Well, writers, NaNoWriMo has almost finished.
I’m at 46,000 words at the moment, but I know from looking at my calendar that I won’t have 50,000 before the clock strikes midnight on November 30. That’s OK, though—I’m still happy with this year’s progress!
It's always an amazing feeling at the end of the month to see how many words I was able to corral into sentences – today, I had the opus so far printed so that I can start a read-through and plan some of the larger editing that it will need– and that reminds me again why I still like this challenge and why the NaNoWriMo challenge is still valuable for me, even 15 years after I first attended a write-in.
This project (in my last post I called it an “Agatha Christie homage”), is still fun. As I told my critique group tonight, it's the kind of project that becomes more fun as I work on it. Which is great! It is, however, a bit less Agatha Christie-ish then in my original conception, but I think it will definitely be a stronger book for some of the changes that I have made to it while I wrote.
As I told some friends when I started out, my goal had been to do an 80,000-word challenge this month, not just the usual 50,000-word challenge. But I am fascinated with the idea of being able to put out an entire rough draft in the time span of one month (I also tried this in August with a different manuscript) and each time I learned something, and each time I am happy that I did it.
I will catch up on the other 30,000 words in December – after 50,000 in November, 30,000 seems like a breeze.
The challenge I set for myself in August was slightly different—I wanted to dictate the entire manuscript. This month, I alternated between typing and dictation. I dictated large amounts of the manuscript, but then I went back over the dictated areas and filled in those passages a bit more. I don’t seem to think as visually when I’m narrating out loud as I do when I’m tapping on a keyboard. I am going to try to train myself into being able to do both as well.
I’m still learning how to be an effective and efficient writer with dictation. (If you have any tips, please let me know in the comments!) It really saves strain on my wrists, and I'm finding that it is opening up the creative side of my brain in ways that I hadn’t expected. (An example: my husband alerted me to the fact that I “do the voices” when I’m dictating dialogue.)
One technique that a guest of Joanna Penn recommended on her Creative Penn podcast was to dictate each scene three times. Once as a short summary, then as a slightly longer summary, then as a full scene. The technique I’m currently using is evolving, but so far it seems most natural to write a short summary by hand in my general outline, then dictate the the scene in ten-minute increments and then finally go back through and embroider some bits later, either by hand on a printed copy or typing into the transcription. That brings me to what I'm calling the zero draft. I'll bring the rest of that up to a more readable standpoint and look at some of the big picture things on my next go round.
Then I'll let it sit.
And then I'll ask for feedback.
(Gosh, this is a long process!)
NaNoWriMo is a good thing for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the community. Even when I lived in China, I still found people to talk about NaNoWriMo with. I met them in Hong Kong, and Guangzhou and other cities, where we would meet at a cafe, write and talk about novels. NaNoWriMo is also good as a daily discipline. While I already have the discipline of writing every day, I don't always move fiction projects forward every day.
This month, I still had more fiction binges than steady work, but the NaNoWriMo participation, and the general hubbub of other people on social media and in Write-ins, really do move me forward on things in a way that reinforces some of my own daily discipline. And it's also a challenge!
One of the most important things that NaNoWriMo has taught me is that I can manage long documents. That's important also for my freelance work. I recently had to edit several 50-page reports for clients. That's a large amount of text to take in at once! But when you compare that report to a 50,000-word fiction document, it’s a lot more manageable.
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? How did it go?
This past week, my friend Jasmine Silvera released the second book in her Grace Bloods series, Dancer’s Flame. I've known Jasmine since she was in Prague writing her first book (and, um, actually I’m officially the first book’s godmother and so kind of invested in this…) and I'm thrilled to see her universe, set in a dystopian future Prague, come to life in a second volume. The story centers on Isela Vogel, a dancer who can call on gods through the power of dance and her relationship with the city’s most powerful necromancer, Azrael.
Jasmine did a great job showcasing the city, but often when I pick up a book about a place I know well, I worry if my own experiences are going to take away from my enjoyment of the setting. For example, my own familiarity with Prague makes me hypervigilant to the details, but it’s really not fair to expect an author to always put every cobblestone in the right place. For most books, it's more about catching the spirit of a location and emphasizing only the details that evoke the sensation of being there.
News from Beth
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