So this week I started editing my NaNoWriMo novel.
Y’all. It is a struggle. Ask me to write a billion words and, sure, it’ll take me a while, but I can do it. Like a champ, in fact. Ask me to then edit those billion words, and you will see a girl cry her damn eyes out.
Because it’s not at that point yet where I could conceivably hand it over to someone to work on for me. There are probably a solid 2-3 beginnings. Some people have read segments of it, sure, but if I tried to toss it into someone’s lap, they’d probably get about 10 pages in and go, “Wtf is this?” Thus, I am here alone, wading through my own blah blah blah, trying to figure out what’s there, how it got there and what is staying and what is going.
Also, with what I wrote in November and the prior draft, it’s over 90K words.
Holy guacamole, y’all.
So here are a few things that are working so far, and how I am doing it. I am praying that my suffering will at least do some good for the world if I talk about it. Because I HATE IT.
- Taking notes: right now, I’m just reading. Not editing, not proofing. Just reading. I’m keeping a notebook and pen and taking notes of names, things that are happening, names of places and major plot points.
- Highlight: I can tell there are some things that are not staying or working at all, or that changed drastically in the NaNo draft. They are getting highlighted. Again, I am not deleting anything. I’m just making sure I can see them when I return to this wall of text.
- No judging: this is a hard one. I am trying very, very hard not to judge myself as I work through this. I’m trying to look at this book the way I might a friend’s piece of writing or even a complete stranger’s. It’s helping me be objective, even if it is a huge hurdle.
Do you use any tactics when editing a big piece of fiction? How do you even start? I am very curious, because I keep looking up like, “Am I doing this right?!”
It’s been three days since NaNoWriMo ended, and it all feels very weird. There’s this huge gap in my day-to-day schedule, like going from taking classes to summer vacation. When I’m not at my day job, I feel aimless. I’ve started keeping lists just so I don’t feel like I’m not doing anything at all.
NaNoWriMo was really, really hard. I did the bare minimum, writing almost every day with the exception of a day or two in the first week as well as Thanksgiving. I was never scrambling to catch up on more than a few thousand words, which I am obscenely grateful for. High five, November Katie.
Here are 5 lessons I learned from NaNo 2015:
- Never be afraid to go in without a plan. A general idea is great, sure, but the real magic truly does come when you pick up from where you left off and springboard into a random event. How your characters react may end up being super natural because even you didn’t know it was coming!
- Decide what you know you can do each day and make that your goal. I know now that I can comfortably write about 1,000 words in roughly an hour. Sometimes I get a momentum and head forward, others I get really ‘meh.’ But now I know I can do that, and I’m going to use that as my baseline.
- You have time. Now, I know I’m saying that from a place of not having kids, but I think in general that people have more time than they realize. When you are trying to fit in a specific amount of work each day, you’ll be surprised where you can carve out the opportunity. It’s just easier to say “I don’t have time.”
- You can do it. Just don’t get caught in analysis paralysis. It’s easy to go, “Oh god, I don’t know where this scene is going to go. I don’t even know if this book is good. Should I start over? Maybe I should go to veterinary school instead.” Just open the document and start writing. Pick up where you left off and go, even if it’s just to a scene where one of the characters goes to the bathroom. It’s something, and something will happen after they go to the bathroom.
- Take every ounce of writing advice with a grain of salt. Not even that. Half a grain of salt. A thought of salt. There is so much “guidance” out there telling you what is the “right” way to put a book together and how “wrong” it is to do something and how a certain method is the way “all writers do it.” By all means, listen, but try different things. Break rules. Say, “Thanks, dude, but I’m going to do this instead.” Nobody is 100% right. Because otherwise every book – every style, every voice, every story – would sound exactly the same.
Phew. Now what, world?
Okay, so…I can’t even believe I’m heading into the last week of this crazy journey. I have less than 15K words left, you all. 15K. And I’m all, “Oh god, am I actually going to get to the end of this?! Or am I going to have to go all Imperial Affliction and end this in the middle of a sentence BUT IF SO I HAVE TO GIVE SOMEONE CANCER.”
If you understand all that, you are my kind of people.
So let’s see…pointers from this week:
- I made pouch shrimp one day, and it was essentially green onion, shrimp, ramen and broth with mushrooms. It was delicious and really easy to make. Meals like that have made this month possible.
- I didn’t realize this but I felt more like I was really switching from a feminine to a masculine point of view by changing my music stations (feminine was Amanda Palmer station, masculine was Nirvana/Radiohead station). I was very surprised there, but it’s a nifty trick.
