National Novel Writing Month 2016: Epic Disaster

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As I write this post it I’m feeling a bit disheartened. It’s November 27th and this was the day I had planned on validating my NaNo win. I did not win. I did not even start.

The main reason National Novel Writing Month 2016 turned into an Epic Disaster this year is because my computer crashed on October 27th and it took 18 days for me to get up and running with a new one. I wrote the long story out on Anxiety Ink, if you’d care to hear my tale of woe and anger.

So, as I sit here huddled under my blanket in my office chair, I have to reiterate that I’ve only tackled NaNo twice. At the very least I’m two for two as far as winning goes, but I’m seriously bummed that my plans were destroyed this year.

I didn’t get my computer back until November 14th. That was the week of vacation I’d taken off work in order to throw myself hard into NaNo, but I really had no faith that I’d be able to catch up and eventually win, so I didn’t even try.

I feel guilty about not making an effort, but I feel amazing after getting some rest. This year has been exhausting for so many reasons and I was in desperate need of a week to myself.

This is not the post-NaNo update I thought I’d be writing once December rolled around. Still, I want to share what I learned that I think is equally worthwhile to what I had hoped to get out of a NaNo win this November.

1) Mental rest is important. I was quite sick off and on through the start of 2016, so once I found a self-care regimen that gave me my health back, I pushed myself hard. I think I pushed myself too hard. The numerous breakdowns I had over my computer crashing illustrated just how fried my nerves were. While those 18 days without my laptop were frustrating beyond words, they allowed me to take a step back and be part of the real world for a while. I need that more often.

2) Technology breaks need to be implemented in my life. I work 30 hours a week on a computer at the day job. When I’m home I’m usually on my computer if I’m not reading, working out, cleaning, eating, sleeping, or chasing cats. That’s a lot of hours in front of a screen. After being away so long I actually got my first bit of novel writing done on the night of the 18th because I wasn’t sick of being there. I need to find a better balance of screen.

3) Scheduling well ahead on both blogs is not just a good idea for NaNo prep. I am so grateful I was two months ahead here and on Anxiety Ink because if I had had to worry about writing and scheduling blog posts on top of all of the other stuff I was worried about over those 18 days, I would have been an even worse basket case.

4) Balance is going to be my word for 2017. I had more events in my social calendar this month than I have all year it seems. I’ve become a bit of a shut-in and I don’t think that has been helping me whatsoever. In my defence, this is the first year I’ve worked 5 days a week every single week. I’m selfish when it comes to my alone time and two day weekends have been a hard adjustment for me; I’m used to having either weeks at a time, or a day in the middle of the week to myself. I must work on getting out more further apart so that when I do fight for the alone time I need I’m not neglecting others, or myself.

5) 2016 as a whole has been an enormous life lesson. I have a new appreciation for balance and actively working towards goals. I haven’t had a chance to plan out 2017 and strategize, but I have all the supplies and knowledge I need. I will not be sitting back and letting life happen and hoping to get things done some way, somehow this year. That’s a stupid way to try to get things done and I have learned my lesson.

How did your November go?

National Novel Writing Month 2016: Plan of Attack

In the course of going through my older blog posts and stats in order to write this post, I realized that I have only tackled National Novel Writing Month twice. I wasn’t working in November 2013 so my inaugural challenge went very smoothly. My brain was fried, but I won.

I didn’t tackle NaNo in 2014 because I was working full time and just couldn’t manage it; I had completely forgotten that. Last year, I was working 24 hours a week with a full day off in the middle of the work week. It was hard, but I won. Not as easily as in 2013, but who cares? Victory is victory.

This year, I’m terrified. I currently work 30 hours a week with no extra day off. I only work 5 hours Tuesdays and Thursdays but I have other tasks for those afternoons and mornings, respectively. I also have FOUR social engagements on days off, though I’m trying to get out of two of them. I do have a week of vacation that I planned for NaNo, like I did in 2015, but the month is still scaring me.

I’m going to backtrack a little for those who don’t know what NaNo is. During the month of November, the National Novel Writing Month, I am challenging myself to write 52 084 new words of fiction. Along with a horde of other people who are as masochistic as me. Traditionally, people write 50 000 words or a book over NaNo. I usually finish and start a project. Or two. Or write a bunch of short stories if I get stuck. And I’m trying to beat my number from last year.

In 2015 I discussed my prep plan here since I had never done NaNo around a day job before. Now that seems like old hat. Still, I am once again challenging myself not to cry. I’ve written up my Plan of Attack and it’s got me a little nauseas. Slightly hopeless. I’ve never worked so much, or made so many commitments, and tried to accomplish NaNo.

As is the case all year long, I do not and cannot write every single day. I do not have the stamina. Plus, life gets in the way. My work does not care that I have a word count goal, I need to be mentally present and functional while there. Not to mention I need to get up on time, so no late writing sessions for me. Furthermore, my cats do not care about anything I do that does not involve them. They’re patient with me most of the time but I can’t park myself in front of my computer indefinitely whenever I’m home. There would be furry rioting!

