Days 1–12 of NANOWRIMO 2020

I’ve been trying to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I’m pretty far behind, to be honest, but I’m not giving up. :-)

Even if I fall short, I’ll probably do significantly better with my word count than I did last month, and that’s a win any way I look at it.

November: 6,540 words.

There are some prolific authors who caution against participating in NaNoWriMo. I’m not all that prolific (even though I’d like to be), but I have exactly the opposite experience and recommendation.

During NaNoWriMo 2010 is when I finally realized I could write a book significantly faster than in a year. Yes, a YEAR. I was on the cusp of finishing my first full novel that wasn’t going to require edits because I actually paid attention to my gut and wrote it the way I wanted it as I went, making sure it wasn’t sloppy, and I wasn’t telling myself constantly that I could always go back and fix something if it wasn’t good enough.

I say cusp, because something happened that year that led me to put aside the book until the following May, but in May, I went back at it with the same NaNoWriMo attitude I’d used in November and I finished the book.

All told, I wrote 80,000 words of a finished book (that required nothing but a few little typo fixes here and there) over the course of one November and part of May—in less than 60 days, total.

Until that happened, I had no idea this was possible for me.

;D

I credit NaNoWriMo for giving me the push I needed to learn something about myself and writing. So, even though I would love to write 50,000 words every month, and would do it if I could figure out why I can’t do it (it’s an ongoing self-castigating angst-fest, so don’t ask), I always like to try to give a little extra of myself come November and NaNoWriMo. :-)

Here’s what I do to make the most of it for me.

I ignore any and all advice that suggests I should just slop words onto the page. I write with purpose—that purpose being to finish a book that is clean and ready to go after a decent copy edit.

I take advantage of all the sprint companionship I can.

This is probably the biggest help for me. I have real trouble staying focused and getting self-motivated (and this is not a writing problem for me, it’s a life problem). These opportunities don’t come around all the time. People are excited about NaNoWriMo and I can find way more fellow sprinters than usual in the various NaNoWriMo Forums, Discord servers, etc.

Honestly, I don’t even sign up at the NaNoWriMo website anymore. I just hang out in the Discord server for my area’s NaNoWriMo group and sprint with fellow writers and try to hit 50,000 words, whether that’s a new book or something I already had started. I’m a bit of a rebel these days. :D

About the lack of daily posts for the 180 day plan

I’m still tracking the number of days passed and remaining of my 180 day plan. I don’t know that I’ve had a worse start to a plan. I don’t know that I haven’t, so I’m not going to give too much of my thinking time to figuring it out.

The daily posts have fallen by the wayside, mostly because I decided that keeping the number in my head daily was hurting more than helping my motivation to get started every day.

I’ll post an update at every 30 day mark instead of daily and let it go at that. The next one will be at day 60.

As for now, I’ve decided I need something a little more immediate to get me to the keyboard since my love of the story isn’t doing it. I couldn’t care less about writing much of anything right now, for whatever reason, but not caring doesn’t build a habit, and it sure doesn’t keep me moving toward my goal.

I’ve come up with a plan, and I’m excited about it, because I think it has real potential.

Post about that coming up. :-)

Day 11 in review (180 day plan)

Last night, I made a (loose) schedule for today. I followed the first block of time. After that, I mostly just kept going back to the story and tinkering, six minutes at a time.

I started at the beginning of my story yesterday and started working through it. I was still on that today, and it’s a short story. In fact, I’m still on that. Yikes.

I don’t know why it’s been such slow going unless it’s just because it’s been so long since I began this that I’ve lost the feeling for it and needed the time to really get into my characters again. After thinking about that for two seconds and taking a few more to go look at the date that I started this one (10/29/19), I’m going to say yes, that’s exactly what’s going on.* (Never mind. See below.) (Where has the year gone? Holy crap. I can’t believe it’s been 11 months.)

Anyway, I did 17 six minute sprints, worked through about 2,700 words, and ended up with 144 more words than I had to start with.

Tomorrow I’ll probably do a lot better. I have about 2,000 words to get through and I don’t think they’ll need me to touch them that much, if at all, so I might even read them on my phone tonight and highlight anything that needs fixed. Otherwise, I’m leaving the rest of this thing alone.

