NaNo Update #1

Closing in on Week 1 of NaNoWriMo and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the experience so far.

Short version: It’s pretty fantastic.

Maybe that’s easy to say because it’s my first week into it and it’s still an exciting challenge, but I don’t know if this will ever become a chore.  Producing content is not a problem for me.  Regular readers of this blog know that my biggest struggle is balance.  I have a tendency to get completely absorbed in the worlds I am writing, and stop paying attention to the world I am actually living in.  I’ll stop exercising, my day job will become a nuisance, and I become disconnected from the people I love and care about.

That is how I worked for 2 years, and learned the hard way that it is a completely unsustainable way to conduct my life and my career.

This month I have a couple experiments going simultaneously.  Can I write 50,000 words in a month?  50,000 words that are connected in a story that actually makes sense?  And can I write these words while also maintaining that balance between writing and the rest of my life?

So far, in this first week, I have.

It goes like this: In the mornings, I wake up and write.  I’ll write for at least 2 hours, and find that after 2 hours I pass this threshold, like a runner’s high, like I could just keep going and going and going.  But by then I follow a little writing tip from Hemingway:

“I always worked until I had something done, and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.”

That’s when I do something physical– yoga, kung fu, or even just washing some dishes.  Exercise helps me get out of my head and back into the real world.

The other advice I have been following is from Cam Terwilliger, who I took a workshop with at the Muse conference a couple years ago. I can’t recall what that workshop was actually called, but I think it was about the stages of novel writing, because I can so clearly remember Cam standing at an easel with a big pad of white paper, and he was writing with a marker, telling the writers in the room, “Your first draft is when you can be in love with your work, like you’re on your honeymoon.”

He broke down novel writing into a.) drafting your work like it’s the greatest story ever told, b.) stepping away and giving yourself a breather, then c.) taking a red pen to your manuscript and editing like it’s no longer your own words

Maybe this first week of novel writing has been so enjoyable because I’ve gone through this book writing process once already, and I’ve learned from my mistakes.  With my first book, I was editing along the way, trying to make each scene perfect before moving on to the next one.  Now I am writing and I don’t stop for anything.  Even if there are essential bits that are missing I put down notes in parenthesis (add details about setting) (what does he do between?) (flashback to one year ago) and know that I’ll come back to it later.

So, one week into NaNo and I’m not sure how many pages I have written anymore, and it’s all handwritten so I’m not sure of the word count, but I have a handful of characters that are telling me things, and I’m starting to make sense of it.