NaNo and Other Stuff

I just wanted to throw a few things out there tonight. It’s late, I’m tired, so it may sound like what it is: a ramble.

First of all, NaNo. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and even given links, but I haven’t really explained what it is. So this is for those of you who didn’t follow the links.

NaNo, or NaNoWriMo, stands for National Novel Writing Month. I was introduced to this by my daughter, who does it every year (there’s a huge back story there, which we won’t really get into on this blog. Let’s just say my daughter and I were separated for a long time). NaNo happens every November, and the idea is to write a minimum of 50,000 words in 30 days. For those who are mathematically challenged like me, that works out to 1666.667 words per day (so says my calculator), or 1667 words per day to be realistic. How do you write 0.667 words? Anyway, quality doesn’t count, only quantity. You write your goal, turn it in at the end of the month and you win. That simple.

Did I say simple?

Hmm. Maybe not so simple. I’m a worry wart dad, so I worry about my kid sometimes, because she seems to burn out at the end. Most of the time she writes a different story every day, and sets goals of like 100,000 words to boot. I’m proud of what she achieves, because let’s face it: coming up with thirty new story ideas in thirty days is AWESOME, but it takes a toll on her creativity. I think she’s doing a full novel this year, thank goodness. The point of NaNo, though is for you to finish. It’s not important how good it is. You can go back later and polish it up. In other words, this is a confidence builder, plain and simple. It’s there so you can look back at it and decide that if you can do 50,000 words in one month, writing a novel at a more leisurely pace shouldn’t be so bad.

This got me to thinking (that usually means trouble).

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and I’m so sorry I’m not such a regular writer on this blog), you know that my last post was all about how you plan or don’t plan your novel. Well, thinking about NaNo made me remember when I wrote my urban fantasy that I’m about to start shopping to some agents. See, I wrote that one in about three or four months, and I didn’t plot it. I had a few false starts before I found out the right way to tell the story, but I eventually found a character I liked to be my Magus and went with it. The basic idea behind this story, working title The First Born, is that a Magus and a vampire have to work together. This usually doesn’t happen in the world I’ve created, because Magi protect normal humans, which they call the unAware, from vampires and other nasties. Unfortunately, there are some even nastier nasties who have come to town and the vampire is hunting them down for various reasons. Circumstances force her to work with a Magus and the story goes on from there.

The vampire character actually belonged to a friend of mine, and the idea for the book came about one day when I said to her, “What would happen if your vampire came across a wizard?” Well, since her vampire existed in modern times, I had to change the wizard a bit, call him a Magus (plural Magi). I decided to call them Magi because that’s a term that’s been around for a long time. I would also like to point out that I wrote this novel before the current craze, and my vampires don’t get along with one another. I’m glad I did that, because I don’t see them as romantic figures a la Twilight (which I have never read and probably never will), so it makes my story a little different. Good for me.

What I’m trying to get to in a very rambling way is that I wanted my friend to read this and see if I portrayed her vampire correctly. Since the character was basically an RP character she’d invented, the vampire was basically her and I wanted to be sure it met her standards. So I started mailing her chapters as I wrote them. She seemed to like it, miracle of miracles, considering how raw it was when she got it (and how much work it eventually needed to get it polished up). That gave me a sort of deadline, though, and pushed me to finish the novel. I’d made am implicit promise to keep writing until I delivered a finished product to her, regardless of how horrible it might turn out to be.

And then I paired that with something I read on Jasmine’s Corner (if I’m not totally confused, that is) in which she stated that she needs a deadline in order to produce. If I’ve gotten this mixed up, I apologize. Again, it’s late and I’m tired. The point is, maybe I need a deadline, too. Perhaps I should start setting some kind of deadline, or have someone to whom I must show a certain amount of work. Someone who’s expecting me to continually produce something. I’ve always had problems imposing a deadline of any kind on myself, but maybe if I feel that someone else is waiting for me to do this it would work. Kinda like the old serials from the 1800s, or the way The Green Mile was originally written by Stephen King (which led to some amusing mistakes).

I have a sequel to The First Born partially written, and though the original friend I was writing it for isn’t expecting it, someone else near and dear to me is. I sent her what I have written and I have to wonder now if she’s a little disappointed in me because I haven’t buckled down and finished it. I initially sent it to get her opinion on it, because she’d read The First Born and liked it. Maybe that’ll be good motivation to finish the second one, working title The Hierarchy (I’m not especially inventive when it comes to titles. I kinda fall into the Stephen King/Robert Ludlum school there and keep em simple).

So what about you? When you write, does an impending deadline serve to motivate you more? Or does it put undue pressure on you and distract you from your creativity? Let me know what you think.




4 thoughts on “NaNo and Other Stuff

  1. JesiMarie

    Actually, when I did the 30 stories, it was for what Jules and I called AugProWriMo, which was August Prompt Writing Month. Her and I have a list of 296 prompts and we wanted to see if we could write 3334 words a day and reach 100,000 by the end of the month, since our goal for NaNo that year (2009) was 100,000 words. I burnt out on that one, but did finish, even if like 6 or 7 stories went into my FAIL folder because I didn’t finish them or they were utter crap.

    For NaNo, I do write a regular novel. Both All the Same and All I Ever Wanted were NaNo Novels. This year is a Novel as well called Dark Carnival. I quasi burned out last year and didn’t make it to 100,000 words. This year my goal is 75,000 words.

    Also, for NaNo, you don’t have to finish the novel during the month, just reach 50,000 words at least. I didn’t finish All the Same the year I wrote it, I finished it the following February.

    In reply to your question(s) at the end of the post, I prefer to have a deadline, it pushes me to do it and get it done. If I don’t have a deadline, I’ll take my dear time to get to it. Like, I’d never completed a novel before my first NaNo, but then I tried NaNo and I actually got one done. It made me happy.

    1. gilmiller Post author

      I think, in a way, that’s part of the purpose of NaNo: to get you to finish a novel on deadline. After all, once you’re published, there will be deadlines that need to be met when you turn in a ms. And my bad for getting my memories mixed up. You know how I am by now lol. And thanks for the clarification on the standards for NaNo. I thought they wanted a finished product, since you and others seem to want to exceed the minimum word count. I think I understand that, now, You’re using the deadline of NaNo as a way to finish the novel. This gives me even more reason to believe I need to set deadlines for myself because I’ll just wander around and go online and other stuff. I think I also need to severely ration my time online, even though most of what takes so long is that fact that my connection is so bloomin’ slow.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Russell

    I find in my work life that I perform better with a deadline, so I could see that being an effective tool in managing writing output as well. However, my creativity seems to come in spurts – not a constant flow. Without inspiration I’m concerned it would just be babbling. I don’t consider myself the kind of person that like to talk just to hear his head rattle. If it ain’t worthy of saying I’d just as soon keep my mouth shut.

    1. gilmiller Post author

      I know what you mean about creativity coming in spurts. The unfortunate thing about that is that, as far as I can remember, all the successful authors treat it as a job: they write every day, no matter what. Some, like T. Jefferson Parker, have a separate office they go to (his is behind his house). Isaac Asimov worked seven days a week, eight hours a day, 365 days a year. And he published twelve books a year. So it seems to me that, to be successful, you can’t afford to wait for those “spurts,” at least not as a novelist. I’m trying to ramp up to daily writing because of this, and I suspect that it’s like anything else: the more you use it, the easier it gets, so to speak. I doubt writing will every be easy, in the long run, but, like exercising a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it will get.

      Thanks for the comment.


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