Halfway.

Here we are, and it’s halfway through the month of July. That also means that, if you are on target, you should be half-way through your novel, if you’re writing one this month (A bit more on that later.).

I am, and I am not. My goal is the standard 50k words, and I’m past 25k, so in that sense, I am more than half-way, and I’m intending to have all 50k by the end of the month and “finish”. But I don’t think I’m 50% through the overall plot arc that I have outlined for myself. And that’s just fine with me. I’ll keep writing when the month is over, and work on this until it’s completely done, and then I’ll revise it. But first, what am I doing and why?

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November; the challenge is to write 50k words of a novel in one month. If you can, to also finish the novel, or at least a first draft.

I have classes in November. (Yes, I’m actually signed up for fall classes now. I’ll post about that soon if I remember to.)

That means that I almost definitely won’t have time to write a novel. To do it in a month with 30 days, you have to write 1,667 words every day. Even excluding planning, re-reading and re-writing, that would take me an hour and a half to two hours every day. I’m just not going to have that much time, mixed in with my classes. I’ll still take the time I need to do my MS writing; that chain will not be broken again.

But there’s a Camp NaNoWriMo going on this month. It’s run on exactly the same principles as the regular NaNoWriMo, except it’s in July. Because it’s a month with 31 days, you only have to write 1,613 words every day.

I chose to do it this month because Mur suggested it is a Facebook post. It took me all of 15 seconds to make my decision. Also, I don’t have any classes, and I can stay up late just about every day this month, and nobody will mind. I have done so; usually I’m up until midnight or 1, finishing my writing for the day. And I’ve been sleeping in until about 9. For those of you who know me, you know that this is unusual. I’m usually on a strict 10-6 sleeping schedule. But this has been working out for me, and I know I can switch back when I need to for fall classes.

I am currently at 27,608 words. I am more than half-way done, and I’ve been on or ahead of schedule every day this month. I think that’s the big secret: never get behind. Never miss a day’s words just because it was a bad day. Just keep plugging away. At the end of the month, you will have your novel.

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve encountered plenty of problems, but I’ve also had a lot of support and help. I’ll talk about each briefly. I’ll also try to put up a post at the end of the month with my overall experience.

There was one day where I was gone all day at a school orientation. I think I walked about 5 miles outside, in 102 degree weather, and I had to be back for an advising appointment at 8:30 AM the next morning. That night, I only wrote 370 words. But I had been writing 1700-1800 words on all of the others days, so I had built up a cushion. After writing those 370 words, I was still on schedule for the day, and I jumped back in the next day and have since built myself up another nice cushion, though I hope I don’t need it.

Always build yourself this cushion. Especially if you expect something like this to happen. Even if you don’t you never know what’s coming. Be prepared.

I fall slightly to the discovery writer side of the spectrum between discovery writing and outlining. I started the month with about 5-10 pages of notes to myself, world building and plot outlines, all jumbled together, as the free-writes that they were. I have been going along and doing more detailed outlines, usually just a few chapters ahead. I am alternating viewpoints between my two main characters at every chapter break, and I “finished” chapter 9 last night. I’m at a point I’ve been at before. I don’t know what’s happening in the next chapter. I have broad strokes for where the characters need to end up in a few chapters and why, but today I’m going to have to brainstorm as to how exactly they’ll get there. Once I do that, I’ll know what to do for the next few chapters. After that, I’ll do it again. Because I have an overall outline, and I know where and why I want to go to my main plot points, I’ve been able to map my way along. It’s also allowed me to adapt my story as I discover how is is going. I think it’s a good balance for me, but it’s required a fair bit of work outlining and discovering that I can’t actually count as writing words during the month, so I’m working more than just my 1613 words per day.

Those have been the main issues. I’ve also had some amazing support.

To get myself in the mood for writing, I’ve been reading every day. Refilling the well, if you will. I’ve continued to tear through books, like I talked about in my last post. I’ve also continued to buy more of them. And I’m getting ideas all the time. Some of them pertain to this story, and keep it feeling fresh. Others I store in another file that I’ll use later; it’s just my general ideas folder. And I’m never short of interesting ideas. Keep reading, keep coming up with news ideas. It’s kept me excited and engaged in my writing.

I listen to the song “Misty Mountains Cold” from the Hobbit movie every day before I start writing. I don’t know exactly why, but it so perfectly evokes the sense of mystical and daring adventure that I so love about fantasy. It is just… I love it. It’s beyond words. It’s just a feeling that I get when listening to it. Like… Heck yes. THIS IS FANTASY. I also have a copy of the words of the entire song, copied from the book, pinned to my wall where I can read it from where I’m sitting. That always helps disconnect me from whatever mood I’m in during the day, and get me into a writing, adventuring mood. Find whatever it is that helps you get into the zone, and use it. If you’re in the mood, writing is so much easier, and sometimes, it’s exactly what you need to snap yourself out of whatever mood you’ve been in for the rest of the day.

But I think the biggest help of all has been the friends. In a Camp NaNoWriMo, you’re placed in a cabin with 7 other writers who have all signed up. You can request cabin mates. 5 of mine are also from the Magic Spreadsheet; we all requested each other. The other two are randomly placed people. Those who are active (About half) are amazing. We have been talking to each other, posting updates and support, and being generally encouraging. I love the atmosphere of the cabin, and I think these people are awesome. Seeing their progression, seeing that it’s possible, yes, it gives a sense of competition. And that’s fine. It’s perfectly friendly competition. But it also gives a sense of companionship. It’s been amazing, and I’m definitely keeping in contact with some of these people after the month is over. We’ve already discussed forming a critique group, and we’ve already looked over what one of the members has done so far this month. So get yourself a group of like-minded writers, and communicate with them. It makes everything easier. Writers are not meant to work in complete isolation!

So that’s been my month so far. Of course, I’ve done plenty of other things, and I’m starting to feel more like myself again. I think that the writing, the 2+ hours daily spent living in and creating my own world, has helped tremendously with that. I’m glad that I chose to do it. I’ll post another feelings/update at the end of the month when I meet my goal. Because I will meet it.

One thought on “Halfway.

  1. Mark, You're a real inspiration! Seeing your numbers grow in CampNaNo has been wonderful. I'm excited to read your novel when it's done. You're so right about the consistency. Unfortunately, I didn't create the cushion early on with my novel and I'm trying to catch up to the gray line. But even so, I started the month having no idea what my novel was going to be about and pantsed the first 10K words without knowing anything about my characters or the plot. A few days ago, I was forced to do some plotting and, you know something, the novel is really exciting me now. It's a story that would not have existed if it wasn't for NaNoWriMo. And I've found you and Derek especially inspiring. So, thanks! And keep up the great work. Ellie

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