coming in late, that’s National Novel Writing Month.)

I missed National Novel Finishing Month (December). Who can work on writing in December, what with Christmas cookies to bake, cards to send out, halls to deck, etc. — what were they thinking?

This month is National Novel Editing Month. *smirk* As if I’m anywhere close to fixing commas and hunting down adverbs.

Reactions to my announcement that I’d won in November ranged from, “Cool. What do you get?” to “Why would anyone want to write a novel in a month?”

Yes, I finished. *Patting self on back*

Fortunately everyone is so tired of hearing about it that they don’t keep asking me, “Have you sent your novel out to publishers yet?”

Most of my friends aren’t writers. They don’t know about the hard truth of revision. They think you write it, and then you publish it. Sort of like a blog, but longer.

I am stuck in the Slough of Despond. I sink under the weight of my own bad writing.

Nano month was a great experience for me. It taught me how to write a first draft — just get it down on paper. Worry about revision later.

Later is now. More

Scrivening a Novel

Scrivener for OS X For my NaNo novel I used a program I hadn’t tried before – Scrivener.

I have always used Word, making each chapter a new document, copying them to create new revised versions, sorting each version’s chapters into separate folders — first draft, revision 1, etc. When I’m revising, I may want to look at several chapters at once. That means multiple windows, each needing to have changes saved.

Using Scrivener is like having all your documents – scenes, chapters, notes, research, pictures — all of it on your desk in front of you. The screen has three parts- the Binder, where you can see all your documents organized and easily clickable; the Editing Pane, where your writing appears, and the Inspector, which holds a place for notes, status, key words, research citations, etc. The Binder and the Inspector can be closed, leaving you with just the Editing Pane, which can be split to show more than one document at a time.

The thing I like best is the index cards. I have always used index cards for everything – writing, notes to self, contacts, etc. The contents of every folder in Scrivener can be displayed as index cards pinned to a corkboard. The cards can be easily grabbed and moved around, even into other folders. I make a folder for each chapter, then individual documents for each scene. When I look at the corkboard, I can easily move scenes around. So much easier than scrolling through a document looking for the scene you want.

Another feature I love is Snapshots. As I’m editing my NaNo, I can take a Snapshot of each scene I’m changing, preserving the original version. If I don’t like my changes, I can revert to the Snapshot. It’s like time travel — with index cards.

Every day when I sat down to write, I could view a live bar graph showing my progress towards the final goal (50,000 words) and the session goal (1700 a day). I could easily view my total word count without going through every chapter. Some days, just seeing that bar fill up as I typed was all the motivation I needed. I really think it helped me finish.

When I got ready to upload my novel to the NaNoWriMo web site, I clicked “Edit Scrivenings” and was able to view the entire thing. Then I exported it into Word, one of the acceptable formats, though I could have chosen several other formats.

My days of folders and subfolders are over. I don’t have to remember what folder my notes are in or what I named them. I don’t have to think about what to name each chapter document so I can find it again. Scrivener is my new brain.


Nano 50002

I did it. At 6:13 this morning, I typed word # 50,002.
I am most pleased with the ending, which just dropped out of nowhere. As I was thinking that it would take a couple thousand more words to bring it all to a conclusion, I suddenly saw the end. I may add a short epilogue, just to clarify a couple things, but I am happy with the way it turned out.
The writing needs tons of revision.
The plot is fine, and with some re-working, will make a good story.
The characters are okay. Now that I have a better idea who they all are, it will be easier to go back and look at their dialog and actions and fix inconsistencies.
But it’s done.
It’s not five chapters, meticulously honed to perfection and nowhere near completion. It is a complete novel. I have no pretensions about it being a great work of literature, but it has potential.
Now what?
I have several unfinished projects that might benefit from some of the discipline I’ve taught myself in the last 19 days.
As far as the Nano goes, January is National Novel Revision Month, I think. By then I may be ready to look at it again.
Till then… ?

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