November NaNo Retrospective

I’ve done NaNo seven times now, Camp NaNo a couple of times, you would think that whatever lessons there were to be learned, I would have learnt them by now. However, after each November I learn new things, or I relearn lessons that obviously didn’t stick the first time.

This November I set myself some stretch goals, as November was going to be the start of a brand new year. I wanted to do things better, to take a positive step towards a possible future. It was a lot of pressure to put on one month but as I’ve said before NaNo has ceased to be a challenge in some respects. I need to ask more of it, in order to continue to get the same out. It is definitely still my favourite time of year but that doesn’t mean the sense of accomplishment remains the same. I’ve reached 50k several times now and as I said I wanted more.

So how did it go?

Let’s first recap those stretch goals:
– 12.5k on Day One
– 25k by end of Day Three
– 50k by end of Day Seven
– 100k by the end of the month
– Two finished first drafts
– Write something, however little, every day to get into the habit of consistency.

As I reported on my day 10 post, I got my 12.5k day on day one. However, I didn’t make 25k until day five or 50k until day nine. This still absolutely smashes all my previous records. I have never done a NaNo where I finished early, never done NaNo where I never dipped below the 50k pace line. So being a couple of days out on those stretch goals wasn’t a big deal, I was still massively ahead for my 100k target, I was actually on pace for 150k if I kept up the same level.

However, once I reached 50k, once I typed ‘The End’ it all fell apart. I wrote 11k of Book Two and that is it, that is all I wrote for the rest of the month. Meaning I fell 39k short for my 100k target, meaning I didn’t have two finished first drafts at the end of the month. Even worse than failing the word count goal I failed at consistancy and that was a far more important target to hit, something I really should have thought about and concentrated on more. It was NaNo, I got caught up in the buzz of ‘words, words, words’ and forgot what was really important.

Obviously I wasn’t just writing words for the sake of words, and my first drafts whether I spend days or weeks on them come out the same. However, I was focusing on getting the words down and forgetting that it wasn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. After all ‘slow and steady wins the race’, it’s no good writing a first draft in 9 days if I then don’t write for weeks afterwards. Every year I do NaNo and then write very little the rest of the year, that is going to change this year but it is only going to change if I successfully change my habits.

100k in a month was very possible but (for me) it was also a very punishing pace. Consistency is key so the idea is to set more realistic goals. These goals might seem low in terms of word count. However, the idea is that this is the beginning of a very long road. I have a habit of running before I can walk, instead it would be a better idea to build a strong foundation, start low in terms of daily word count but make it consistent. Once that is in place then I can increase the total.

It’s all about realistic goals.

Moving Forward
When I listed my goals originally I said I would write Book 1 and 2 of The Nexus Series in November during NaNo. I would then spend December writing something else so I didn’t waste the month, in order to get some distance before starting revision in January.

However, in the spirit of being realistic that doesn’t seem terribly reasonable. December is the holiday season and for personal reasons this year will be more difficult than most. In January I’m moving house which obviously will take a lot of time and effort.

I also realised when I started Book 2 that I’d made a mistake. It was purely a psychological thing but it felt wrong to be writing the sequel when the first book wasn’t finished properly. It didn’t matter as anything that was referenced in terms of events wouldn’t change but it just didn’t feel right. This is something I will have to get over and do better with. However, it was an added excuse in a way that stalled my progress.

This means I can’t really decide what to do for the best. I have started Book 2, I’m 11k into it and so logically it makes sense to continue that in December. However, before I start revision I want a full stop break from the series, to gain distance, and so I need to stop working on book 2 in order to be able to revise book 1 sooner rather than later. There’s also the question of what project to tackle during January when things are bound to be crazy. Then there’s the other argument which says that no matter how crazy life gets, that’s no excuse to stop writing. I really need to do better with this, I give myself excuses all the time and it’s very unproductive.

I need a plan.

This is harder than it looks
It’s hard to know what step forward to take. There is so much that needs to be done, it’s overwhelming to know what to tackle first. Whenever I’ve been faced with this question before I’ve fallen back on the default “if I don’t have a book, I don’t have anything” and I’ve turned to writing. That isn’t a bad thing, as it’s very true. However, all the other stuff is necessary for publication.

Right now I have two confirmed projects and many random ideas. Perfidy is in the beginning stages of a redraft, one I started last spring before everything in real life went crazy. Then there is the Nexus series, book one has a first draft completed, I’m 11k into the first draft of book two, so that’s on going.

I signed up for a free workshop called Ugly Baby which is about getting published in 2015. The recommendation there is to start with flash fiction anthologies. In fact they outlined multiple reasons and uses for flash fiction. I have never written flash fiction before but there is a free course on it included, so I can give it a go. That seems to be the first step they recommend, so I guess I should do that soon.

I just have so many questions to do with the publishing side of it. This workshop said to be honest about who you are, to have a blog which I do, and to let readers see you. However, the examples of topics it gave were all so high-brow, I blog about much less serious things. I’m not entirely sure what that says about me, that it’s pop culture that’s on my mind but that is who I am. I always figured that when I made the leap to publication I’d either keep this separate, or more likely shut it down. Now I don’t know what to do.

