Friday, November 11, 2011

NaNoWriMo: What I'm Doing Wrong

It's said: 'A smart person learns from their mistakes. A smarter person learns from the mistakes of others.'

Today, I'm offering you the chance to be the smarter learning from my mistakes. Now, I'm not saying I'm already throwing in the towel (or perhaps 'the feathery pen' would be a better metaphor) at 11 days in, but I'm close to it. And for reasons that could have been avoided if I'd had more foresight.

#1. Having 2 children under the age of 3.

Mind you, I'm not saying my children themselves are mistakes. Far from it. But to someone who is attempting to slam out 50k words in a single month, it becomes tempting to regard 2 toddlers as hedonistic little assassins of joy. (An attitudinal issue that is as bad for my beloved spawn as it is for me.) Toddlers require extensive amounts of time and attention...manuscripts require extensive amounts of time and attention. In retrospect, this was probably not the best timing in my life's journey for me to be attempting something so demanding. At the very least, I should have lined up some trusted childcare.

#2. Poor planning.

I think I went into this with the hope that the collective support and energy would carry me into unfamiliar depths of spontaneity. I had a basic genre, theme concept, and two main characters I loved. I had myself convinced that plotting would only get in my way. And so, I got to chapter five and realized I couldn't see my destination, let alone how I was going to get there. Granted, NaNo is supposed to be a good time to push yourself and experiment. But I'm not a Pantser. And lack of planning from the logical side of my brain does not, evidently, constitute an emergency to the creative side of my brain. I should have at least had an outline to work with.

#3. Submitting chapters for critique as I went.

This was just a flat-out rookie mistake on my part. I don't know what made me think I could kill two birds with one stone by having my work critiqued while NaNo was still going on. I think I just lost sight of the goal and started worrying that I'd started off on the wrong foot. Any decent critique is bound to take you down a notch or two, and likely require some time of reflection and recovery. (True for me, at least.) But even knowing this, I let it send my brain slogging through a backward examination when what I needed was to plunge on ahead with abandon. Now that the wind has been knocked out of my sails, I've had to break out the oars.

#4. Attempting to live normally.

While I did severely cut back on known devourers of time, (i.e. facebook games, unnecessary reading, shaving my legs, and all futile efforts at saving the world) I severely underestimated the kind of lifestyle alteration that could have benefitted someone in my position. What I should have done was: disconnected myself from all media, stockpiled frozen pizzas, and warned everyone not to contact me for the entire month of November baring emergencies and/or ultra fantastic news.

#5. Ignoring all readily available guides to NaNoWriMo prep.

I saw the blog posts starting to go up at the end of September. All one has to do is do a google search on 'preparing for NaNoWriMo', and you'll turn up oodles of excellent advice. But did I do my homework? Well, yes...but like a B student who waited until the night before to study for the ACTs. >.> There's really no excuse for this sort of flippancy.

So, there you have it. My two cents on how NOT to approach NaNoWriMo. It's not looking good for me this time around, but hopefully I can work out a game plan if I decide to attempt it again next year.

P.S. I feel no shame in counting this post as 668 words toward my overall goal.


  1. #2!

    Discovering this about myself, that I'm not a pantser, changed the entire trajectory of my writing career. When I plotted ahead, I became a productive writer.

    Plotting doesn't work for everyone, but if you're a pantser having trouble finishing books, you should at least give plotting a try to see if it gives you the breakthrough you need to finish your book. Don't assume that you're too creative and free-spirited to plot ahead.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Paula! :)

    And thanks for the personal style revelation.

    I guess I thought that, being a Quilter, I just needed to have enough scenes I could visualize, and I'd worry about how to string them together later. Nope! I should have satisfied the plotting side before letting the Panster side run away with the project only to get lost in the wood. >.< Seriously, send out the search party. >.>

  3. Let me guess, first timer? :)

    Yep, NaNo is definitely a crazy idea and it takes a lot of preparation, at least for me. I have to have the book plotted out, parameters set on social interactions, accountability buddies in place to keep me going, and lots of frozen dinners ready to go (alternately, we eat out a lot if I don't make it to the grocery store, and have been known to have cereal for dinner too).

    But that's ok. Now you know, and it will get easier. The toddlers' thing is the hardest! When mine were that little, I wrote during naptime and Veggie Tales. That's about it. I was too tired after they went to bed. But it will come, trust me.

    Maybe you should aim for a modified version of NaNo -- if 1667 is too many words in a day, what about 750? Make that your goal, and see if you can reach it by December 1. There's nothing wrong with that. Its the momentum that counts, not the actual word count. :)

    Good luck!

  4. Thanks Dani!

    Yep, first time. And there's another thing I failed to line up: Accountability. The closest thing I had to keep me going and asking about my progress was my poor beta reader, who may be even more eager to find out what happens than I am. >.<

    I'm more of a 600 words a day sort of person, so 700-1,000 words would have probably been a lot more realistic! At least while my kids are still small. :/

  5. I didn't officially sign up for it, b/c I knew if I did something would come up, I wouldn't be able to complete & I'd be stressed. So, I'm editing/rewriting a chapter a day on a new piece and should be completed on time. Hang in there! You'll be ok and at least you'll get it some done!

  6. One of the main reasons I didn't even consider entering NaNo this year was the deal with having ONE child under three; I love him to pieces but whilst some days I can get a few thousand words written down with ease there's others (today being one of those) that getting 350 is a challenge ... then as you say there's all the other things you have to do in a day that can't wait just because you ought to get pen to paper :D