NaNoWriMo 2018 Winner Header

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Week 5

Writing

I was this close to giving up on NaNo yesterday.

I had just under six thousand words to go. No problem: I had two days, and I’ve been hitting over 3000 words/day for the past week.

… and then the power went out. Just as I was sitting down to start my first (and generally best) writing session of the day. The power company was estimating four p.m. before service was restored. That sort of thing is pretty much par for the course for me this month, but like I said last week: I was going to finish this thing. Connected the keyboard to the iPad, and got to work.

After an hour, I was pretty sure this whole thing was going to be a bust. The story’s been fighting me all month; I’ve spent more time figuring out how to make it work than I have writing, even though I started with a solid outline. All this work has been worth it (when I go back and make the changes I’m already planning, it’s going to be kind of amazing), but ugh. And the app I was using yesterday doesn’t have a word count, so I had no way of knowing how close I was to my target.

(By the way… I’ve asked this before, but since I’m still looking, I’ll put it out there again: if anyone knows of a good Dropbox-compatible text editor for iOS that doesn’t choke on novel-length files, I’d love to hear about it. Bonus points if it’s attractive and pleasant to use.)

Anyway, yeah: I got a solid hour in before I had to admit defeat. The power was out for another three hours, and that was more than enough time for me to start feeling like… this just wasn’t going to work. I didn’t know what was going to be worse: giving up with the finish line in sight, or making myself miserable trying to reach the finish line. (On the bright side: it wasn’t out all day! Or not quite.)

When I finally got everything synced up… it turns out that hour was one of my better ones this month: just shy of two thousand words.

This is all just a long-winded way of saying ugh, this month and this story. And that I’m exhausted, and I need to not think about this story—or writing at all—for a couple days.

And also: I did it.

I’ll be back with a more clear-eyed look at how the month went next Friday, and a full post-mortem of the draft… whenever I actually finish the thing. (Probably February or March.)

The 2018 Reboot | Week 12 Check-In

Productivity

Just a quick update this week, because… I kind of forgot that I was supposed to post this today, and my brain is fried from trying to meet my NaNoWriMo targets.


The goals:

Clarify my long-term goals, in writing, photography, and in general.
I finally feel like I’m making real progress here. I’m pretty clear on my writing goals, and I’ve got a good idea of what my personal/general goals are.

Photography… is a bit of a challenge, still. Partly because I love it all. (Or most of it—there are a couple of niches that I have absolutely no interest in, and never have.) There’s a big part of me that resists specializing, because I don’t want to limit my options. (Which is ridiculous, I know, because specializing in, say, landscapes doesn’t mean I’m never allowed to take another food photo in my life.)

Right now, it’s hard for me to really know what I want to focus on (pun 100% intended). More work is needed.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
Well… the whole month has been a revelation when it comes to time management. Not always in a good way, but even the less-successful bits have taught me a lot. Enough that I’m almost ready to consider it done. (On that note: this month’s ‘Sketchbook’ will be posted next week. Something had to give.)

But I’m going to wait, and see how the next few weeks work out, when I don’t have the pressures of November weighing on me, and when the temptation to just slack off for the rest of the year starts sneaking up on me. (I already know that I’m going to take a bit of a break next week to recover, but after that, I want to ease my writing schedule back to something a little more tolerable, while still working… mostly right up until the holidays. I might be a bit overoptimistic.)

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
My update from last week still stands: I’m slowly getting there with writing, though it’s an ongoing process and I need to evaluate some stuff. Photography workflows rely on the type of photography I’m doing, so this is going to be on hold until I finish clarifying my goals.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
Like my time management, I’m almost there, but not quite.

I’ve been making a few more adjustments to my system; at this point, it’s mostly a matter of streamlining my processes and experimenting with a few less-essential additions as I start thinking ahead to setting things up for next year. (I promise I’ll give you a full tour of all of this stuff as soon as I’m ready.)

Finish the work on the office.
Again: I’m still working on it, but progress is slowing down because of other commitments. I probably won’t be done by the end of the year, but I’m getting there.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Week 4

Writing

The other day, Terry Rossio tweeted something, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since:

(If you’re on a reader that doesn’t show embedded tweets, here it is for posterity: “The key to writing productivity, maybe, is determine how many words can you do without feeling burned out? Better to do 200 words every day that seem easy, rather than 2000 words and need to recover, because you might not recover.”)

[EDIT: The day I posted this, Rossio went on to say some incredibly offensive and irresponsible things, also on Twitter. So: half-decent writer, but ignore everything else he has to say.]

