Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Literary Abandon

I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (thirty days and nights of literary abandon) this year for the very first time and I’m a jumble of anxiety and excitement. Although at this point, I think anxiety has a slight edge over excitement.

For those unfamiliar with National Novel Writing Month, it begins November 1 and ends at midnight on November 30. The goal is to write 50,000 words or roughly 175 pages of a first draft of a novel in a month. Each day you post your word count on the NaNoWriMo site. You are declared a winner if you reach the 50,000 word mark by the end of the allotted time. Check here for more information: How NaNoWriMo Works (in Ten Easy Steps).

A little history. National Novel Writing Month started in July 1999 with 21 participants. In Year Two the month was switched to November so its cooler temperatures would encourage more writing. Year Three they expected 150 participants and got 5,000. In 2008 they had 119,301 entrants and 21,683 winners.

Why am I participating? I’m using the opportunity to create the first draft of a new romantic suspense titled Breaking Point. NaNoWriMo encourages writers to take the month to create something new, to concentrate on output verses quality. You’re supposed to ignore the squiggly red and green underlines that pop up and keep writing. No reworking, revising, self-editing or anything, just writing down whatever comes to you.

While the idea is to start from scratch and to begin by typing in the words Chapter One, outlines and plot notes are encouraged. I have done some preliminary work, I’ve been jotting down plot points and I’ve started working on a character chart for Seth because I want to have a better handle on who he is before I start telling his story. Kate’s personality is a little better formed in my head.

There are other versions of this idea and one is BIAW, which my writing group, the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, runs every January. We dedicate seven days in January to Book In A Week. We set goals for the week and each evening we report to the coordinator on our progress, she then passes the information onto the participants. I didn’t participate last year, but this year I’m going to use the opportunity to finish up the first draft of Outcast, my paranormal work in progress.

BIAW and NaNoWriMo are an excellent chance to set the rules aside, forget about the word ‘can’t’ and just do. The thought of it is making my insides quake but I’m determined to do it, to finish and to be declared a winner. Whether it’s as an official winner or a winner in my own mind, it doesn’t matter. I’ll have given it my best shot.

I will keep you posted in November on how it’s going, good, bad or ugly. I forgot to mention I need ‘buddies’. Are any of you participating, do you want to be my NaNoWriMo buddy? Have you participated before, in either BIAW or NaNoWriMo? Would you like to but haven’t yet? What’s holding you back?


Janet C. said...

Good luck, Karyn :) I'll be interested in hearing about your progress and your feelings toward NaNoWriMo. I know others who, after their first foray into the event, look forward to November and participate faithfully.

I've never done NaNoWriMo, but have been tempted. I love BIAW - and the words fly onto the page. There's something freeing about just sitting down and writing. No editing, no revisions, no doubts. The part I don't like is at the end of it I look back and experience the "Holy crap, what have I done? Where do I go? How do I finish?" insecurities. I need to do a BIAW until I type The End, and then figure it all out.

Again, good luck. Maybe I'll try it next year.

Karyn Good said...

Thanks, Janet. I think once I wrap my mind around the no editing concept and allow myself free reign, I'll be fine.

I know what you mean. I'm worried I'll be there at the end going "What do I do with this mess?" So I figure the next step after NaNoWriMo will be to take the story I've written and apply it to some kind of storyboard idea.

We'll just have to 'convince' you to try it next year. But in the meantime we'll make good use out of BIAW!

Silver James said...

Karyn, my user name on NaNo is Silver Norwood. Please be my buddy! I will definitely buddy you back.

As you know, I love NaNo and look forward to it every year. I'm convinced it's what finally broke my bad habit of editing instead of writing. I give myself permission to write "badly" (even if it isn't November) until I type The End. THEN I can let TR loose to work his magic on sentence structure, plot holes, POV shifts, and other technical thingys like that there.

Am I published now because of NaNo? I don't know as both books I've sold were written BEFORE I participated. But it did give me the confidence in my writing to start thinking about submitting again, because I knew I COULD start and finish a new project.

FYI, a lot of people take December off (holidays and all that) but then come back in in January and finish their project--editing, polishing, finishing it if it needs more words. As my projects tend to rund 85K-90K, I always need to add words. But I never start editing in earnest until I type THE END!

Welcome to the madness!

Karyn Good said...

Thanks, Silver. My user name in prairiechick. :) I'm excited to have you as a buddy! I've already gotten some great advice and tips from your blog and look forward to doing this with a friend!

That's what I'm looking for: the confidence to know I can finish something and not have the whole process take soooo long. Thanks for your thoughts, I'm feeling a bit more confident already.

Thanks for the tip, I can see December being kind of a write off as far as writing goes.

Helena said...

Love the pun, Karyn -- December being a "write off" -- I mean, coming from a writer, and all.

I'm tempted to do NaNoWriMo, partly because I can now type the short form without looking up what it means! But I cannot see myself starting a novel from scratch this year with two others on the go. What I might do is write a draft of the novel that I have barely started, without using any of my existing files. In other words, just start a new draft of the same story and see what happens. After November is over, part of my revising would be to decide what I want to include from the various drafts I've written. And believe me, I have made many false starts already on this story.

Karyn, or someone else who knows about the process, can you tell me whether this would be allowed? It's a little like having an outline or synopsis in my head, but I would not be building on an existing file of "words" for the final count.

I love doing BIAW in January, with other SRW members, setting our goals and writing as much as possible every day for a week. As Janet said, it is very liberating to just write to get every possible idea out without worrying (until later) whether the ideas are extraneous or repetitious -- not even being concerned about whether the writing is just plain "bad."

The inspiration for that week comes from Book-in-a-Week. Check out the website for rules, guidelines, and the schedule for 2009. They designate one week out of every month.

