NaNoWriMo Again?

November is coming and it’s bringing NaNoWriMo with it along with some assorted holidays. When I was first asked if I was participating again, I immediately thought of last year’s story still sitting waiting on much needed revisions, and said no. But like always, I continued thinking about it, and now I’m not thinking maybe.

Last year my most productive writing sessions were the ones where I’d worked out a rough outline for the next few scenes. I seem to be less of a discovery writer than I thought I was. So I’m considering NaNoWriMo if I can get a good outline together before the end of the month. Now the only hurdle is getting a story idea and over coming my natural inclination towards procrastination.

Editing, Revising, or Rewriting

Scrivener outlineFirst off, many thanks to my friend Todd who offered to give me a deadline and read what I had! I wanted to take him up on it and that was enough to break my inertia, but now that I have spent some time looking at what I have, I’m not sure the term editing really covers the magnitude of the work that my NaNo draft needs.

Editing implies to me, that a draft is more than 75% done. It needs the rough edges sanded, possibly some few scenes reordered, and maybe a few additional scenes added, but the foundations of the structure are sound. This doesn’t describe what I have. Revising doesn’t sound strong enough to me either. What I need to do is take the whole thing and rebuild it. I need a writing term more akin to gutting a house as opposed to remodeling a kitchen.

It seems daunting but it’s also become an opportunity. I’ve been interested in learning Scrivener for a while now and this seemed like the perfect use for it. So I imported my NaNo draft and split it into it’s original chapters and then skimmed each chapter and split it into rough scenes. So far, Scrivener looks like an excellent tool for organizing and rearranging text. I’m working now on adding one to two sentence summaries of each scene as well as tagging what parts are really story and what parts are the original framing narrative that I used. This has been helpful in giving me a clearer picture of what I have and what the problems are. Of course fixing them is a whole different story, but at least now I’m able to work more easily on smaller pieces.

Editing Is Hard

NaNoWriMo 2013 Draft 0The Planâ„¢ was to edit my NaNoWriMo draft in March. I got as far as printing it out and putting it in a binder along with red and black pens for notes. I expected to have problems editing, which is why I printed the draft. I figured it would be easier to get done if there was a physical reminder on my desk. The binder did a great job reminding me I should be editing whenever I was at my desk, but what I didn’t realize was how much emotional inertia I had.

Finishing NaNo last year is something I’m super proud of. I start a lot of creative projects and rarely finish any of them. So hitting the 50,000 word goal and finishing a story felt really good. So good that I’m finding myself reluctant to pick it up and read through. I know it needs a lot of work, I remember thinking that while writing, but somehow it feels as though sitting down and reading it will make the work more real and will also diminish the accomplishment from November. Which is a stupid way to feel, but that doesn’t make it an easier to shake.

All that said I’m not giving up on this particular story yet, but I do need to figure out a better way of scheduling editing time and motivating myself.

For 2014


Of the MMO releases planned for 2014, Elder Scrolls Online is the only one that I’m planning to buy and play at launch. I expect to have fun for a few months before moving on to something else. I’ll be extremely surprised if I’m still playing by December. I’ve had very little interest in Wild Star so far and don’t plan to get it, although I can’t guarantee I won’t get swept up in the excitement when it releases.

Outside of MMOs, it’s looking like a crowdfunding year for me. Star Citizen, Shadowrun Online, the expansion for Shadowrun Returns, Broken Age, Banner Saga, Massive Chalice, and Planetary Annihilation. I’ve backed all of these games some of which are releasing and others are still being developed, but it’s been fun watching the process for each of these games.


Unlike the last two years, I’m not making any resolutions or setting any goals related to blogging. I’m sure when I have something to say or share that I’ll get the itch to post, and I’d rather approach it that way than trying to set it up as a second job. The only writing goals I’m setting for myself this year are my plans to do an outline and first pass edit of A Wizard’s Life in March. I want to see how that goes before I decide anything else.

Besides from MarchEditingMonth, my resolution for 2014 is to make lists. 

I read nine books last year. Nine. That’s embarrassing to me. I have thought of myself a reader since I was eight years old, so it was a shock when that email arrived from GoodReads congratulating me on finishing nine books. This made me realize that I’m very good at acquiring content but not at actually consuming it.

I have a set of bookshelves that is full of books to read, and I have two more stacks on the floor plus stuff on my Kindle. I have movies I got for Christmas in 2012 that I still haven’t watched, not to mention the ones I got this year. I have backlogs of comic books, game books, Xbox games, and Steam games. I have half a dozen starship models that need to be assembled and painted. I still haven’t watched the series finale of Eureka or the Farscape Peacekeeper Wars movie.

So I’ve started making lists so that I can see just how much stuff I have and more importantly I can start to prioritize it. Unless I learn to speed read or stop time, there’s no way I’ll be able to read everything sitting on my shelves, but I can pick fifty books and make a dent in it. I can certainly catch up on a dozen TV shows and movies. My video game backlog doesn’t bother me nearly as much, but I’m going to make a list anyway and make sure that finally finishing the Mass Effect 3 DLC is near the top.