The truth is, it’s hard to manage NaNo around the basic necessities of life: eating, sleeping, cleaning up after yourself, taking care of dependents (animals and children), and leaving your work space for sanity reasons. It’s worth it in the end though when you see what you’re capable of accomplishing in a single month.

Life is life, hence my Plan of Attack factors in preventatives and surprises so that when November 30th rolls around I’m not sitting at my desk blankly wondering where 10 000 words are going to come from. I actually hope to be done by the 27th.

Math, though I detest it, is my main weapon. Here’s my breakdown, the Plan of Attack:

Over the course of November I have 14 full days of writing (weekends + vacation days). On those days I need to write a minimum of 3 000 words.

I also have 4 Tuesday afternoons/evenings (minus my vacation Tuesday). On those days I need to write a minimum of 2 521 words (and still fit in my workout, oy).

3 000 x 14 = 42 000

2 521 x 4 = 10 084

42 000 + 10 084 = 52 084

The math makes it look completely doable. As long as I hit my minimal targets I am home free. I also have “bonus” days factored into my tracking calendar so that I can stay ahead of the game.

However, and this is the part I completely forgot about until now, I know that I need to start big and end not quite as big. That means I need to have higher word counts earlier in the month so that when I start to feel weighed down I will be ahead and still able to hit a my target. Now I have to redo my tracking sheet. Darn it.

Finally, I work everything out into 30 minute segments. In 30 minutes I can anywhere from 500 to 1000 words depending on how the story is shaping up. I always say 500 when I’m breaking my time down because aiming low, knowing you can exceed it, is a great feeling. And telling yourself, “just another 30 minutes” does not sound nearly as bad to the writing mind as “just another 600 words.” You simply go until the timer makes noise. That’s all you can do, all you have to do.

NaNo is all about the mental game and discipline. I’m competitive. I want to win. Having a segmented plan from the get go seriously helps me win when I am too brain fried from writing to figure things out in the midst of it all.

I’ve got both blogs scheduled to the first Friday in December because I can’t have any other writing requirements taking away from my focus. Plus, I know exactly which writing projects I’m tackling and have outlines to follow in order to mitigate time wasted on such things. I have also let everyone in my immediate circle know that I am participating so they know not to be upset if I avoid them or (other) plans in November.

I’ve never lost NaNo following my segmented plan. It’s hard, but it works.

I have a lot riding on National Novel Writing Month 2016. I’ve discussed it repeatedly on Anxiety Ink. I need to win this month because I need to know that I can create while working. I’ve failed myself this year and I need November to turn my spirits around.

Wish me luck! And I wish you the best of luck if you’re taking up the challenge. And if you do try my Plan of Attack, let me know how it goes.

The actual Plan:

nano-attack-2016

Deadlines, the Glory

Happy New Year! Welcome to my first post of 2016. I debated talking about the goals I’d set for the year, but I went on at length about them on Anxiety Ink. Today’s topic absolutely ties in though.

There’s something about a deadline that spurs you to get your butt in a chair and write. Especially when you’ve made that deadline with another person. Perhaps it’s a mix of competitiveness, integrity, or accountability. I’m not positive what gets you to get things done. All I do know is that it’s awesome when you do.

I’m not sure if I’ve brought this up before, but Kate and I made a pact the very first day of our When Words Collide workshop: we’d both have a completed manuscript to show the other on January 5, 2016.

Between August and November, as I know I’ve said, I got absolutely zero writing done. My story sat in the confines of my computer waiting for me. Begging me to finish it. And I had this damn deadline looming. November turned into my Holy Grail month; all of my concentrated efforts went into producing 50 000 words, but more importantly, finishing my book!

Well, I finished it and I started the second one.

I was not anticipating enjoying writing RA2 as much as I am. I’m still working on it because unlike in November the rest of the world can’t be ignored any more. I’m still producing words for it a month later, which is a far bigger win for me than printing my winner’s certificate off of NaNo’s site.

But back to the deadline. My manuscript is not completed even though I “finished” the story. Why? Well, RA1 has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The first chapter is polished, because it had to be for that workshop I mentioned above, but the four chapters that follow are in a different tense than the rest of the book because I figured out in chapter 5 that this had to be a first person narrative. On top of that, the document is riddled with notes to myself to fill in scenes and details in parts where I realized I didn’t know enough at the time to write it and I needed to do some research before I tackled it again.

A manuscript is finished, even merely a first draft, when all those holes have been patched to the best of your ability. I knew I wanted to do those things by the 5th, but I didn’t.

Time by John Morgan via Flickr

Time by John Morgan via Flickr

Then Kate messaged me on December 28th, guiltily confessing that she would not have her draft finished because her comic book project completely took over her life. More than she had ever anticipated it would.