Thanks for getting me thinking about how to get my butt in gear, Karyn. Maybe November will be really productive for me!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Best of luck in November, Karyn. I think that's going to be a fabulous experience for you.

I've thought of joining it in the past, but it's not really possible with an existing story, and I really don't think it would be the best thing to set aside the wip for a whole month (plus getting some semblance of an idea before hand and time to flesh that out) right now, when I should really just finish. Depending how things sit next year, I may try it then to dive into one of my other ideas, but I still really wonder whether it'll work with my writing habits.

I've really enjoyed BIAW, although I've never come close to writing a book during that time. It's been a good motivation for improving word counts and getting consistent progress in, and I'll enjoy challenging myself with it again in January next year.

Karyn Good said...

Thanks, Helena, for adding the Book In A Week link! It's got great information if you've got a group that might want to try it.

I think you idea of starting over from scratch would be fine, but I'm a novice so I can't say for sure. It's like having an outline and if you're not using previously created word files I think you're good to go. You could always send a question to the powers that be at the NaNoWriMo site. It would be great to have you sign up!

I love BIAW too. And once again thanks for the link!!

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Hayley. You're right, time is precious and everyone has to decide how to make the best use out of theirs. You could try it once and if it didn't mesh with your style you'd still have the words you'd written and the knowledge that this type of process doesn't work for you.

Look forward to doing BIAW with you and improving those word counts!

Jana Richards said...

Karen, I think this is a fabulous idea. I'd love to join you but like Hayley, I'm in the middle of edits on two stories and not quite ready to start something new at the moment. I'd love to give it a shot one of these Novembers.

I don't know about you, but when I've participated in BIAW, a couple of things have helped me out. Mind you, that's only a week, whereas NaNoWriMo is a whole month, but here's my advice:
- definitely go in with a plan. You are planning to have some preliminary character work done ahead of time and I think that's a great idea. I would need to do some thinking about my plot, otherwise I'd spend the entire month staring at a blank screen. Do whatever you have to do ahead of time so that you can hit the ground running.
- clear the decks. As much as possible, schedule appointments before and after November. Make a few meals you can stick in your freezer, and stock up on food so the kids don't starve. Hey, so they eat a few pizza pops? What's the worst that can happen?
- let your family know that this time is important to you so DON'T BUG ME!! If shouting is necessary I give you permission.

Good luck and keep us posted on how it's going.


Karyn Good said...

Hey, Jana. Thanks for the great tips. Having a few extra meals ready and a stock of snacks is a wise idea. I'm just praying everyone stays healthy!

Donald Maass is rubbing off on me so I'm developing an unavoidable obligation for Seth as well as figuring out his greatest need, his goal, what he yearns for, what he must at all costs avoid - well you know, you're reading the same book! And some plot work is in order too. (I haven't gotten to that part in Writing the Breakout Novel, yet).

Hopefully you'll be in a position to do it next year. It would be fun to do it together.

Thanks for the tips and help, Jana. I appreciate it. :)

Paula R said...

Hey Karyn, I am seriously considering doing NaNoWriMo. I am nervous though because I am not sure if I could actually finish it. You have my absolute support in this. I will make a decision myself in the next couple of weeks.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Vince said...

Hi Karyn:

I’ve done NaNo for the last six years. I finished twice. Last year I finished with over 60,000 words but here’s the thing: that was only about one half of my novel. So unless you are writing a short novel or novella, don’t expect to have a completed novel when you are done.

There is no cost to participate though I always give a donation. There is also no shame in dropping out -- so I suggest that everyone who has an interest should try it. See what happens. Anything you learn will be helpful to your writing career and you will learn things you could not learn any other way.

After two ‘wins’, I’m no longer intimidate by a ‘mere’ 50,000 words.

I suggest writers ‘just do it’ for the experience so they will be better equipped for the next time.

I am doing a BIAW right now and have done far better than I would have thought. I think NaNo builds psychological stamina.

I’m not sure about NaNo this year as I am using my NaNo project now on BIAW. If I come up with another story idea that excites me, I'll do NaNo again. In fact, every year I say I’m not going to do it, but then I wind-up doing it anyway. It’s really a thrill.

I’d be happy to be anyone’s buddy though I am not sure what that means.

Give it a try!


connie said...

Dear Karyn,
Way to go! Very best of luck with NaNoWriMo but most of all have fun doing it and feel great about what you have done.
Too bad I don't live near you or I would take the little beasties for a day to give you 'peace and quiet' whatever that is! I don't have pizza pops but surely I could find something with four cups of sugar in it.
Please drop us a group email now and then or put a little something in the private blog so we, your cheering section, can feel like we are of it.

Karyn Good said...

Come on, Paula, sign up!!! I'm nervous too, we'll be nervous together!!

Karyn Good said...

Thanks, Vince and wow! 60,000 words. That's quite the achievement. My plan is to complete the first draft of a short novel. I think the experience is going to be invaluable and a great confidence booster. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and I hope anyone considering doing NaNoWriMo takes your great advice and gives it a try. Continued good luck with the rest of your BIAW experience.

Karyn Good said...

Thanks for your support, Connie. Thanks for your offer, my beasties are just going to have to tough it out! It'll be good for them!

I'll definitely keep you posted on my progress or check in for a boost of confidence if I'm lagging behind.

Paula R said...

Hey Karyn, I got one of my friends here to consider signing up with me too. She is really interested in doing it, so we are going to sign up together as well. I will definitely request you and Silver as a buddy. I don't mind being nervous with you, so I am going to do it. I think the decision was made last week, but I just wanted to make sure that I was making the right one. Now, I am plotting out a schedule for how this will work. I think that less sleep is going to be in order, but I am good with that, as long as I don't get sick or something.

Peace and love,
Paula R.