Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

ROW80: NaNoWriMo Teaches Me Things, Week 1

Happy Wednesday, friends! We are 1 week into National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve gotta say, I am learning some serious lessons as I mash my keyboard towards 50K and tons of (imaginary) glory.

Lesson #1: Plotting is Awesome, But It’s Writing That Counts

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I spent a few weeks in October trying to outline, brainstorm, and plot my still-unnamed NaNo novel. I had a bit of success early on with characters and storylines, but at the last minute my muse jumped ship and went rogue, leaving me with roughly a half-dozen different directions and a whole lot of heartache.

Once November 1st rolled around, however, all that angst went out of the window… and that’s because my characters decided that they were going to take control. Hence Velda, one of my main characters, deciding that she wasn’t the mousy, timid girl I had met during my brainstorming sessions. Now she’s a grouchy, somewhat-bitchy 16 year old with a chip on her shoulder. And Helena Grey, the character I introduced in my last ROW80 check-in, wasn’t even supposed to be in the novel, but I started writing and lo! There she was.

English: Lower Rogue River, Oregon, USA.

English: Lower Rogue River, Oregon, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lesson #2: Go With the Flow

This is my 2nd November NaNoWriMo, but my 4th attempt at throwing down 50k in 1 month, if you count CampNaNo ’11 and ’12. I’ve reached 50k every time, but this is the first year that I’ve been really content to go with the flow. Instead of obsessing over potential storylines and plots, I’m picking one and following its lead. There will be things that need to be tweaked once I go back to edit, but I expect that these days. And that’s because I’ve learned….

Photo Credit: chrisinplymouth via flickr

Lesson #3: It’s All About the Zero Draft

…that I work best when I can vomit words all over a zero draft. This untitled tale is WIP #5 on my list, and the first one where I don’t feel stressed out or worried that my first attempts are imperfect. As much as I hate to admit it, my need for perfection not only slows me down to a snail’s pace but also sabotages my creative attempts. Instead of throwing myself into the writing process, I get tripped up with “right and wrong” (I am a horrible goody-two-shoes perfectionist) and end up paralyzed with indecision.

This zero draft is disgusting. It is dripping with cliches and repetition and really lame metaphors and tons of blanks spots, all flagged with my handy “[ins word here]” brackets. But my zero draft also contains the skeleton of what will eventually (hopefully?) become a beautiful, complex, multi-layered novel, plus tons of notes on the spots where I know I haven’t gotten it right. This is a win-win as far as I am concerned.

Lesson #4, Writing By Hand is the Trick

I’ve posted about writing by hand before, but this month it seems to have become my #1 solution for getting stuff done. I’ve been really distracted by practically everything for the last week, and the internet has been one huge shiny sparkly thing for me to poke at when I’m supposed to be writing. I’ve got it bad, you guys, switching windows when I’m half-way through a sentence because I’ve decided that looking at FB/G+/Twitter/a million other things is a really good idea.

At the moment, shutting the computer down to work through scenes by hand is the best solution I’ve come up with. It’s a little more work in the long-run, since I have to go and type everything up once I’m through, but it is exactly what I need in order to stay focused.

The NaNoWriMo notebook, and my writing implements of choice.

This morning I’m hovering around 12.3K. I didn’t do as much writing as Tuesday as I wanted (spent most of the day in the archive/watching election returns), so I’m glad I’ve got a wee bit of a cushion. My goal is to write roughly 2k each day between now and Sunday, just to get a little farther ahead. Provided I don’t run out of ideas (which is a distinct possibility), I should be able to pull that goal off.

So yay! How’s everyone handling hump day? Don’t forget to cheer on the rest of the ROW80 participants over here.

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  1. Congrats on your progress! Mine is about the same. As long as I have my vague outline and kick the inner editor to the curb it’s all good. Have a great week!
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..WANA Wednesday: Just in time for the Holidays! plus ROW80 UpdateMy Profile

  2. Inspirational! Am going through a similar learning curve myself 🙂

  3. WOW! You’re wordcount is really impressive. I’m already behind, but am eager to dive in today & catch up. You have really helped put me in the mood to crack some whip! I usually try to wing it, but end up floundering, so this year I took the opposite approach & plotted out a bit… but only through the 1st Act. I’m confident my characters will have taken over at the point, so there’s no use for me to plan ahead much further than I already have. Besides, I’ve already deviated from my outline anyway! :p
    Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) recently posted..What’s Up Wenzday 11/07/12My Profile

  4. These are great lessons! I love your notebook. I’ve been calling my zero draft the vomit draft. LOL. “Zero” sounds so, so much better. 🙂 Congratulations on hitting those word counts!
    Diana Beebe recently posted..Eating Green Bean BlossomsMy Profile

  5. Huge well done on the Nano goal. Thanks also for adding me as a buddy. Nano is always such a great learning curve for me too. I just wish I could have the same ability to just write when I’m away from it.
    I think you’re really onto something with the writing by hand. I’ve tried even turning off the internet but it never works. I may follow your lead if that’s OK? 🙂
    Have a good second NaNo week. We are kicking Nano butt.
    Laura recently posted..Wednesday Check in (7.11.12) – things going well so far.My Profile

    • Thank you, Laura! And by all means, give writing by hand a try. It’s a great exercise, even if it’s only for brainstorming.

      Hope you’re hitting that word count hard!

  6. Great stuff! Every writer has to figure out how to be as productive as possible. I was talking to a friend yesterday about shutting off the editor — when I was first writing I would write as soon as I got up in the morning, before my editor was on. Wonderful things happen when you ignore the imperfections and let it flow. Now I find I can tap into that pretty much any moment of the day, which is a great realization. Writing first drafts by hand means you have another opportunity to improve it as you type it up, and I’ve found that useful in the past, too. All part of the process! Have a great week! 🙂
    J.R. Pearse Nelson (@jrpearsenelson) recently posted..Mid-Week Update: A Day Late & Hours ShortMy Profile

    • I wrote my first few thousand words for this project right before bed, when I was sleepy but not wiped out exhausted, and it *really* helped. I’ll have to try early morning writing!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your tips, J.R.!

  7. Love this post. I love the writing by hand piece, because as much as I love the speed of writing on my laptop, it brings along with it so many easy distractions. NaNo has already taught me so much. Even if I didn’t write beyond the 13K words I have right now, I’d feel successful.

    But 50K sure will be sweet. 😉
    Tia Bach recently posted..7-Day Evolution of Writing: IWSG & ROW80 UpdateMy Profile

  8. I like the term zero draft. It sounds much better than vomit draft even if it’s the same thing 😀 You’re going strong, keep it up. It’s really helpful to have a little buffer at this point. And thanks for reminding me about writing by hand. Computer has internet and hence is full of distractions.
    Reetta Raitanen recently posted..Link Feast For Writers, vol. 28My Profile

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