NaNo 2015: Retrospective

It’s December 1st so November and NaNo is officially over for another year. There is of course Camp NaNo next April and July, but let’s forget that for the moment.

Before the month started I had two clear goals:
– Have a completed first draft by the end of the month
– Write every single day

At the start of the month I admitted that I would ideally like to go further:
– Beat last years total of 61k at a minimum
– Finally crack triple figures (100k) to make a good lifetime achievement total

Well how did that go? The answer is pretty clear if you take a look at the widget on the sidebar to the right. The total – 55,618 words. Do I have a complete draft? No. Did I beat last years total? Nope. Which obviously means I didn’t get my 100k. Did I write every day? Well, that depends on your definition, more on that under the cut.

The Beginning of the End
I said in the post before November began that I had a bad cold the week prior to NaNo starting. This prevented me from completing all the prep work I ideally needed. However, as documented in the mid-season update I did manage to fix that a couple of weeks in so it wasn’t a long term problem.

However, I also said that I had a frozen shoulder which was giving me problems typing. Well it had calmed down a lot before November started. I thought perhaps that it had entered the ‘frozen’ stage and it would just be stiff but not painful. I’m hypermobile, so my shoulder not moving as much as it should, means it still moves almost as much as a normal persons anyway. That’s hardly a big deal and I thought that it wasn’t going to be a problem.

I was wrong. It turned out to be a big problem. At the beginning of the month it started hurting a lot by the end of the day, when I was stopping. Not a problem right? I took some painkillers, went to bed and got up the next day to do it all over again. Then it started hurting badly about halfway through the day. Not a problem right? Took some more painkillers and kept on going. I just had to make it to the end of the month. Then it started hurting badly as soon as I woke up. I took painkillers and tried to push through but by the time I made my 50k on the 16th I was all but done.

I managed another couple of days and then stopped. I thought perhaps if I rested it for a couple of days, for the weekend, that it would be fine. It wasn’t, it just didn’t stop hurting, I’d well and truly screwed it up.

I tried to dictate. That’s how I finished Book Two but dictation is an exercise in patience and I was beyond frustrated. I know it’s ridiculous to wind up doing next to nothing, because doing it by dictation is so much slower than typing which is irritating. After all I would at least have something, even if was a lot less than if I’d been typing. However, I just wasn’t in the right mental spot for it, plus just sitting at my desk hurt. It’s so easy once you start feeling sorry for yourself, to keep feeling sorry for yourself. You wind up in a downward spiral and it’s hard to muster up the impetus to do anything.

One of the main goals was consistency and depending on your definition I did sort of manage that. I did type something on the draft every single day. However, the operative word there is – something. We’re talking like 10 words on a couple of occasions. It was pretty much just a sentence, or a paragraph, every day for the latter half of the month. I got the 30 day badge on the site but it was kinda cheating. When I said I wanted to write every day, I meant the NaNo quota (1,667 words) minimum every day. So I don’t really feel like this goal was met either.

How do I feel?
I’m going to lie, I really feel disappointed. This is the first November NaNo – ever – where I have failed to type the words ‘The End’. True in 2013 it was kinda fake ‘The End’ because the story was so messed up, that I just sort of jumped from some random point to the end. However, 2013 was awful and failed to live up to my standards in so many ways, it doesn’t really count for comparison.

I started really strong and I know it’s not my fault exactly, but I do feel like I let myself down. The first half of the month I kept up mostly for the 100k pace, then I hit 50k and stopped. It wasn’t the green bar blues, or the post-50k slump, it was just that I couldn’t physically manage to keep pushing. However, in my mind that doesn’t seem to matter. I look at my stats chart and how flat the second half of the month looks and I just feel like I should have done more.

The consistency goal wasn’t met to my standards. Even if it just had been 1000 words a day that would have been enough but just a sentence? That’s barely worth mentioning. The only reason why I updated on the site was because I wanted that 30 day badge.

I didn’t beat last years total and that wasn’t even that hard to hit. 61k isn’t exactly sky high is it? Just 6k more to equalize it and I had half a month to do it in but it just didn’t happen. There’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to write 130k next year, to hit 500k for my lifetime achievement count for the 10th anniversary. I know a lot of people write that much in November, some write an awful lot more, but let’s face it? The 100k pace was brutal enough, it’s surprisingly hard to consistently write that much every day.

Yeah, ultimately I feel disappointed. Last year November was the start of a new fresh year. I hoped to get the same boost out of this year and right now I’m not feeling it. True, last year had it’s own problems. My aim at the beginning of the month was to write Book One and Book Two. I discovered that I couldn’t write Book Two without having revised Book One so my graph was decidedly flat for half the month last year too. However, I smashed a lot of records last year, that kinda made up for it.

I didn’t break any records this year.

