I got inspired by a blog entry by David Bridger, and felt a need to post something myself.
For those who don't know (although I'm fairly certain there are few if any of you), November is coming up, and November means NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.
I've been spending most of my non-scheduled hours poking around the forums and getting back into my writing. There's just something amazing about the enthusiasm permeating the entire project.
This year, I don't quite know why I signed up (well, I do, but I'll get to that). I'm living at home with family responsibilities, working two part time jobs, and going to school full time. Granted, one of my part time jobs is really just sitting there doing what I want to do, but it's still scheduled time. Despite my success in the past (2005: 89,000, 2006: 117,000, 2007: 80,000), I do not actually intend to make it to 50,000 words this November, and if I do, it may be a bad thing rather than a good thing.
I've been writing off and on for as long as I can remember. I found a little picture book I made up when I was in kindergarten about a unicorn (I was a very, very girly girl when I was young) not too long ago. By 6th grade, I was writing bad mystery stories that focused more on the dresses of my main characters than any sort of plot. I tried writing a mystery novel with my dad, which ended because, instead of helping me fix my parts, he made fun of them in his parts... which made me decide that working with others really wasn't the right way to go about the whole writing thing.
I started a fantasy novel sometime in high school. I know this because I found other writers, and we critiqued each other's writing. I had at least two chapters by that point. I fiddled with that story over the years at college, and wrote another shortish-longish fantasy story my senior year.
Throughout this period, I had other ideas, which I would start and write some of, usually stalling out around chapter 8. I did finish one dystopia/fantasy in 2001 (I know it was 2001 since I wrote it in August, and my original idea was along the lines of having someone destroy a building that represented capitalism in a city similar to New York). It was serialized in very short "episodes", and probably more akin to magical realism than anything, now that I look back at it.
In general though, the Unfinished Novel was the bane of my writing existence. I got to chapter 8 and stopped. Then started a new story several months later.
In 2004, I was a grad student and teaching assistant of Russian. My students had daily homework that I was bad at grading (as in, I procrastinated). Despite having papers that were sitting there since September, when I found out about NaNoWriMo on October 27, I decided to give it a shot. No go. I made a couple of mistakes:
1. I didn't really care about my story, and had no idea where it was going.
2. I underestimated the urgency of needing to grade the papers.
3. I posted the novel on my livejournal as I went, which would have been fine, except that I allowed constructive criticism, figuring I could ignore it until it was time to revise.
These were all mistakes for a first-time NaNo attempt. I've since learned the following:
1. Caring about the story is essential. So is knowing the end. I don't *need* any more planning than that, but I do need to know the end.
2. Mutiny needed to be prevented. I think the last 2 weeks of November were spent *breathing* that homework left over since September. Now, I don't let things go that long in September, since I know November is coming.
3. Posting is okay, but constructive criticism *has* to wait.
I'm getting on a tangent here, but I'm feeling nostalgic, so bear with me. Another important point of 2004 is that I didn't just post all of my not-finished novel on my live journal - live journal was my only conduit between my writing and that of others. I was completely oblivious to the forums, and spent no time there at all.
Leap to 2005. 2005 found me unemployed, and thus, I had a far greater amount of time to spend on NaNo. I'm not sure when I signed up, but I know it was not October 1, because the Coffee House was 20-some odd pages long, and I ended up reading through all of them. I still don't know what sort of insanity possessed me, other than the depression of being unemployed and the delirium of wanting to write. That year I sort of planned. My plan looked like this:
Week 1: Lydia
Week 2: Thomas
Week 3: Aaron
Week 4: Lydia
It was a supernatural mystery, and I also planned out who committed the crime, who the police's main suspect was, who I wanted to frame as the main suspect for the reader, and everything about how and why the crime was committed. I had a few other events planned out, but that was about it. I posted that novel on live journal (friends' locked) as well. I was also way more active on the NaNo boards, particularly frequenting the Coffee House and the Nanoisms thread. As a result of the latter, there are some extremely ridiculous parts to the novel, but it was a blast to write. I don't know that I've had so much *fun* with any other writing project in my life. I finished with 89,000 words on something like the 25th of November.
When things got tough, I just ploughed through them with a heightened sense of humor directed mainly at myself. I had conquered the Unfinished Novel.
2006 found me working a full time job in the real world. I was certain I would not be able to make the 50,000 goal, because I wouldn't be able to stay up as late. I forgot that I wouldn't have any homework, and that week-ends and holidays are wonderful for writing when you live alone. I was far more obsessed in 2006 than any other year, and my project (a fan fiction) grew to 117,000 by the end of the month. I finished it at 11:30 p.m. on November 30, mostly because at 9:00, I had a sudden new idea I had to at least get down on paper.
That new idea became the basis for a class on Forward Motion taught by Zette - the 2 Year Novel class. I spent the beginning and middle of 2007 fleshing it out and preparing it in great detail. Around August, I was caught up to the class (which had already started the first draft) in terms of pre-work. I had some fleshing out to do, mainly in terms of research and world building, and fleshed out the outline as well. Then, I waited for November and wrote it then. At that point, I was living here, with my parents, but I only was working 30 hours a week.
Although it had not nearly as much excitement or delirium as my first two attempts, it went much more smoothly, and is by far, the cleanest first draft I have yet produced.
Now, I'm heading into 2008. I'm way behind on research, but have what I think is the most solid plot I've ever started with (though less detailed than last year's). This year, I'm going to school and working two part time jobs, so I do have homework. I'm also living at home, and that makes it difficult to write as much as I'd like. Once more, I find myself lowering my goal to 30,000. But this time, I know for sure that I have conquered the Unfinished Novel.
The new bane of my writing existence is the Unrevised First Draft. Maybe I'll have to check out NaNoEdMo this March.