Friday, July 6, 2012

Lessons Learned

Okay, so you've probably noticed that I haven't blogged in quite a while. Again. Let me assure you that it has nothing to do with laziness, nor have I just grown tired of blogging. I actually love blogging. When it comes down to it, I just haven't been able to think of anything to say. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, I haven't been tweeting as much, either. (And honestly, the tweets I have sent have had more to do with Doctor Who than writing. But I'm already on the 5th season, so it won't be long before my attention turns elsewhere.)

I think a Camp NaNoWriMo update is overdue. As I posted here, I was attempting to finish writing Dr. Pepper Kisses and Vodka Smiles in the month of June. Alas, I did not succeed. I started off really well. In the first ten days of June, I wrote 22,362 words. That, for me, is really good. Like, incredibly good. I was setting word count goals for each day, and very nearly always hitting them. For those ten days, things were going swimmingly.

But then I hit a wall. And I hit it hard. On Sunday, June 10th, I was absolutely miserable. I was exhausted, I was grumpy, I had a splitting headache. I was, in all ways, overwhelmed. And, frankly, I missed my husband. Even so, I forced myself to write, aiming for 5,000 words. I made it to about 4,600 before I just couldn't do it anymore. And I haven't written a word since. (Don't worry, though. I'll get back into the swing of things very soon. I'm still hoping to finish a first draft of the MS this summer.)

So what did I learn from my Camp NaNoWriMo experience?

1)  I don't have to try to make it perfect the first time. With all my other novels, I'd get bogged down in striving for perfection. I'd ponder over what word to use for twenty minutes, just to make sure it was exactly right. I was so, so careful. And so, so slow. The fastest I've ever written the first draft of a novel is just about a year and three months. The slowest is a little over two years. For this book, I wrote about half the first draft (total word count so far is 33,531) in under a month. That's under a month from the moment I came up with the idea to 33,531 words. And writing that way, just letting the words flow from my mind and knowing I could always go back and change them later, was liberating as hell.

2)  I can't be a full time writer and have a "real" full time job at the same time. In other words, I need to work on my pacing. As it was, I was going to work (with my commute, it's usually about 10 1/2 hours from the time I leave home to the time I get back again) and using up a large part of my energy (mental and physical) there. Then I'd go home, hang out with my husband just long enough to eat dinner, and then seclude myself in my office until bedtime. Then on the weekend, I wrote from the time I woke up until the time I hit my word count goal. Which was usually about 12-ish hours. I'm sure there are lots of writers out there who can do that, no problem. But I'm not one of them. Writing is harder work than anything else I've ever done (professionally or otherwise). The sheer amount of energy it takes to create these characters and these scenes is incredible. I was exhausted all the time. If the writing was my "real" job, and then I finished when my husband got home and spent my evenings relaxing with him, I'm sure I could write a draft in a month without any issues at all. But that's not how it's working right now. And ten days of running on fumes while I basically ignored my husband was more than I could take. But if I try to schedule it better, I think I could succeed at something like this. I just need to figure out what works for me, personally, and the way I can and cannot write.

3)  You writers who are able to have full time jobs and husbands and kids (kids! I can't even imagine!) who are still able to win any of the NaNoWriMo challenges are INCREDIBLE. I bow down to you and your seemingly endless stores of energy. I am forever impressed by your greatness.
Final Camp NaNoWriMo thoughts: do I regret trying to write the book in a month, and almost making myself go crazy? Not in the least. It was an awesome experience. Would I do it again? Absolutely. But as I said above, I would have to approach it differently. Since I'd never tried anything like this before, I didn't know how I would react to it. Now that I do, I think I can adjust my methods accordingly.

What about you? I know that several of you were participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. Some of those who weren't have participated in other NaNoWriMo and similar writing challenges in the past. Did you succeed? If so, any tricks you can impart for keeping one's sanity? And if not, what were your biggest challenges? Any ideas on how to overcome them in the future?

1 comment:

  1. I think you did AWESOME. But, yeah, you were trying to do too much at once. It's all about the pacing. I've won once and two things helped. One, I did my 1667 words a day, then I stopped. (Unless I missed a day, then I had to do more, but I kept it spaced out.) It's hard in the beginning because you have ALL THE IDEAS and you want to write ALL THE WORDS. But it's draining to do that. Two, I had someone else in the house who was doing it with me. My 12 yo son to be precise. He's not shy with the trash talk. I wasn't about to let that little punk beat me. ;P

    This time, I went into it half-assed and half-assed is what I got out. S'okay though. That MS will get written, it just wasn't my priority.