Then there’s the mailing list, everyone talks about it but they seem to gloss over the details. How exactly do you get started? How do you get people to start signing up in the first place? This is what I have never really understood, all the guides seem to think that you start with a small following but I have no-one. How do you get those initial people? I intend to write under a pseudonym, the legalities of that and also indie publishing which crosses international lines just makes my head spin. You have to have a real world address included on all mailing lists but obviously I don’t want to give out my home address. Add in the usual worries about what amounts to self employment, dealing with the tax man etc. though I guess that only matters if I earn any kind of real money. It’s scary and it’s all very adult and well, I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to do it right. No-one wants to end up accidentally on the wrong side of legal.

Which again brings me back to just the writing side of it, as I can argue it makes sense to focus on that, and then I don’t have to worry about the legalities for another day/month etc. The workshop recommends establishing a presence early, starting a mailing list day one, maybe if I understood how to get initial people to sign up then starting it early would make more sense. It’s easy to understand the lure of traditional publishing when facing questions like this, as at least then with an agent you have someone who knows the business to pester with all the silly questions. Although maybe that’s not how it works, maybe they are in the dark as much as I am, it’s impossible to know for sure.

Breaking it down
Let’s work this out logically and set some reasonable realistic goals. Writing 1000 words, five days a week is a start. An hour a day isn’t going to set the world on fire but it’s something I can build on. Finishing Book Two makes a lot more sense than starting yet another new project mid-draft. If this first draft ends at 50k like the first book then at 1k a day, it will take 39 days. At five days a week we’re talking best part of 8 weeks, or two months which covers December and the holiday season, and January when I’m moving house. No matter what is going on, they aren’t enough excuses in the world to claim that I can’t manage an hour a day.

I’m struggling now as that doesn’t seem enough to me, but then in the abstract nothing does. I have the habit of looking at goals, thinking they aren’t big enough, piling a lot more on and then once I’ve started reality hits and I’ve been foolish, yet again. The idea is to be reasonable and realistic, to set the beginnings of something which will last, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I need to build a foundation first, walk before I run.

I could set a bonus goal of learning more about flash fiction, perhaps working through that free course. That seems reasonable and as it’s a bonus, if it doesn’t get completed then anything I did manage is extra, a sort of realistic stretch goal. These are going to be a couple of busy months, it’ll talk a while for a new reality to emerge. If everything goes according to plan then next February will be the first new month of my new life. I probably, definitely, shouldn’t put that much pressure on it but I am hopeful, and I can’t wait.

In January I will be starting my reading challenge, 52 books in 52 weeks. In February I can start my long-held goal of getting fit again. 2014 was a terrible year all told, so really 2015 would struggle to be anything but better. However, it can be even more if I am realistic, reasonable and I actually stick to it. I’m going to do my best.

So in conclusion I broke all my previous years records this NaNo. I relearned a couple of lessons from the past that really should have stuck about consistency, I met some goals and failed some others. It wasn’t the shining gleaming start that I wanted but it was real, and it worked, and it was enough. I will go and order my winners shirt and unlike last year, I feel like I earned it this year.

The Writing Plan
– To write a minimum of 1000 words, five days a week.
– To finish Book Two by the end of January
– As a bonus work through the flash fiction course
– Make plan for February at the end of January, probably in my new house.

2 thoughts on “November NaNo Retrospective

  1. Just wanted to say good luck and, well…not sure you have _absolutely_ no one for your mailing list *cough* at least not if you sort of count this, or will link to it here once you start one 😉 I haven’t had a chance to read any of your “real” writing, but I _am_ following your progress, at least the bits you post here 😉

    Also, you made me chuckle at the mention of your long-held goal of getting fit again because it reminded me of me ^^ I’ve gone from “Let’s stay fit!” to “Let’s get fit again!” followed by “Let’s at least stay like this.” and I’m currently at “Just don’t get more fat, okey?” XD I’m a master at excuses, ranging from “don’t have time” to “can’t afford to eat healthy” and “I have nowhere to exercise *cough*”, but ye, let’s call it a long-held goal of dropping that crappy mentality and getting back in shape for me too (although sometimes it’s tempting to settle for “round _is_ a shape” ^^). Atm I’m blaming my situation, clinging to the hope that once I get a job and my own place again I’ll have the time, money and place to get myself/my body back together again =)

    I’m not much for new year’s resolutions, I feel they’re an excuse people use to push back changes they claim to want to make to the next year, but here’s to us! May 2015 be kind to both of us and bring us closer to our goals! =)

    PS. Just found this which in a way seems like a mix of us, with my view on new year’s resolutions and your writing. ^^

    • You find the best pictures and you are sweet. Maybe that is how people get started, friends and family and then hopefully pick up some others somehow. I need to do some more research and lose some of the mystery. Although I’ve kinda nearly blown my goal already. I said write 5 days out of 7, it’s the third today and I didn’t write yesterday or the day before /headdesk. I need to get my head back into the game, I didn’t even pick a hard goal.

      I understand completely about blaming a situation, I’ve done that and in some respects I’m still doing that. In regards to getting fit I’ve blamed where I live as it’s an annoying distance from the gym, I can’t just cycle there like I used to be able to. I’m moving in January, back to civilization as I like to term it, so I won’t have that excuse anymore. I’m hoping it’ll mean that I go for it but as you pointed out excuses are just that.

      I don’t go in for new years resolutions either as anytime is a good time to make a change. Then again a psychological line could help, a new week, a new month or a new year, it all helps. Plus if things are on the up generally, it’s easier to add to an upward spiral than stop a downward one.

      I hope 2015 will be kinder to both of us too.

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