That is the problem I’m having with NaNo this year, and the reason I’m thinking about maybe not doing it again next year: I’ve been writing at a pace that just isn’t sustainable for me. If I’d been able (or willing) to write every. single. day, I’d be fine, but… I can’t sustain that, either. I seem to be at my best writing around 2 hours or 2000 words a day—whichever comes first—and writing 4-5 days a week. More than that, and I start to risk burnout, and I don’t want to go down that road again.

If circumstances were perfect, 2000 words/5 days a week is enough to survive NaNo. They just haven’t been perfect this year. This is a me thing, rather than a NaNo thing. I’ve committed, so I will do everything in my power to see it through—even if it means pushing myself too hard, even though there are literally no consequences to not hitting 50,000 words.

There’s a week left. Do I take the loss?

I’ll push through. Looking at my previous graphs, I’m almost exactly where I was last year, and I survived that. I’ll try to get some writing done over the weekend—even a few hundred words will ease the pressure next week. And I won’t say for sure that this is my last year doing NaNo, but… it might be. I’ll see how I feel about it next year.

… and you’re probably wondering how the actual story is going, too. Right.

So far, I’m really happy with it. I’ve been trying to make this particular story work since my first (recent) attempt at NaNo in 2016, and for the first time… I think I’m on the right track.

I did hit my first real snag this week: my ensemble cast has to be in the same place at the same time very soon, but I’m having a hard time actually making it happen. I know what the problem is—I didn’t spend enough time building up why they need to go, and some of my cast aren’t well enough developed yet—but right now it just feels like the characters would rather just sit around in their separate groups and talk about how awful everything is.

Anyway! I’m doing what any good NaNo-er would do: making a note in the text to fix it later, and skipping straight to the good part. There will be death and destruction. Probably not an explosion, but I’m tempted to see if I can fit one in. Either way, it’ll be fun to write.

That should be enough to shake me out of this funk and push me through the next week.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 11 Check-In

Personal, Productivity

I fell into a bit of a trap this week. It’s a familiar one for me, one I seem to stumble into every time I want to make a big change, whether it’s with writing, or photography, or getting organized, or (this time) setting goals.

I start to think that other people have the answers, and that if I just read enough books or articles or blog posts, I’ll eventually stumble onto the right one, the one that brings everything into focus.

It never happens.

Don’t get me wrong: advice is good. Learning from those who’ve gone before? Awesome. And if I’m dealing with a specific technical issue, like how to edit infrared photos or how to incorporate backstory in a way that doesn’t drag a story down… the research is worth it. But in general? There’s too much noise, too much useless information to wade through. (And, because it’s the internet, let’s be honest: too many people who call themselves experts without bringing any new insights.)

I don’t need to read another article on S.M.A.R.T. goals, or whether it’s more valuable to build habits than to set goals.

I just need to do the work and find my own path. I’ll get there eventually.

Frosted Window photo by Reghan Skerry

Snapshot #114 | 10 Things for 18 November 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. grumbling… about the cold and the snow. Actual snow. It’s too early.
2. reminding… myself that I spent most of NaNoWriMo behind ‘par’ last year, and I still did just fine in the end.
3. resisting… the temptation to blow my savings on a medium-format camera. (A friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend is selling their old kit. If I was willing to spend that much money on myself this close to Christmas….)
4. testing… a few things.
5. finalizing… my holiday baking plans. I’m scaling things back this year. (I mean it this time! Though I do think there’s going to be a batch of non-Christmas cookies sometime soon, too….)
6. running… just a little bit behind, with pretty much everything.
7. accepting… that it’s time to cut my hair. I keep trying to grow it out, but my frustration always outweighs my desire for a cute messy bun.
8. trying… to decide whether I love or hate the new WordPress.com post editor. Could go either way right now.
9. mourning… William Goldman and Stan Lee. This hasn’t been a great week.
10. remembering… my obsession with taking photos of frosted-over windows.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Week 3

Writing

So. I’m still about 4000 words below where I ‘should’ be with this story.

But considering my slow start to the month, and the fact that I’ve been taking weekends off, that’s not terrible. I’ve been averaging about 2500 words a day; if I added one more short writing session every day, I could push that up to 3000 with no difficulty, and still only have to write Monday through Friday.

I’d rather not. I’d rather keep going the way I have been, and I do have a few things I’d like to do with my time besides write, but I could.

We’ll see. 

Anyway. I’ve been thinking a lot about NaNo this past week, and my relationship with it.

I love it. I always have, and it’s had a profound impact on my writing—especially these past few years. Since 2016, NaNoWriMo has helped me start writing again, helped me find real writing friends for the first time ever, and taught me a lot about who I am as a writer. The public commitment and clear deadline are turning out to be essential to actually, you know, finishing a story.

