Thursday, 28 November 2013

NaNoWriMo: The Final Push

So I have today, tomorrow and Saturday to finish my 50,000 words... It's a daunting thought, though at 43,000 words I'm not very far behind. I aim to give it a good blast today, so that I can take the pressure off and get as close as I can to finishing tomorrow.

It's strange, but I feel more nervous that I won't finish as I write more. I suppose it would hurt less to lose the challenge by 20,000 words than to lose it by 2,000; to come so close to achieving something and fail is soul-destroying. Being close to my goal also means I have no excuse for failing - I can't dismiss it as an unrealistic goal, because it's possible to comfortably write 7,000 words in 3 days. I wouldn't have survived my MA without being able to write that amount in a single day, when the occasion demanded!

Yet here I am procrastinating... Maybe it's because I thrive under pressure, so I subconsciously turn up the heat by giving myself less time. Maybe it's because I'm not enturely sure where my novel is going - though that has been true throughout NaNoWriMo. Perhaps I'm just lazy.

Anyhoo, I'm turning to my default strategy to get me through the next couple of days: write crap. It doesn't matter how terrible my work is, as long as I get words on the page. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Getting Through NaNoWriMo Week 2

I had no idea that week 2 pf NaNoWriMo is notorious for drop-outs, never having attempted it before, but I could feel that it was a tough week. After the initial buzz of enthusiasm and motivation, writing gets harder. I have amassed many half-written stories over the years, of varying lengths. It's hard to keep going when you're not doing NaNoWriMo, let alone when you're under the pressure of producing 50.000 words in a month. You begin to realise that you've no idea where your plot is going, you lose confidence in your ideas, your characters seem flat and writing becomes such a chore that you develop an inexplicalbe urge to clean the bathroom.

I'm still plugging away at my novel, but it's been difficult. Here are some of my survival strategies:

1. Some words are better than no words
I was disheartened earlier this week, because I'm not on target. I had aimed to write 2,000 words a day, to get ahead in case I have some bad days towards the end of the month, but I haven't even reached the 1667 words needed to be on track. However, I have written over 19,000 words. If I hadn't started NaNoWriMo, I would have zero. That's an achievement - if you write anything, it trumps writing nothing.

2. Have fun with the stat page
I love the graph that shows how close you are to the target - it proves that I have actually written some words and I'm usually closer to the target than I imagine I am. I also find the 'words per day to finish on time' stat incredibly motivating. I might feel like I'm miles behind, but the extra words per day I need to write isn't that much - I think I'll have to write less than 100 words more than the target, which isn't a lot.

3. Write crap
I would love to write brilliant prose off the bat, but it's unrealistic. Writing crap might not be what you had in mind when you pictured yourself as A Writer, but I always say it's easier to rewrite and edit crap writing than a blank page. Besides, NaNoWriMo is more about getting into the habit of writing than producing a perfect novel in a month - which I doubt anyone does.

4. Block out your inner critic
It's easier said than done, but ignore the voices in your head that say your novel is awful and you might as well not bother. Writing 50,000 words in a month is intensive enough, so don't you dare think about going over what you've written. Not even to remind yourself of the plot - you don,t need to. Just scribble stuff you need to remember in a notebook and refer to that if you forget where a secondary character works or when something happens to your protagonist. You can sort out continuity and other problems when you're rewriting, so forget about them for now.

5. Take a break!
NaNoWriMo is so intensive that you will spend a lot of your waking hours thinking about your novel and its progress. Make an effort to get away from it at least once a day. If you find your mind wanders when you're reading or watching TV, do something that requires total concentration. I find exercise useful for this - I'm not very fit and need to push myself, so I'm too busying thinking 'I hurt' and 'when can I stop?' to think about my novel!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Pacing and Busy-ness

Since my last post, on how being busy can result in my being more productive as a writer, I realised another benefit of being busy: it prevents binge-starve writing. 

Binge-starve writing has often been my default setting. It involves writing thousands of words some days, then being unable to get even a few words down on other days. This wouldn't be so bad if they were the extremes of an otherwise stable and regular writing habit, but these binge-or-starve days have tended to form the largest proportion of my writing practice.

But busy people don't have time for bingeing. If you spend hours writing when you ought to be doing other things, it throws your schedule off track and then it affects your daily routine and sleep patterns... Everything becomes chaos. And when you don't binge, you tend not to starve so much.

Doing NaNoWriMo for the first time has highlighted this for me. Having a 'diet' of 1600-2000 words a day means I stop when the ideas are flowing, instead of waiting until my writing dries up and I'm exhausted. It also gives me extra motivation to write every day, as opposed to thinking 'I'll just write 10,000 words over the weekend to catch up' and not writing for a few days. 

Writing every day can also help keep the momentum. Ernest Hemingway is known to have taken a similar approach, stopping his working day when the writing was still flowing. I hope to kickstart the habit of writing every day by doing NaNoWriMo, as well as finishing a hefty chunk of my novel's first draft. Pacing myself, in theory, should result in my sustaining a regular, solid output of words.

I'm finding this approach particularly beneficial for novel writing, as I need to absorb the story in order to continue writing each day without extensive recapping. An hour of writing every day is thus more productive than doing 5 hours twice a week, huge chunks of which would be spent reading my notes and reviewing what I've already done. It also gives me a daily time-out from chasing my puppy around the house!