- This is a bit more of a life lesson, but when you’re undertaking projects like this, it is easy to lose sight of the people around you also undertaking projects. Even if you run out of time to give them feedback immediately, let them know that you believe in them and that you are rooting for them.
- The holidays are coming up. I challenge you to balance these two aspects of your life: creativity and togetherness. Is your book important? Absolutely. Is it important that you take some time away so you can appreciate the people around you? Also absolutely. Budget your time. Now. Before Thanksgiving.
I am grateful for every one of you. Have a great week, and I’ll see you when all the crying is done.
I wish I could say this past week was better than the first, but it really wasn’t. It was just as hard if not harder. I had come out of the box sprinting and started struggling to just maintain a jog.
Even writing this, I feel so damn tired. So let’s head into the bullet points of lessons learned:
- Write every day. It’s been debated back and forth by writers throughout the years, but if there is one thing this month has taught me is that there is validity to it. It doesn’t have to be with the goal of hitting 50K words in a month, but you should at least open that document, add a sentence, look at it and acknowledge it every day.
- Change up your environment. Write at the library. Write at coffee shops. Write at book stores. Write in your car. But don’t make it somewhere too interesting, or else you’ll do whatever it is one does at that location without actually writing.
- Pace yourself. I like the pomodoro method, which is 20 minute spurts of work followed by a five minute break. Obviously sometimes you’ll hit a streak and lose track of this, but try to at least monitor when you last got up to stretch your legs.
- Feeling guilty is pointless, meaningless garbage. There is a lot of bad shit in the world, and you may find some conscience critter showing up on your shoulder like, “What are you doing to make things better, you punk? Writing? Yeah, that’s won wars.” Art heals. Understand that you are working towards something that can heal people in the middle of this bad shit. Be comforted, and punch that critter in the face.
As I type these words, it is 10:53PM on Halloween. I have eaten my body weight in candy and assorted snacks. I have showered, I have drunk water, I have adjusted one of the few clocks in the house that will not magically flip back an hour on its own (I had this conversation with a friend tonight, how the phenomenon of “changing your clocks” just doesn’t apply to most people anymore, since cell phones and computers have now taken over the world. Who actually has to set clocks anymore?)
I am both ready and not ready for this.
I am so excited and so scared. A lot of people don’t get it, because once I answer the question, “Do you win a prize?” with a firm no, people go all funny-eyed. Even better are the ones that go, “Wait, you write?” And then I go listen to Nine Inch Nails and sob into a pillow for an hour.
There are a few things I have ready that I think are going to prove very helpful this month.
- A script: If someone asks me “Hey, how’s that thing going?” I have a few responses in the old mouth cannon: if I’m on schedule, I’ll go, “It’s good. Smooth sailing.” If I’m ahead, I’ll go, “Everything is coming up Katie! Thanks for asking!” If I’m behind, I’ll go, “Plugging along. Can’t stop now.” If I feel like the world is falling apart, I’ll go, “OMG, do you want to see that new Frankenstein movie with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe as much as I do?”
- A magic hat: This concept came from No Plot? No Problem! (Revised, Updated, and Expanded) by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. In one of the prep chapters, Baty talks about having something to get you into the mindset to write. This year, I have a Pikachu hat that I got in my Loot Crate about a month or so ago. It is absolutely the most ridiculous thing, but since I am wont to acquire hats with ears, it’s pretty par for the course. Wearing them inside while doing other things, however, is a totally different thing.
- Accountability: I’ve posted on many forms of social media that I am doing this. In fact, I’m reiterating it right now to you, my friends. And that means that on 11/2 I can’t be all, “Okay, well, this was a nice thought, but…”
- An Instant Pot: okay, my husband was actually the one who spear-headed this purchase a few months back. I was like, “Isn’t it just a crock pot? We have a crock pot.” An Instant Pot is a Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute/Browner, Yogurt Maker, Steamer and Warmer. Put food in, hit button, cooked food comes out within minutes. Magic device.
- A schedule: Outside of my word counts (I’m aiming at 2K a day at first to make up for the time around Thanksgiving) I have a pretty straightforward schedule for other things I want to do, including exercising and art. I’m doing this because I know that if I don’t allow myself flexibility and time to do things other than write, I’ll burnt out hard and fast.
How about you? How are you getting ready for this? What are the tools in your utility belt? Tell me about them!