I really don’t even know what I’ve been doing to the rest of it that it took me almost 2 hours to get through fewer than 3,000 words. Maybe this is a case of those six minute sprints making me feel like I’m doing more than I am. :-o

*Actually, after seeing that my 6 minutes x 17 = less than two hours, I’ve realized that I have no idea what I’m talking about. The most disappointing thing about it all is that I didn’t get more 6 minute sessions in. I spent a LOT of time at the keyboard today.

**Why 6 minutes? Because it takes 10 of them to make an hour. :D This is just a new version of the 5 minute sessions that I use to help me focus when it feels especially hard. I do what I can.

Day in review posts for the 180 day plan

Okay, no looking backward. I wrote out a whole post for yesterday (Day 11 in review), explaining some of what’s been going on that has severely interfered with my 180 day plan this first week and a half, but then I realized it was all in the past.

I want to leave it in the past.

What’s the purpose of writing day-after posts that do nothing more than discuss what’s gone wrong and list out excuses? Valid reasons for not being able to write or not, revisiting them doesn’t help my motivation to do better today.

There are missing days already, and writing day-after posts doesn’t offer any benefit to me and has no real purpose. I want to be thinking forward and moving forward, and focus on how to get the words I want instead of agonizing about the words I haven’t gotten.

Missed posts are just missed posts and nothing to worry about.

Some days I might go back to doing some of my writing log posts, where I detail sprints or sessions. I feel a little out of sorts and a lot out of routine and that kind of thing might be helpful. :)

Now, on to today’s writing. :)

 

Day 9 in review (180 day plan)

I ended day 9 with 219 words.

That isn’t anywhere near where I need to be. However, I did go back through the story I’m trying to finish and made some adjustments and fixed some things and that is where I spent most of my writing time today.

I’m very happy with the story right now, but I had wanted to get into some new writing and it just didn’t happen.

Day 8 was a zero word day.

Day 7 in review (180 day plan)

Today, my word count came in at 220 words. It wasn’t what I wanted when I started this morning, but it’s what I’ve ended up with.

I did read a previous story in this series today for the sake of continuity, and I worked my way back through the beginning of the story I’m trying to finish until I hit on what it was that felt off. I fixed that.

I think I’ll finish this story tomorrow.

I am not adjusting my start date of my plan, but I’m not going to focus on trying to catch up either. I figure moving forward is the best use of my time. The one thing I’ve done is decide that writing will be my only priority every day until it’s done and everything else will come after that.

If you’re wondering what happened to days 4–6, I put that below. Suffice to say, I’m not in a happy place right now about my house!

Day 4 in review: Drowning under home maintenance issues.

Day 5 in review: Still.

Day 6 in review: I decided that this was going to be the last day I lose to unplanned home maintenance. There’s only so much I can do in a day, and writing has to come first. It’s how I pay my bills.

Day 3 in review (180 day plan)

It’s been a slow start on this 180 day plan, but today I finally made some progress. The short story I want to finish got a few new words. I got the opening right, finally, after coming back to it multiple times over the last few weeks trying to figure out what my hind-brain was trying to tell me about it.

I’m happy about that.

I’m not happy that I didn’t reach my goal word count for the day.

Tomorrow should be better.

Day 2 in review (180 day plan)

This is going to be short because I’ve been sick most of the day. Tomorrow will have to be my first attempt for 7,000 words (and sorely needed at this point). I don’t think it’s the mold (yesterday’s problem) but who knows. All I do know is that I’ve only started to feel like doing anything in the last hour or so. I have done no writing at all today and I’m going to bed anyway. I’ve been unusually sleepy today on top of feeling sick, so everything is just going to have to wait until tomorrow.

(Yesterday and today is basically how the last few months have played out. Every day feels like some new interruption or distraction from writing. I am feeling the stress of not writing up to my eyeballs.)

Tomorrow will be better. I hold out hope that all I need is another night of rest and to skip the oatmeal in the morning. (I’ve just started to notice that lately every time I eat oatmeal I get sick. I’m just going to stop eating oatmeal altogether, because why not?)

Day 1 in review (180 day plan)

A stumble right out of the gate.

