This year, for the first time ever, I decided to give NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month) a go. I had taken the summer off from writing to come up my next great novel – without any success. So without that novel to write, I opted for Plan B – a return to Mars with Molly and Mons with a novel length story that would continue their story. I wrote the opening 8,000 words of that story before deciding that the story I was writing wasn’t going to work, or perhaps wasn’t the direction I wanted to take them in. However, I didn’t have an alternative direction in anything more than a vague alternate idea, so I abandoned writing that story it mid-September. In October it was on to Plan C.
Plan C – the any port in the storm plan, anything to write during the long Wisconsin winter project – evolved during the month of October into a new Nine Star Nebula Mystery/Adventure story. I had planned to give that series a rest, but as an any port in a storm story, I hammered out a rough plot. I came up with a mystery, another pirate prince villain, with an outline of action, and an ending that I am quite happy with. It looked to be a go. So with National Novel Writing Month approaching, I decided to use that as a motivator to get started writing.
So how did it work? The short answer, not very well. While I never actually intended to write the entire first draft of the novel in the month of November, I did hope to get at least half of it written. I fell significantly short of that goal. I did write 17,000 words, which is something – a beginning. But it’s still far short of the 50,000 word novel, or even the 25-30,000 words I would’ve like to have written in the month. So what happened?
I am of the school that if you want to get a book written, you sit down and write every day until it is done. Unlike most authors, I don’t use word count goals. Rather I’m content to put in 1/12 to 2 hours every morning, and if things are going well, an optional hour or two in the evening. I save each day’s work as a separate file so that if I screw something up, I only lose a day’s work. Thus, my files tell the story of my faltering efforts at this book. I have a file for every day until the 17th of November. My next files were dated November 23rd and 24th, and my next file after those was November 29th. Doing the math, you’ll see that I spent 20 days producing 17,000 words, less than a 1,000 words a day, on average. That number is a bit misleading in that probably half of those days I spent going over what I had already written rather than forging ahead. This is common practice for me these days when I’ve outrun the story in my head. If I can’t go forward, I go back to do a second or a third pass over what I’ve already written rather than writing nothing. Of course there were days when I was writing nothing -- or these blog posts -- as well… But, well… I’d reached a gaping hole in my plans. And I’ve yet to fill it.
I found that the outline I had in my head would make a good novella – a 30-35,000 word story, but not a 50,000+ word novel. Novels in this series run more in the 60,000 words plus range, but I’ll settle for 50K story. But not for a 35K novella. Essentially, I discovered that I was missing act two – I had a beginning written, and the fast paced ending in my head, but was missing the 20K word middle act. I’m always tempted to make it too easy for my heroes, so I usually need to find more ways to throw sand in the gears – to give them more stuff to overcome. I’ve got a couple twists and turns at the ending that I’d like to get to, but now I need to find something for them to do – 20K words more to do -- than I had originally planned, before I get to the ending scenes that I do have planned out. I’ve settled on a location for the second act, but that’s about all. As of this writing, I’m still not pushing ahead until its all settled in my mind.
Alas, that’s the story of writing these days. I don’t spend the time daydreaming the story over and over again until its major scenes are clear in my head like I may’ve with my first books. Instead I set out with an idea for a beginning and an end, but with only a vague middle act in mind, so that, when I reach it, I must stop and actually figure out what I need and want to do. Oh well, we’ll get it done sooner or later. However, I don’t think I’ll attempt a NaNoWrMo again. It isn’t my style.