While looking up last year’s resolutions post, I was surprised that I made a similar lists resolution in relation to finishing games and writing projects. So apparently I had zero follow through on that. Still, I think this year will be different because of the habits and tricks I picked up during November’s successful NaNoWriMo run. I’m using my phone to block out time daily and set nagging reminders to stay on track. It’s not exactly the same as having the social pressure, but making lists of books to read and movies to watch isn’t as difficult either.

NaNoWriMo Won!

2013-Winner-Vertical-BannerAfter two failed attempts, one serious and one not so serious, I’ve finally won November! Of course anyone who’s stopped by already knows from the NaNoWriMo widget on the right. Ironically it’s taken me until the end of December to actually write about it, some things never change.

I learned a few things this year. First I’m actually capable of focusing on and finishing a novel, which is something I wasn’t entirely sure I could do. I managed it this year by setting a reminder on my phone and basically blocking out 9 to 11 pm every night to write. No books or games until I’d gotten to my 1667 word goal for the evening. I also helped myself out by starting at 12:01 am on November first and getting a few hundred words in early so that when I sat down that night I could take it a little easy and still finish ahead by more than 300 words. The first week went very well especially the first few days where I got ahead by 1788 words, it felt pretty good knowing I could take a whole day off and still be on track. Instead, I ended up using up that buffer a little bit at a time during the second week which was by far the toughest for me of the month.

Hanging in during the rough week two was the first time creative writing ever felt like work to me. I found myself checking my word count after every sentence and taking too frequent breaks to research things like quarterstaves and ferrules. I got through it though motivated in large part by watching Belghast and Mogsy zip through their word counts.

The second two weeks were easier although not easy. I realized at some point that writing was a lot like backpacking. An overnight backpacking trip is fun before you start out and after you reach the top of the mountain, but the in between part can be pretty painful, which is of course why reaching the top feels so good. Writing is very much the same, some nights it was tediously painful trying to follow one word with another, but then I’d get to a level patch or hit a peak and the words would tumble out as fast as I could type them. I also got surprised a few times by things my characters did, which was a novel (pun intended) experience and absolutely fun to have happen.

So I finished a day early on the 29th with 50,029 words. Even better I managed to beat my daily 1667 word goal for 23 out of 30 days. The next big question is of course what do I do with it now?

I’ve been thinking about it over December, we’ll pretend that’s why I left the writeup for the 31st. Originally I was thinking I’d just leave it as background and exploratory writing for the setting I’ve been working in. But I’ve changed my mind on that. I found out during November that I was much more productive if I had a rough outline of where the story should go next. I didn’t always follow the outline, but it did always make the evening’s writing easier. If nothing else I think it would just get my mental gears shifted and warmed up a few hours early.

So instead of dropping it or just using it to help fill out the setting, in March I’m going to take it and make an outline of the current draft and then spend a few weeks editing it to see how it can be improved. I know there’s a lot that needs to be done, the framing story linking the individual flashbacks together is very thin and doesn’t really have a resolution to it. Some of the flashbacks need to be fleshed out a bit more as well and there’s one that has a lot of exposition in it that needs to be trimmed out. Still, if nothing else, it will be good practice for me for picking up my unfinished NaNoWriMo draft from 2010, which is something I actually would eventually like to publish.

Third Time’s the Charm?

It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month.

I’ve tried twice now in 2009 and 2010. In 2009 I didn’t really approach it seriously. I started late, had no idea what I was going to write, and didn’t dedicate much time to it. I think that was around when Arkham Asylum came out and I spent my free time playing that instead. In 2010, I decided I was going to make a serious attempt and did much better, but still only finished about halfway to the goal. I skipped the next two years. It felt stupid to start another new story when I still had a half written one that I kept planning to get back to sometime.

This year I’m giving it another try. I wanted to join in the social experience and I decided what I could do was write another story set in the Pellia setting I developed during my 2010 attempt. It would be a way to flesh out the world some more and give me a chance to try an re-establish some good writing habits, possibly even get me to pick up the writing on The Unlucky Thief after November’s insanity has passed.

So I’m writing A Wizard’s Life. I have it planned out as an aging wizard telling his grandson about his life in five short stories, hopefully totalling 50,000 words. I’m hoping breaking it up into smaller individual stories will help me with plotting.

To hit 50,000 words in a month, I have to get roughly 1,667 down per day. I managed 1,998 on the 1st so I’m feeling pretty good at the start.

NaNoWriMo – The End… Sort Of

National Novel Writing Month is over. My final word count was 22,346 words. I’m now 0 for 2 on NaNoWriMo attempts, but I couldn’t be happier with how November turned out.

So why am I so pleased if I didn’t win?

I learned a lot this year about what writing processes work for me. I know how many words I can do comfortably in an hour (about 500 once I get warmed up). I’ve gotten my fiction writing mental-muscles back in shape. I’ve learned how to shut off my inner editor and accepted that the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. I’ve developed a writing support network.