Found some mold that had to be taken care of right away, because mold is one of those things that does not get better if you ignore it and will grow wildly fast if left alone. The humidity here has been insane this year. It’s been wet all summer.

I spent the entire day on my feet working on this problem. Writing did not happen, and now that I’m done, I cannot bring myself to even think about writing more than this short post.

Tomorrow should be a relatively stress free day now though. Wishing myself a better tomorrow, and thinking I might make it my first attempt at 7,000 words.

Restarting

Sometimes things stop us from writing. This year has been a strange one and there has been more than one thing getting in my head and interfering with my desire and ability to create.

It’s hard to believe we’re on the downward slope of 2020. My word count for the year has been the lowest I’ve logged since I started keeping track in 2012. It’s a repeat of 2018, only worse by about 6,000 words.

That said, I have something I want (something big and important and necessary) and to get that, I need to produce new writing on a much more regular basis.

My old motivations have stopped working for me in the last couple of years and I’ve been struggling to find something else to push me to write (when I would almost always rather be reading, because I love reading and frankly, it’s easier). This goal is much more immediate, and the payoff will happen within the year.

I have a 180 day plan, and it means regular writing of about 2,000 words a day to maintain a 2,000 words a day average.

You know what would help that? A weekly attempt at my lofty 7,000 words in a day goal. ;D That is something I’m definitely going to do. The more times I try, the more likely I might make it there before the end of 2020. :D

For now, I’m going to use my blog to post daily updates at the end of the day on the writing, starting with “Day 1”. That’ll start this evening.

Finally hit my limit on the news

I blocked the news sites I visit from my phone’s web browser (the built in apps for news have always been disabled so no worries there) and blocked the writer forum I visit because most of the active threads there are about the news at the moment. I’ve also blocked all those same sites from my computer. All so I can devote myself to my creative pursuits this weekend. :)

In other words, it’s time to get back to writing!

Distractions and the creative muse

With so much going on in the world right now, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on writing fictional stories. I tend to fixate on issues and only action makes it better. There isn’t any action I can take right now for the vast majority of issues going on in the world around me, other than the actions I’ve already taken, so I’m stewing in the uncertainties of what’s to come.

I have a lot of family in the at-risk category for this COVID-19 virus and that worries me. I am self-employed as a writer who doesn’t find it easy to write when my mind is occupied and that worries me.

I’m going to have to put off the next book in one series longer than I planned because I just don’t think I can write it right now. It’s a book that touches on the deaths of millions of people because of a virus, so that worries me. Do people really want to read about a virus killing everybody when there’s a real virus out there killing loved ones?

As for the books in my several other series, I’m having no luck getting to the computer and writing, or even reading the rest of the book I’m copyediting, because I’m too busy stewing in all these worries. A lot of my books are light and humorous (not all) and I’m just not in that headspace.

Maybe I’ll find a way. I hope so, because it would be nice to get lost in another world right now.

February 2020 progress

February was not much of a writing month, to be sure. I spent a lot of time avoiding my book, because I knew something was wrong and didn’t want to deal with it. The last week of the month, I finally gave in and started reading it, about five to six chapters a day, and yep, once I got to chapter sixteen, I saw that everything I had been worried about was true.

The book is good. Until it isn’t.

Starting in chapter twenty-three or so, I’ve written a whole bunch of stuff that is completely incompatible with what came before. Up to that point, this is an awesome book. It works great. It’s exciting and fun and I love it. After that point, it doesn’t work. I don’t like it. And frankly, in places, it doesn’t even make sense.

That’s my fault, because I wrote a bunch of stuff for that damn streak I should have let die much sooner than I did (I quit the daily writing streak on Feb. 8th and could not be more happier that I did), and then I tried to fit those pieces together like a puzzle, and that’s just not the way I work best. So I made a mess. Of course I did. ;D

But—finally!—I’m ready to fix it and move on.

By tomorrow, I’ll be back to writing full steam ahead. I made a pact with myself on that and I will be honoring it. :D

However, that doesn’t help February’s word count.

