Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo Weeks Three and Four: Stress and Success


As you can see, my NaNoWriMo 2013 story had a happy ending! Yay!

But it came close(ish) to not happening. It's easy to be optimistic about finishing 50 000 words when you're bucketing along merrily at 2000 words a day and things look rosy. Not so much when you've just moved house, you can't find an extension lead to plug your laptop in, you're trying to process year-end marks for 200 kids and you haven't written a stitch in three days...

Especially when you're at a sticky patch in your plot and don't have that much more by way of detail to include before the final reveal!

Yeah, but with some encouragement from my wonderful husband, a special effort to get home earlyish from school one day and just one last 3600 word push: yippee, we have a winner!

Seriously, though, I am pretty pleased with my effort this year. I'm definitely getting into the swing of things, and my preNano prep helped a lot.

So, next year? For sure!

yours triumphantly,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

NaNoWriMo Week Two: That Awkward Middle Bit

This is Week Two of NaNoWriMo. And I'm bang in the middle of That Awkward Middle Bit.  This is the part of the month where things get really tough. Especially when billions of exam papers and planning meetings and all kinds of other stresses attack perfectly innocent novelists!

The good news is, although I am not really alive and full of energy, I am still on track with the word count.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1) Plot Outline(ish)

So I didn't actually plan my novel in that much detail in the end. I tried hard, but I just ran out of time before NaNo began. So I have a hand-wavy excel spreadsheet which I have mostly ignored and certainly changed an awful lot.

But what I do have is a dead body, a good isolation mechanism (island in a summer storm!), a reasonable murder method and A LOT of people with subtle and complicated motives which are taking chapters and chapters to elucidate. 

So when I finish explaining one bit of motive/dark secret, I can usually just open up the next can of worms and serve. As long as I keep remembering to add little hints ahead of the time! 

Having a pretty good idea of all this detail before the time (though I'm STILL not sure whodunnit) has made a big difference to my experience of the difficult middle patch this year!

2) Conversations


Almost all of my big drama takes place in conversations. I like writing conversations. They go fast. They gallop through words. They don't usually require a lot of background information. They tend to be more emotionally believable. I can write a thousand words of reasonably believable conversation in just over an hour. 

..." she said ironically.

Win-win. Seriously. Particularly when above-mentioned characters and motives can be merrily elucidated (mostly) via multiple little conversations!

Having more than three main characters to converse with each other (unlike last year) has also helped a lot. There is only so much three characters can say to each other. Eight characters? So much more possibility.

3) Sprints

Late in the evening, when I'm really tired and sick of the whole damn thing, doing word sprints with my mum or sister via Whatsapp or even with myself via well, real life has really helped!

The idea is that you write like mad...for a very short defined period of time. Fifteen minutes works well for me. If I'm racing and already in the middle of a scene, I can sometimes get close to 500 words done in 15 minutes. And not that poor quality words either.

Oddly enough, once the sprint is done I often have more motivation to keep going for longer. Yay for self-inflicted mind tricks! 

4) Um...Not spending too much time writing blog posts...

Okay, so I'm out of here. See you next week!

Just kidding. Seriously, keep wishing me luck. Two weeks to go :-) Do you have any survival hints for "that awkward middle bit" of a large project or piece of writing?

yours perseveringly

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NaNoWriMo Week One: Fitting Writing into Life

(Or, Fitting Life into Writing)

Writing 2000 words a day is manageable... if you're on holiday. Trying to fit the relentless W/C into a demanding work schedule (in terms of hours and headspace) is... interesting, to say the least. At this time of year it is essential not only that I am at work, but also that I am fully engaged and focused at work.

These are the strategies I have adopted this week - so far so good:

Plan ahead

The reason I'm attempting 2000 words per day instead of 1667 is that I will be moving house at the end of November. So I know that at least five days will be lost. By planning on a 'spare' five days from the beginning of the month, I have (hopefully) minimised the impact of this.

Work Harder

When I'm at work, I'm at work. 120%. This is exam/reporting/planning month at school, and it is imperative that I'm totally accurate and quick. I must make good decisions. So I don't write at school. I don't plan NaNo chapters at school. I don't even think about my story at school (except when it just sneaks in there...). It's just too distracting.

In fact, if anything I am working harder this month. Mainly for my own peace of mind. I have to set my conscience at ease - my real job is not suffering because of my 'hobby'. I stay at work longer than most other staff members. I take very few 'breaks', and make sure that my marking is always up to date. I'm not leaving school earlier because of NaNoWriMo. I spend long afternoons working in the staffroom, even though school lets out earlier.

But on the flip side, when I leave school I'm really GONE. My marking is left in my locker. I'm in the NaNo zone, with no work distractions or worries or guilt - because I know that I'm doing my job properly.

Keep it Separate, Stupid (KISS 2.0)

This is a continuation of the previous one. A couple more handy tricks that I find helpful to keep my different activities clearly demarcated. I keep NaNo work on a separate device to my school work. I don't try to write before school, because I need to get my head around school concerns (even though I'm a morning person, and that would be prime writing time). As I said before, marking packs stay in my locker at school.

Important Things are Still Important

I am still cycling to and from work with Adam. I am still going to church and cell group and visiting my family. I still take long relaxing soaks in the bath. These things take time, but give energy. Time is relatively spacious, if you're really honest. What is often TRULY lacking when I say I have no time is a) energy and b) motivation. I'm actually amazing myself by how much I can achieve in a day when I put my mind to it.

A subsection to this might be: coffee doesn't help as much as you think it does. True story.

Get Support

Adam isn't attempting NaNoWriMo but he is super supportive and generously makes supper most nights (sometimes my school lunch too!). He also reads my efforts on a regular basis and laughs at my typos. I have coerced a lot of the rest of my family into attempting NaNoWriMo with me, and we message each other with encouragement and gentle nagging most days.  Many of my colleagues and friends know what I'm attempting and are wonderfully enthusiastic and encouraging either in person or over Facebook. All of these things contribute to the aforementioned energy and motivation.

Suck it up and do it

But ultimately, when I get home at half past five or six in the evening, I just have to sit down at the computer, no matter how little I feel like it... and JUST DO IT. 

And after the first half an hour... it starts feeling good. 

Two hours later it doesn't feel as good, but when I'm done for the day? BEST feeling ever!

Do you have any work/NaNo strategies?

yours encouragingly