How could I not tell her that that so counted when my sequel totally took over mine? I said in the face of the other projects we’d taken on, and the words we’d put into the original pieces we’d dubbed our deadline manuscripts, we’d made it.

I don’t have a deadline, per say, to get my edits completed for RA1 or my current draft of RA2 finished (with the same holes that RA1 is currently boasting). I’m letting RA2 continue its organic course right now because I’m learning so many things I need to incorporate into RA1. But I need to pick dates. I know I need deadlines to get things accomplished in a timely manner. And so I don’t fall into the same slump as before.

So that’s the next task, laying out all my projects and picking manageable dates to have them wrapped up. I may or may not lean on Kate again. I don’t know yet. It would be nice to know that I can be accountable to myself.

That’s how I feel about deadlines. They’re glorious; but I’m a person who works well under pressure. What do you think?

National Novel Writing Month: Completed

Way back in August I discussed National Novel Writing Month and my three month plan leading up to November. I had all these grandiose ideas to be well-prepped and roaring to go come the 1st.

Yeah, that kind of flew out the window. I had great intentions, but life happened, as it does.

However, I did manage some minor planning at the end of October –I do recall having a mini-panic attack on the 31st because there was far more I needed to know than I had anticipated– and made myself dive into my WIP (going forward called RA1) despite my anxiety.

You know what? It absolutely paid off. On November 27th I validated and came out with 52,803 words. What’s more, I finished RA1 and got well into its sequel RA2.

I (re)learned a lot about myself over the course of the month, mainly that when I set my mind to something I can tackle it as long as I set myself up for success. I need a plan, targets, and a goal to keep me going otherwise I flounder in indecision. But if I have those three things I can really accomplish anything. I’d forgotten I was so stubborn, and I’m elated I rediscovered that about myself. I needed the morale boost.

This was my plan of attack and the outcome.

This was my plan of attack and the outcome.

I (re)learned a ton about writing in general too, I covered that on Anxiety Ink though.

I’m still flying high on the tails of my success and honestly I never want to come down. But it’s been 9 days since I even opened the RA2 file on my computer and I’m terrified that might become the trend again. It’s one thing to tell everyone you’re participating in NaNo over November so you’re going to be largely unavailable and distracted. It’s not feasible over the rest of the year, and not only because attaining 50,000 words is too much for me to tackle on top of work and other life responsibilities.NaNo Win Selfie

I need to find a happy medium. I’m nervous but I do well with targets and I know I can hack it if I really set my sights on it.

I got more out of National Novel Writing Month than I ever anticipated. I can’t wait to try again next year and to keep my fiction writing momentum going until that time comes around. As awesome as it was to validate, get my hooray from the website, and print out my winner’s certificate, the big picture win for my fiction means the world to me.

I completed a freaking manuscript!! Yes it has holes and needs hours of editing but my story has a beginning, middle, and end!

National Novel Writing Month

For those of you unfamiliar with National Novel Writing Month, or the far catchier NaNoWriMo, it is a writing event in which each participant attempts to write 50,000 words, or a novel, during the month of November.2013-Winner-Certificate Signed

I have tackled and succeed at NaNo once, in 2013, while I was jobless and motivated. Not to say that I’m not motivated to write now, but I devised an attack plan in 2013 so that I could not fail. It was marvelous.

There is nothing like a whopping success the first time you try something.

I did not have the guts to tackle NaNo last year. I was too busy with work and other things to get into the proper head space. Last year and this year I did attempt two other NaNo events, April and July Camp NaNo. The difference between the original NaNo and Camp is that “at camp”, you get to form virtual cabins with writers you know, or strangers, and you get to set your own word goal. It’s much more of a social endeavor than traditional NaNo, in my opinion.

2014-Winner-Facebook-ProfileI won Camp in April 2014 by surpassing my goal of 10,000 words by over 2,600. That month I had two projects I knew I wanted to work on in advance and I made time to write around my day job. I did absolutely no planning for any of the other NaNo Camps and I failed miserably.

Coming off a very recent fail, I decided I don’t like this streak of mine. I’m a good strategist and I can tackle anything as long as I have a plan going in. Furthermore, I just made a promise to myself to focus more on my fiction writing and schedule time for it.

I have three months until November. I have also scheduled a week of holiday time for November. I want a rough draft of my current WIP done by the end of this year and I’ve decided to immerse myself fully in that world, ironing kinks and plotting arcs until I feel ready to write it all out.

I feel like all of these elements are going to come together to make something incredible in the next four months.

So here is my challenge to myself:

Over August, September, and October, I need to work on that world and figure out how my novel is going to flesh out. I need to be comfortable making time for fiction by the time November arrives. I also need to come up with a writing course for November so I can be well ahead of schedule by the end of the month. I know what I did to win in 2013 and while I don’t want to change that perfect plan, I need to make it work around the day job.

This will be no small feat, but I might have a completed manuscript by the end of November to show for it. I sure hope I can share that positive news on December 1st!