But at the same time… I’m not sure it fits anymore. I feel like it places too much emphasis on churning out a first draft, quantity over quality, et cetera, and… I don’t think that works for me right now. I don’t like how much time I’ve spent thinking about my word count, when I could have been focussed on crafting my story. It’s not that the story isn’t working right now—I’m definitely on the right track—but there are parts of it that aren’t as solid as they could be, even in a first draft, and I’m just leaving them as they are because I’m so focussed on the word count graph. And that’s just going to mean more work later.

I’ve gone through this before. I stopped doing NaNo entirely sometime around 2007, because it didn’t fit with the writing routine I’d built. It turned out to be the right decision (even if that routine I’d built wasn’t sustainable). 

I’m not in that exact place now; it might just be that things aren’t quite clicking for me this year. (And I really do love the whole ‘deadline’ thing!) But I’m thinking about it.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep going. 

The 2018 Reboot | Week 10 Check-In

Productivity

I suppose it was inevitable, and I’m not at all surprised it’s happening now, when the days are getting noticeably colder and shorter, and it feels like winter—and the end of the year—is just around the corner.

The doubts are starting to creep in.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m on the right track with this whole reboot. Not in general (it really is necessary), but in the specifics: whether the systems and habits I’m building are the right ones, whether I’m going to be able to sustain them long-term, whether I’m going in the right direction.

Like I said: I should have expected it, and I’m not surprised it’s happening. I’ve had a really good couple of weeks, and I really do feel like I’m building a good foundation for myself, and that’s always the stage when I start to question everything. When a story is flowing perfectly, I start to worry that I’m missing something important. When I’m proud of the photos I’m taking, I suddenly can’t bring myself to pick up a camera.

It’s a pattern. Not one I’m happy with, but one that I recognize in myself. And maybe (maybe) one that this reboot is going to help me work around going forward.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Diary | Week 2

Writing

… and I’m back on track!

I mean, I’m still behind the ‘official’ target for NaNo—after that one terrible day last week, I wound up taking the weekend off entirely—but the last five days have been really good. I’ve been meeting my personal goals, and today I closed out the first act.

So far, the story seems to be working. There are a couple of scenes that I already know are going to need a lot of work in revisions (it’s not that they’re bad, they just don’t quite feel like they’ve been earned), and I’m a little worried that my pacing is off, but I’ll deal with that later. (It might not even be an issue. The pacing always feels distorted during the writing process, when it sometimes feels like a scene drags on for days, because that’s how long it’s taken to get it on the page. I won’t know for sure how it reads until it’s done.)

Next week… will probably be ok. Not great. I’m probably not going to be able to get much writing done over the long weekend, which means I definitely won’t be catching up to the targets anytime soon, but I won’t fall much further behind. And, assuming the rest of my writing days go as smoothly as this week (which they should… my outline seems solid enough to carry me through), I’m still hopeful about the rest of the month.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 9 Check-In

Productivity

Last week was kind of a bust. I made no progress at all.

But I am making up for it this week, and I feel like all of the things I’ve been working on are falling into place. I’ll get to the specifics in a minute, but in general, the last few days have been really good.

So I’m starting to feel like it’s time to make some changes to this little reboot of mine.

The overall goal is the same: to get my creative life in some sort of order by the end of the year, so I can really start to move forward in 2019. And most of my specific goals are the same, too.

But it’s time to rethink that first goal on my list: Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating. It’s still a good goal, and it needed to be here, but… I’ve done it. I’ve been doing it, fairly consistently. I can either keep saying “yep, still doing this” every week for the next two months, or I can officially check it off and add something new.

I’m gonna check it off.

And the goal I’m going to replace it with… it’s kind of a big one. (I’m not sure why I’m doing this to myself, taking the easiest one of the list and replacing it with the most difficult, but I’m feeling good about things in general right now, so why not?)

My new goal for the last few weeks of 2018: Clarify my long-term goals: in writing, photography, and in general.

If you’ve been following my reboot, you know that this has been nagging at me for a few weeks now. I’ve got vague long-term goals, and specific short- and medium-term goals, but I don’t feel like I know what I’m working toward, and so I can’t know if I those short-term goals are really moving me in the right direction. And while I’ve been thinking about it, that’s all I’ve been doing. I haven’t actually put any real work into it yet.

Right now, that’s fine—I know what I’m going to be doing for the next two months, and the work I’m doing in this reboot isn’t wasting my time—but I want to have some clear directions and plans in place going into the new year.

And if I don’t want it to be panicking about it over the holidays, it’s time to get to work.