However, and I really can’t stress this enough. I absolutely love my idea and my new series. I’m sure the draft is just as bad as any first draft I have ever written. However, I don’t hate it, I don’t want to burn it in fire. I’m not thinking to myself that I’m crazy, I’m not asking ‘why did I think that was a good idea?’ because I still do think it’s a good idea. I really am loving my plot and my characters and I think that’s a good sign.

This book will also be the longest thing I have ever written by the time it’s finished. Every other novel I’ve written has wound up about 50k. Book One in it’s finished revised form is 53k. That is more of a novella than a novel. I call it a novel because it’s important to me that I’ve actually written a book, but I know it’s on the short side.

This is going to wind up about 70k at least I’m sure of it, which puts it in on the lower end of a normal novel length. That is so exciting and that feels really good, that I’ll have finally written a proper full length novel. Naturally the problem with that is books in a series should try and run to the same sort of length, or certainly at least no shorter. Therefore if Book One of this series is 70k+ then every book in the series will have to be that long. I just hope I can repeat the feat.

Therefore I guess it’s not all disappointment and bad news. I might not be happy with how the month progressed in terms of how much got done. However, I am happy with what I wrote, I feel that it’ll be a solid first draft when it’s finished. It’ll still obviously need extensive work because all first drafts are terrible. However, that will be a problem for a few months time, after I have some distance and can view it with fresh eyes.

Where do I go from here?
Well December is going to be a big month. This time last year I hoped that I would be hitting publish in 2015 and it turns out I will be, a little later than planned but still within 2015. All that’s left to do in practical terms is finalize the formatting. It’s been a bit of a nightmare to get right but once it’s done the first time, the next time should hopefully be easier as I’ll have a template to follow.

In terms of my writing schedule I was supposed to have finished this draft in November. I would then revise Book Two this month and then revise this draft in January. However, given the situation that’s not going to happen. I’ll finish the draft first, then revise Book Two before the end of January.

When it comes to publication, speed and consistency are important. There are so many books, and so many authors out there, that if you leave it too long then readers forget about you. Four months is on the outside of what’s reasonable but I want to make sure it’s a target I can reliably hit. Especially given how things keep happening to throw me off schedule, I need a buffer. That means Book Two will be going live April 2016.

As much as I value consistency everyone needs a mental break. Back when I first started I had set working hours during the week, and I also set myself targets for the day/week/month etc. which is a good thing to do. However, when I was in danger of not meeting the target I started working evenings and weekends. That sounds like a good thing right?

Well, I would have thought so too but in turns out even when you love something, consistency is damn hard. Doing something constantly, with no break to do other stuff. It sounds pathetic, and probably is, but I got burned out rather quickly which just led to me doing less during scheduled hours, and then needing more overtime which just compounded the problem.

I’m going to attempt to be a little more realistic about how things actually work in practice for my 2016 goals. I suppose that means maybe I learned something, which means 2015 wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Now comes the part of the post where I write my goals for the upcoming year. Then next October I can look back and see what I managed. This year I didn’t manage to make any of my goals, let’s see if I can do better in 2016.

The Writing Plan
– To publish Book One on Kindle, print and other platforms by the end of December.
– To get back to a regular working schedule with set hours and no preemptive overtime unless it proves absolutely essential (see above for reasons).
– To finish writing current draft as soon as possible beginning of December.
– To finish revising Book Two by the end of January.
– Write one short story as a magnet for the mailing list by the end of January (I really should have done this already but I’m doing my best).
– Plan Book Three by the end of January to start draft in February.

Last year I said that I wanted to write a minimum of 1000 words a day, five days a week. That was an unrealistic goal because I’m not writing all the time. For every month I write, there is a month for revision. I can’t set the goal of 1000 words a day for the months that I do write, because I need to finish the draft within the month. That means I need to write a hell of a lot more than 1k a day to do that.

With my shoulder writing might be difficult for a while. Revision could be somewhat easier because the first half of the process is done on paper. This is why I told my shoulder it just had to last the month, as I knew once December started I wouldn’t have to type for a while. Unfortunately it really didn’t cooperate which does leave me in a bit of a bind.

I have typed this post which is 2100 words and counting, so I guess it’s stupid to complain that typing hurts if I’m going to be an idiot and do that. I have to say it is really hard to completely modify what I do, it is so much easier to say ‘screw it’ and do it anyway. Unfortunately as I discovered to my cost at the beginning of November, that has consequences.

2015 didn’t exactly go as planned. However, I’m still here and I’m still trying. Here’s hoping that 2016 goes a little more according to plan. Considering my stated goals (in this post anyway) only go up to February, I’ll perhaps do another post in March before Camp NaNo in April, to say how things are going.

Hopefully I’ll have some good things to report.