Thursday, December 6, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018

That makes three in a row...

Pretty similar to last year's graphic...
First, context. If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, mark the following for later reading: National Novel Writing Month.

As I've already mentioned, this was my third year of completing the challenge (results for prior years can be found here: 2016, 2017).

This year was... different... from the past two years. More on that later. Let's get straight to the numbers (since everyone likes graphics and/or tables).

Only 25 days!
That's right, everyone! I crossed the "finished" line on 11/25, with a full five days to spare. This result was three days faster than last year, but still two days slower than 2016. Still, the pace seemed really consistent. Metrics include:

  • Highest day's output: 3,491 words on 11/04
  • Lowest day's output: 630 words on 11/13
  • Mean daily output: 2,024 words
  • Median daily output: 2,050 words
So, what did I learn this year? Or maybe, what did I think about this year's challenge?

Writing every day, even just a little, helps a ridiculous amount. Looking at the day-by-day, you can tell that my flow, such as it was, never suffered from the interruptions that life brings like last year. I had other things going on (more on that in a minute), but still managed to find at least 30 minutes throughout the day to write a few sentences.

Finishing prior to Thanksgiving is a good goal, but extremely difficult. This year, especially, since Thanksgiving was early-ish (11/22), getting everything done before having to leave town or otherwise deal with the festivities was a lot to ask for. I realized this relatively early on and managed my expectations accordingly. The goal shifted to steady progress, at least a little, every day, INCLUDING on travel days and while I was out of town.

(High) Fantasy is pretty fun to write. This probably goes without saying for other writers in the genre, but I found high fantasy to be really fun to play with. Most of my writing is urban fantasy, with a little sci fi and high fantasy thrown in, but this was my first long high fantasy work since high school. Worldbuilding, even in pantser style, was incredibly enjoyable. Some days where my output was lower were actually my most creative, as I was thinking about the world itself, its peoples, its histories, naming things, drawing maps, etc. Some of that work made it back into the story, but most of it was just there, flavoring my thoughts as they went along.

I don't take my advice very well. Last year, I mentioned two important things:

  1. Reduce commitments to free up writing time.
  2. Write regularly throughout the year so the habit won't be so forced.
Yeah, neither of those happened. I'll speak about the second one first. This turned out not to be that big a deal for me. I wrote a couple of short stories this year, including a silly one involving my summer glamping trip and a funnier one for Halloween, but not much else (aside from journaling). Even so, getting into the writing, finding the times for it, wasn't all that challenging. I looked forward to it on most days, and don't remember feeling like it was a slog at all this year. That's not to say I didn't get frustrated at the way the story went, but I didn't feel like I was fighting it like I did last year.

The first one was much worse this year. We're not running anymore for lots of reasons, but I still try to get some regular exercise in on a daily basis. I'm still running D&D, and participating in the Transformers role-playing game at Matt's. I'm more or less RUNNING Be A Santa this year, as Pat has essentially been out of the country since October. I'm still gainfully employed, even had a work trip over the last few days of the month. Then there's the stuff I do around the house normally, and by the end of doing all that, I'm beginning to feel stretched a little thin...

Worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Despite what I just said about being stretched, I enjoyed this year's challenge more than last year's. I don't think there was any single thing, but the combination of writing something completely new without the expectation of it being good or even making sense was pretty liberating. I felt like I was more in the spirit of NaNoWriMo this year than last.

And the book I wound up with is... broken. Fundamentally broken. HOWEVER, it's got enough interesting stuff to make me realize that I could pick it up for editing and not feel like I was scraping my face off with a rusty spoon. About halfway through, I switched viewpoint characters, and that felt great. I also realized afterward that one character that started silly then turned serious could actually remain silly if I just shifted some of their attributes to the third character (yes, there are three companions in this story). I'm also very pleased with the various races that populate the world, even if they're not all that original, because there are ways to shake them up. It's kind of fun to have a dragonborn that acts like a dwarf a lot of the time.

So... editing in January/February. But, there's still something to be done this year. My last bit of writing for the year will be a Christmastime short story. I really want to make it a ghost story, since that's the old tradition, but I'm struggling with a theme. Any suggestions? :-)