I keep sitting down to write this post, and it keeps not happening. There’s part of me that feels like it’s not time, yet: I haven’t finished writing the story, so how can I possibly think about any of this objectively? I didn’t write the postmortem for last year’s project until I’d finished the draft, and that worked out well enough. But this isn’t about the story, it’s about the experience.
And this year was a very different experience from last year.
I went in confident that I could do it. Last year was… I won’t say “easy,” but it was fairly straightforward. I wrote nearly every day, and I stayed pretty much on-target as far as word-count went, and then I crashed as soon as I hit 50K, because I’d had a cold for the last few days of the month and the only thing that kept me going was stubbornness.
This year wasn’t like that. At all.
After the first week, I spent the entire month just a little bit behind schedule. Not far enough behind to send me into a panic, or make me give up, but enough that I was dealing with constant, low-level anxiety for the entire month. Every day, I sat down knowing that if I didn’t hit my goal for the day, things would start to snowball, and it would become a genuine struggle to get through.
I’m still not sure how I managed, but… I made it through. Somehow.
Word-count anxieties aside, I had two big goals for this year.
First, I wanted to focus on building the daily writing routine that I really want.
So, how’d I do?
I’m getting there. I’m learning how to fit writing and exercise into my best hours, which has always been my highest priority, but the constant deficit in my word-count meant that I had to sacrifice some other things to keep from falling too far behind. My photography suffered, and I was often too wiped out at the end of the day to think about the other writing projects (in the outlining and editing stages) that I wanted to be working on.
But now that the month is over, and I’m setting my own targets again, I’m starting to find the time and energy to think about other creative projects, on top of this particular story. That’s all going to get a bit chaotic again soon (the holiday baking marathon will start to suck up all my free time this coming weekend, and my brain is already moving into deep planning mode for the new year), but… I know that I can make this work for me. It’ll take a couple of weeks to find my way back to it in January, but I will find my way back to it in January.
My second big goal was to to write a draft that worked. by which I mean “doesn’t need to be torn down and entirely rewritten.” And I did much better on this one. I’m still only three-quarters of the way through Act Two (and there are a few missing scenes here and there), but so far, I’m thrilled with how the story is coming together. It’s not perfect (obviously), but it’s very close to the story I hoped to write. I kind of can’t wait to get to the editing stage, and that’s never happened before.
Part of this has been fine-tuning my outlining process (though, let’s be honest, that’s not something that’s ever going to be set in stone). Part of it has been finally figuring out how to create characters that feel real to me. And part of it is just growing as a writer. It’s starting to feel real to me.
So: I met my goals (including that whole write-50,000 words-in-a-month thing). So that’s good!
And I learned stuff!
I’m starting to figure out who I am as a writer, and that changes everything.
This is the first story I’ve written in a very (very!) long time that really feels like me. I’m not writing it because it ties into any particular trends (or wilfully ignores a trend because I’m a snob), or because I’ve got a passing interest in a genre, or even because the idea has been sitting at the back of my mind for years and I want to finally write the stupid thing. (That was last year.) I’ve got a connection with this story, I genuinely love the story-world, and, if it works the way I hope, it will move me toward some of my bigger writing goals.
And that’s made the entire writing process easier, and more fun.
I really need to learn how to write action scenes.
Building on that last point: the stories I want to write require action scenes. And I’m kind of terrible at writing them. I mean… I can. I have written decent action scenes in the past, but that’s more luck than skill. I want to take some time to really study (and practice!) the process… ideally, before I start the editing/rewriting process on this story. (Are you good at writing action sequences and fight scenes? Please: leave a comment! I want to pick your brain.)
The NaNo graph is really helpful.
I mean it. I love that graph. On bad writing days, I’d update it every time I took a break, and seeing my word-count creep ever closer to that line was enough of a reward to keep me going. Over the last week or so, I’ve started trying to put together a spreadsheet that will do something similar, but some of the formulas are tricky—it’s entirely possible that I’m making them more complicated than they need to be—and I really have no idea what I’m doing. (But it’s weirdly fun? I don’t know.)
That’s where I stand right now. The month was difficult—more difficult than I’d expected, going in—and I was dealing with low-level anxiety the entire time, but… it was good. I’m happy with how the month went, and I’m really looking forward to what comes next (like finishing the story).
(By the way: I’m just going to go ahead and count this as November’s sketchbook post, because NaNo was really the only creative thing I did in November. And I’m going to skip December’s sketchbook. I’ve got some year-in-review and goalsetting stuff coming up, and I’m not going to be getting very much done over the rest of the month. Except baking. I’ll be doing a lot of that.)