It’s bad. My best February day was 697 words. My worst was -1,697 words. That’s pretty much how the month went. February had eight zero word days. The rest were mediocre at best when it came to word counts. The last week of the month was my most productive, if only because I finally got over my reluctance to read back through the book and tackle it head on.

February words: 228

Bad advice

There’s a lot of bad advice out there about writing. The antidote to bad advice is the truth.

No one can teach you how to write a story. They can tell you the elements that separate a strong story from a weak one, but they cannot tell you how to get that story out of yourself and onto a page. They can only tell you how they do it or how other people have told them they do it. But what works for them might not work for you. If they believe their way is the one true path, you’d better run, and run fast, because there is no one true path to writing a story. You’ll waste a lot of time beating your head against that wall if it isn’t the right process for you.

You have to figure out your process for yourself.

Do you sit down to a blank page and start writing with no idea where the story is about to take you, and end up with a finished story you’re happy with? Good. Do more of that.

Do you create the bones of a story and then go back and fill it in and then fill it in some more and some more until you have a finished story you’re happy with? Good. Do more of that.

Do you read back over your story as you go and tweak and fix and expand and contract the words on the page until you have a story you are happy with? Good. Do more of that.

Do you write like you’re afraid to look back because you’ll slow down and second guess yourself and lose all momentum and finally get to the end with a sigh of relief, happy that you’ve done it, and quietly sure that this is the best story you could have written and certain that nothing you could do now would change that? Good. Do more of that.

Do not let other people’s opinions about how you should write a story have power over you and your process.

Do what works for you. Seriously, this is the most important writing rule you will ever learn. :D

It’s the only rule you should follow.

February slip

The coffee thing might or might not be to blame for February being in the dumps, but February’s word counts are way down. It’s my worst month since July.

I held off the usual slump for January with the daily writing, but it seems to have slipped its way into February instead.

I quit the daily writing on the 8th. I don’t regret ending it, not in the least, because it was time, but it’s very possible that is to blame for the usual January slump becoming a February slump instead.

Because of some things that have to happen this week, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to prop the month up with a rush of words written this week. But, as usual, I don’t care about the facts, and I’m going to push for a better ending to the month anyway.

Finally, I’ll be glad when this month is over so I can reevaluate the coffee situation. The benefits of being off caffeine have not outweighed the drawbacks as of yet. My sleep hasn’t improved in a noticeable way and that was the primary reason I decided to do this experiment.

There are other changes that are negative but I can’t say for sure the coffee fast has anything to do with them. When I think on it, I noticed a trend toward pessimism a few weeks before I eliminated coffee and caffeine.

No caffeine again today and no headache

Sleep was not great last night, but I feel fine today. I don’t have a headache and didn’t have one yesterday either, so I think I’m past that part of caffeine withdrawal.

I will say that my ability to concentrate is toast right now. I’ve had a two hour timer going this morning and I’ve had to stop it three times already to stop myself from pulling out my hair and tossing my computer across the room and there’s an hour and nine minutes left on the timer!

I’ve self-medicated my focus issues with caffeine for most of my life so I guess it was silly of me to think I wouldn’t have to deal with a backlash when I went off caffeine again.

Since the timer isn’t helping today I might just forego it altogether for the rest of the day. We’ll see. I’m going to cut this one short at one hour because I think I can push myself to get back to it for nine minutes, then take a break, then see if I have trouble getting started again.

January 2020 progress

I’d almost forgotten to write my January progress post, and although it’s a few days late, I don’t want to skip it because January was actually a pretty good month despite falling far short of the goals I had set for myself. I didn’t come anywhere near 3,600 words a day—or 4,000 or 2,400 or even 2,000.

But January did become my best January on record and that’s not nothing.

January words: 24,213

My next best January was back in 2014, when I logged 23,650 words. That said, none of the other Januarys really come close. My January average now stands at 9,161 words even with the new best January.

I also decided at the end of the month to quit coffee and tea, so that’s something I’m doing now to improve my sleep. I can’t say it’s working, yet, but I have hope! :)

Over the course of the month, I realized the daily writing posts weren’t working for me, so on January 31, I made the call to end them. I also realized that I needed to try something different for a while, so I’ve started putting the focus back on finishing one thing at a time.