I’m definitely planning on trying against next year. In general, I have between three and four hours a day for hobbies. That’s anything that’s not work or parenting related, which covers writing, reading, playing games, and watching TV. With an average of 500 words an hour, the best I can expect to do in a day is 2,000 words. Hopefully as I continue to write my average will go up, but assuming it doesn’t, I’ll need to be more consistent about WriMo next year if I want to win. If I can stay on schedule most days or stay within a few hundred words, I should be able to do it.

This year, I was pretty much behind from the start. I was better prepared than last year (not hard to do since I’d done no preparation), but I hadn’t expected to have so much trouble with the basic mechanics of fiction writing. For me, it’s a different set of mental gears than what I sue for blogging, and they were pretty rusty. Fortunately by week two I was getting into a good flow more quickly, but by then I was much too far behind to really catchup. Slacking off in week three didn’t help either.

Besides just the different mechanics of creative fiction writing, learning to recognize and combat some of my bad habits has been a real break-through. I always want the worlds my stories take place in to have depth and character. To accomplish that, I spend a lot of time coming with the history pf the world. Usually I spend so long on this that I never end up writing my original story idea. Doing WriMo has helped me learn to recognize and ignore that impulse. Now I’m able to just focus on getting the story down, leaving myself notes in square brackets as needed.

I had a major test of my ability to ignore my inner editor just yesterday. I was writing a major scene that I didn’t have a clear mental picture of. I knew as I was writing it that it was not good, but I forced myself to continue writing, to not stop and look at what was on the screen. Eventually the scene became clearer me and I left some notes to myself for when I come back for the first rewrite, but I kept moving forward and that was the important part.

Having a writing support group isn’t something I’d ever given much thought too. I was really surprised about how good some of the feedback was that I got earlier in the month when I posted about messing up a scene and having to backup a bit. I’d really just posted it because I thought it was funny, but I got some excellent ideas from reader comments. Twitter has also been a good source of encouragement, enough that a group of us are forming a writer’s group to help provide critical feedback on projects. I’m very excited to see how much more I can learn from sharing my writing with the group and reading others.

All in all, NaNoWriMo has been an excellent experience this year. I’m not planning to stop though. I’m going to continue writing, and I’m setting a daily goal of 600 words for December. I intend to increase that in January, but I’m taking it easy for December.

NaNoWriMo Midpoint

It’s the 15th already. Time is really flying by on me, even faster than I expected it to.

I’m currently at 15,619 words. By the schedule I should be at 25,005 words. You can do the math if you want to see how far behind that makes me, it’s probably not healthy for me to know.

Anyway…. I may (probably) not hit 50,000 by the end of the month, the NaNoWriMo site tells me I’ll be done by December 21st at my current pace.

I’m honestly not too upset about it. I’ve already done better than I hoped, and the story I’m working on has started to come alive on me. Plot problems that I wasn’t sure how to deal with have suggested solutions as I got near them. Dialog has been flowing pretty easily. Regardless of my word count on the 30th, I’m planning to keep plugging away at it until it’s done. The two biggest lessons I’ve learned: spend a little time writing whenever I can and don’t over plan.

Over planning has always been my biggest hurdle. My inclination is to write fantasy, and I’m always especially interested in the world building (probably my frustrated Dungeon Master side). The problem is, that my initial bout of creativity is always spent on the setting. Often I never even get to the story. This month has already shown me, that what I really need to do is sit down and start writing. I don’t need to have the world completely realized to do the first draft, and it’s actually better if I don’t.

Oops, That Won’t Work

I did something stupid while working on NaNoWriMo. I had a chuckle about it afterwards, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who makes mistakes like this, so feel free to share yours in the comments.

I was writing a scene where my main character free climbs a building. When it came time to get him down, I decided to have him rappel. The thing was this character is a thief who prides himself on leaving no trace that he’s been somewhere and no clues to how he got in or out. So I was trying to figure out how he could rappel down a building and not leave behind any equipment. How would he anchor his rope to the roof of a six story building and then recover it from the ground.

This is a fantasy novel, so I figured he would use magic somehow. I started in on writing out how he would do it and then midway through realized I’d forgotten a detail.

I have specific rules in mind for how magic works. In order to keep the story consistent, I was having the character use an enchanted copper disk as an anchor which would adhere via magic to the roof and could be released remotely. Then I realized that meant when he got to the bottom of the building, there would be a palm sized metal disk dropping six stories to either brain my main character or land in the cobblestone courtyard and make an awful racket. Not the kind of thing a stealthy cat burglar would use.

So I ended up dumping a couple of paragraphs and having him free climb back down.

NaNoWriMo Day 9

I’m still behind, but I’m not as behind.

By my calculations I should be at 15,003 words. I am actually at 8,336. I wrote 3,270 words today, which is amazing considering my average during the first seven days was 884. It’s also means that I’m only 6,667 words behind now instead of 8,270 behind like I was yesterday and it’s the first day I’ve managed to get closer to being on-schedule.

Tomorrow’s goal is 10k.