On NaNoWriMo, Productivity, & Anne Lamott

I hit 50k last week. I did a fist pump or two and promised myself that I’d keep writing 1k a day until Christmas. I’d have a full 90k draft to celebrate on Christmas morning, in the midst of stockings and cinnamon rolls.

Guess what? I haven’t written anything since then. Instead,  I spent a week editing on super speed for a client and, despite the super speed, it was super fun. So I’m a little off track, but I still have my eye on that 90k. Why? Writing has become part of my DNA. If I’m not writing a story, I’m editing one. If I’m not editing, I’m outlining. Brainstorming. Researching. Etc.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to keep moving forward. Keep writing, creating, playing, reading, dreaming, researching, and–believe me–analyzing. When you stay productive, the habitual cycle of consuming and creating will help you grow.

Stephen King’s On Writing encourages (almost demands) that you write every day. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott also encourages a productivity-centric mindset, but in a more poetic way.

Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do–the actual act of writing–turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward (xxvi).

While I am still very publication/end goal/word count focused, it’s good to be reminded that the messy and challenging process is worth cherishing. Productivity isn’t just a means to an end, just as my life isn’t just a means to an end. Every day, even with all the mush and mundanity, is valuable. Those moments when I stare at the wall, wondering how the heck I’m going to get my character out of this life-and-death situation, I’m still doing valuable work. It’s all part of the process.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to extend my writing break for another day and read the next chapter of Bird by Bird. 

 

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NaNo Day 2: Face That Monster

It’s only day 2 and I’m already seeing discouragement in some WriMos. Maybe that’s the fate of a pantser (says the perfectionist-overkill-planner) or maybe that’s just life for you right now. It’s busy!

There are many obstacles between you and 50k: time limitations, mental distractions, unclear writing goals, underdeveloped characters…etc etc etc.

Your job is to realize what your obstacles are before they block you for good. What is making 1667 per day so agonizing? Dig into your own psyche, schedule, or novel outline. If you can face that monster, then you can face 50k. You can do this.

I shared this article with my writing group a while back, and I’d like to share it with you too: “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a to 10,000 Words a Day.” It’s all about analyzing your own process, knowing how you work best, and running with it. Seriously, if you’re struggling at all, check it out.

My day 2 so far: I knocked out 1k this morning and I hope to write 1.5 more later today, which means finishing scene 2 and starting scene 3. I have the content all ready; I just need to be okay with it spilling out on the page in an unappealing pile of words. Mess is okay? Mess is okay. Mess is OKAY. (My mantra for the month, haha)

 

NaNo Day 1: Loving the Process, Hating the Gross

I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. Hubby and I watched the 2016 Ghostbusters that evening and the movie romped about my head, along with all the jokes, the characters, and the plot points that rattled like loose change if you shook them too hard. Ghostbusters, however, was only background noise. NaNoWriMo was really what kept me up. In only a few hours I would join thousands in the great migration from November 1st + 0 words, to November 30th + 50,000 words.

If you aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) the goal is to write 50,000 words, which comes down to an average of 1,667 words per day. If you’ve got 12 pt Times New Roman font and 1.5 spacing like me, that’s about 4 pages.

The month is full of people complaining, chugging coffee, writing crap, and loving every minute.

I prepped like crazy for this writing marathon. The first draft of my outline poured out of my head in April. I let it rest over the summer and reworked it in October. Now I have a 28 page outline that is laid out scene by scene. I have mapped my plot threads, my visual themes, my character arcs, my beats, and I am ready to go.

But still. Last night I worried. As I readjusted my pillow for the millionth time, I asked myself: Will these bullet point scenes survive the process? Do I have the skill to make it not only to 50k, but to the end of the story? Will I need to rewrite a lot later, or will all of this material be worthwhile?

I have analyzed my craft enough to know that it is technically possible to write a worthwhile 50k in 30 days, but the unmeasurable part of storytelling bothers me. I can’t quantify the heart of the story. Character psychology doesn’t fit into a chart; it needs to be set free. My story needs to unfold with the crackling of an old map. I can’t treat it like a graph on a scientific calculator. I need to let loose.

As I wrote this morning, on day 1 of NaNoWriMo, I turned 200 words of outline into 1690 words of manuscript. It is full of exposition, awkward transitions, ugly sentences, and notes-to-self (in parentheses). But it is written. And that is good. I’m hoping that NaNoWriMo’s whirlwind nature will save me from my perfectionism. I need to accept the gross first draft and learn to love the process. It’s go time and I am up for the challenge.

Fellow WriMos! How is Day 1 treating you?