Thursday, November 13, 2014

Momentum (11.13.14)

For several years I've been a bit of a NaNoWriMo rebel, taking the month as an added incentive to revise existing projects rather than tackle new ones. It's not because I don't like working on new material, but there are priorities to consider.

Last year I was working on revisions to the Steampunk Novel. This year I started the month finishing up a novella I'd started in September. (Finished on Monday at 34k! Woot!) Now I'm focusing on the first draft of a new novel I'm hoping to finish before Christmas.

I've always found that moving between projects is a little challenging. Usually there's a period of down time in which I try and figure out what to work on next. (Like every other writer under the sun, my list of possible projects is ridiculous. I could write for years just finishing up all the ideas I have today.) There's also a shift in creative energy as I transition between that final dig to finish something up to the wilder and (usually) more optimistic period of figuring out what exactly I'm doing with the new project. And, any time I'm not writing every day it's always harder to pick it back up again (the same as it is with breaking and reestablishing any routine).

This time I knew what I wanted to work on and I was fairly settled into a writing routine; the biggest challenge would be finding the energy to start a new project right on the heels of the last.

But this time, I had a plan. On November 1st, I started working on the new project before I had finished the last one. I didn't write a lot or every day (I had a novella to finish, after all), but I dipped my toes into the new project and let myself start getting a feel for the characters before it was the only thing on my plate.

It was interesting. I've worked multiple projects before, but not with as much... intention, I think is the best way to describe it. This time the goal was to get comfortable with the Space Opera before I finished up the SuperSecretProject. It wasn't to get an arseload of words on the page. My one purpose was to introduce myself to the characters.

Boy, what an introduction. I had a plot in mind and I noodled around sketching out the opening and, as I did, I started to see things about my MC. I started to see things about the way she interacted with the secondary characters and how they interacted with her. And before I knew it I had 12k words and a surprisingly clear vision for the book.

It's still a hot mess, because it's in that stage where every novel is a hot mess. (You know that stage, when the plot still has a few holes and subplots are just a scene or two here and there.) But I do seem to have taken the momentum from the last project (the SuperSecretProject) and transferred it to the new one. Which is kind of amazing considering how different the two are. (Like night and day.)

But there you go. Words on the page, every day. And that's always a good thing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ups and Downs (Update 11.5.14)

It's November and that means that the NaNoWriMo hashtag is trending on Twitter and writers of every stripe are hunkered down working on banging out a minimum of 1667 words a day.

Of course, for some November is an awkward month to try and hit 50k in 30 days. The end of the month has the opening of the holiday season. For folks in school there are exams and the impending end of the year crush of papers and projects. But, many of us take up the challenge even knowing that we won't likely make the goal because life. 

I first participated in the National Novel Writing Month in 2008. It was a spur of the moment thing. Although I had heard of NaNo before, I had always missed it by a few weeks (or been months too early). As it was, I thought I had missed it again and was delighted to realize it was NOT in October but November. I had a rough plot and no idea how to write something that long, but I plunged in anyway and produced the really awful first draft of what would eventually take shape as the Steampunk Novel and I wrote more than 50k words in the space of a month. It was a huge achievement.

The following year I did it again. (That year produced the really awful first draft of what is slowly taking shape as the Magicpunk Novel.) And I haven't repeated it since. 

The first year I failed to meet the NaNo goal (2010) I was pretty bummed. I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. Had I lost my mojo? Maybe I was running out of good ideas. Maybe I had plateaued. Or I was only destined to write two books ever. (And lousy ones at that.) 

After I wallowed for a bit, I had a revelation. Nothing had gone wrong. I hadn't lost my motivation or my mojo or run out of ideas. It was just a different year and different circumstances and although I had written a lot, I hadn't written as much as the previous years because life. 

I have been thinking about that again these past few weeks. I had a soft deadline to turn in a project mid-October. I got very close and then ran out of steam. 

Of course, I also went through a major move with my family that consumed more time and energy than I thought I had to spend. I also turned in major revisions on a novel in January. And wrote a different novel and revised it over the spring and summer. Then started the SuperSecret novella in September. 

I was being productive and writing even with a very tight schedule and plenty of life difficulties in the mix. (Seven weeks without running water, four rounds of bronchitis in six months, and multiple court dates being just a small part of the life stress I've faced this year.) Failing to meet a self-imposed deadline was disappointing, but it didn't signal Failure. It was life. 

So, as I tackle another November and another novel project I can only remind myself that everyone has ups and downs. And there are times when you have to make that deadline (and I've done that a few times too), but you cannot blame yourself for all the things that happen because life. You can only buckle down and try. 

Some days this just means turning on the computer and hammering out a single line between eating dinner and putting the six year old to bed. Some days this means ignoring the urge to watch crappy TV and instead beat out a few chapters on that project you aren't certain is any good at all. 

But whether life is grabbing you by the short and curlies or everything is coming up roses, you can only buckle down and try. And, at the end of most days, you will have words. Some better than others, but the bad ones can always be fixed. 

As long as you try.