I mostly do that anyway, but sometimes I don’t. From now on, the general rule is going to be to keep pushing at one thing until it’s done before I start working on anything else. It’s just too hard to tell the difference between self-sabotaging behaviors like procrastination and beneficial ones like dwell time. I might end up with better word counts on any one day, but I lose interest so easily that letting myself get distracted by other stories only seems to be hurting me in the long-run.

Now, back to focusing on February and working on this book I’m trying to finish. I’m trying to end it this week but if that’s going to happen, I definitely have to get in some words.

 

Mental barriers to forward progress and a caffeine withdrawal check in

The coffee/caffeine weaning is going well. I woke up with a heavy head and a slight headache this morning but overall I feel good. I’ve got my 4 oz of coffee sitting beside me (made with only 1 tsp. of coffee) and I’ll have another in a few hours if this one doesn’t knock the headache back all the way. If it does, then I’ll skip the next one. :D

I always like to hurry these things along, but the one thing I don’t want to end up with is a raging headache so I’m going to be careful not to go too fast on this.

As for the writing, the daily writing streak is still going. I didn’t check on the number of days, because I don’t really care right now. It’s not my priority. I’m focused on a different experiment I’ll talk about later this month, after I see where it leads me in February.

I believe I know now why I was feeling so constricted by the extra challenges I had added to my daily writing streak. It was exactly the same thing I went through with the “no sweets before 1000” streak right before I had to end it. Because I’ve had two negative word days since I failed to meet it and finally made progress yesterday after getting rid of some cruft that was holding me back.

In other words, the perfectionism had cropped up and I kept putting off deleting stuff I needed to delete to make sure I got the words for the streak logged in my daily word count spreadsheet.

List of recent word counts

I’ve explained before that I don’t track written words separate from deleted words. It all comes together into my daily count. But my inner perfectionist sees a negative count as a failure even if I know I wrote enough words to count.

I deleted a couple of thousand words between 1/30 and 2/2. The only reason my word counts aren’t reflecting that is because I also wrote a couple of thousand words between 1/30 and 2/2.

You sure can’t see that in the numbers.

It’s a minor flaw in my system that I built in on purpose. I only track publishable numbers. My cumulative word count equals the manuscript word counts of all my written stories and all my stories that are in progress, and the moment a story gets tossed, that day’s word count is going to take a hit.

I seem to forget that when I decide to do challenges that don’t allow for the negative days. Maybe next time I’ll remember now that I’ve written it out. ;-)

I do delete and I’m generally not afraid to do that because words are just words. And that means my word counts are what they are and don’t always reflect my true effort for any particular day.

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses on a scene or chapter or three, and start over, maybe going in a different direction, maybe just coming at it again in a slightly different way, with a different perspective. (That’s what worked for me yesterday.) It’s important not to have mental barriers in place that stop you from doing what needs to be done. :)

I feel better, and the book has started moving forward again. I have a feeling I’ll make a lot of progress toward my ending today.

I’ll take a pass on those second thoughts, thank you

I went to bed last night wondering if I had made the right decision in ending the daily postings because my inner perfectionist was telling me that I should have stuck it out even though it wasn’t helping simply because I had said I was going to try to do that this year.

The second thoughts didn’t last long, but there was still a niggle in the back of my brain, the inner voice of my personal critic, calling me a quitter, because of course there was. I manage to ignore that voice more often than not, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get to me after a while.

Negative self-talk is pretty much useless at self-motivation, but that voice never dies because it thinks it knows best and will browbeat the hell out of you trying to get you to listen.

Ignore the fucker. That’s all the advice I have about that.

But then a little miracle happened. :D

This morning I woke up early after a terrible night of sleep and started doing a little online reading. I came across Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s newest post, Nobody Cares.

If you’re doing work you don’t care about, then find a way to move on. Because you don’t care and nobody else does either, so why are you doing this again? Because you made up some perfect ideal, and now you’re trying to achieve it, and it’s only causing you emotional distress.

I always find it interesting that I seem to come across articles like this when I most need them. I realize that a lot of time this is simply confirmation bias at work, but it still often feels like a sign that I’ve chosen the right path.

So, yeah, I’ll take a pass on those second thoughts, thank you very much.