It’s the beginning of August and the end of this year’s second Camp NaNoWriMo. As the picture shows, I didn’t even come close to hitting my word count goal, yet I’m still considering this NaNo attempt a success. I had two goals for this NaNo, and neither of them translated well into word count.
The first goal was to create a backlog of blog posts. While I wasn’t able to create much of a backlog, I greatly expanded my list of ideas for blog posts and maintained my self-imposed goal of posting once a week. That’s definitely a win. Building a habit takes time and persistence, and I want posting to this blog to become a habit. I discovered that each week I managed to write a first draft of a post by Wednesday, so I had plenty of time to revise and post on Saturday. So far, most of my post ideas are about the writing process since that’s what I’m currently wrestling with, but I hope to explore other topics in future.
The second goal was to work on my new idea in my SF universe. I ended up falling into full-blown world building mode when I came up with a way to link my fantasy and SF universes (see post “Connecting the Dots”). When I’m world building, I find it difficult to generate words; instead, what I generated was ideas. Lots and lots of ideas.
When I first started taking writing seriously, NaNoWriMo was invaluable in helping me learn how to start at page 1 and just keep writing. The NaNo deadline and word count goal gave me the incentive to push through dry spells and throw words on the page. I’m still surprised by how many great story directions evolved out of the NaNo need to just keep writing. Some of my best scenes were written during NaNo along with a lot of words that need to be drastically revised and/or cut. It’s a variation of the comment that 50% of every dollar of advertising is wasted; you still need to spend the whole dollar because you can’t tell ahead of time which part won’t work.
But now that I’ve actually completed novel manuscripts, I’m finding it difficult to just let loose during NaNo and let the words flow. I want my stories to have depth and texture. Yes, I know that comes during revision, but as I mature as a writer, I’m feeling the need to have an understanding of my story’s theme before I start writing a rough draft, not after I’ve wandered around in the dark bumping into walls. How can I put my writing experience to good use and cut down on the amount of random words? I spent a lot of time this NaNo thinking about how to work smarter, not harder. I’ve also been studying Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. She’s got lots of valuable advice about ways to make stories resonate with readers, and I’m finding her suggestions are helping me plan out my current work in progress.
So as I enter August (still can’t believe it’s August already), I’ve got enough blog posts in the queue to last for at least the next few months. I’ve got a better understanding of the story universe in which I’m writing, and I’m getting to know my characters much better, too. Today I wrote a new first line for my first contact story which will take the story into a much different direction than I’d originally imagined. It’ll be a little darker, but on the whole, I think the change in direction is needed to make my protagonist more of a participant than an observer. At this point, I think I’ve got enough critical mass to make headway on the story.
So full steam ahead in August, and let’s see what I can accomplish by September.