Sunday, December 05, 2010

NaNoWriMo Postmortem

I reached the 50,000 word goal set by the folks at NaNoWriMo. It was a long month, one where I felt like I was working overtime, with my day job (conclusion on that question: don't quit it) and with waking up early to write, as well as writing immediately after work. It was exhausting, but I hit the mark.

I did this not by spending full days writing, not by pouring thousands of words on the page over a weekend, but by steadily making the daily goal set by the challenge itself. This actually worked very well for me. In the end, I only had a few days where I missed this goal.

Now the problem is maintaining momentum.

I have a story that is only probably 90% complete. I need to finish off that last bit, connect those last dots. Only, now I don't have that daily goal, nor a looming deadline.

Early on, I wrote a portion of the ending - Not the complete ending, but the pivotal resolution of the story. This was helpful, as it gave me a continual target to keep me story from veering off into the land of the wandering characters (although, I think main character found themselves wandering a little too often, but at least he was wandering with a direction in mind).

I do find it interesting that by (a) choosing a science fiction story, and (b) choosing a single character - that of a young man - how quickly the story felt like a young adult novel. A conversation with a friend of mine reminded me of how typically this is the case with science fiction.

What are the negatives that resulted? Well, I do find that I probably went into rather boring details to make my daily word count. Those scenes would certainly need to be cut in the editing process. The primary scenes of action might need some extension and some better descriptions.

I lost track of some characters along the way, which I really thought to keep in the picture originally. Unfortunately, they didn't really fit where the plot ended up taking the character. This is, as another friend pointed out, like "Lost", where they made a big deal about Walt, yet that subplot amounted to nothing. I think all viewers felt a little bamboozled by that one.

The other major point that I think as missed along the way was why there was resistance to the characters' actions to begin with. I certainly had some thoughts in mind, but I don't think that they really arrived on the page directly. Again, something that would have to be reworked in subsequent drafts.

Which brings us to the remaining question: what now? Undoubtedly, to complete the project, I should at least finish the story. After that, I don't know. I've stepped away from the project and lost momentum. I've also stepped back from the story, and am left wondering if it is any good and whether or not I should even return to it for subsequent drafts.

One thing I realized about the daily goal is that it is essentially Seinfeld's "Don't Break the Chain" strategy. Every day I had to hit an number. If I made it, great. if not, that overall target looked just a little farther away, and I would have to double-down. The pleasure of making the goal was a good one though.

This brings me back to how to maintain the momentum. I need to have both a daily goal and a deadline, I think. I'm starting to think that perhaps a more modest 500 word a day goal might work. It's less than a third of the NaNoWriMo daily goal, but it's still a little less that two pages per day. Do that every day for a year, and that's a pretty decent novel.

...or at least a long daily blog entry.

For many years, I have wanted to write a novel. At least now I can say that I've written a first draft navel. That's a big step in the right direction.

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