Sunday, December 5, 2010
Lessons Learned from Losing
I "lost" NaNoWriMo 2010 by the rules of the whole thing--I wrote only 19,000 words during the thirty days from November 1-30. The goal is 50,000 and I personally know it is doable as I did it last year.
But did I really lose? I prefer to think not--I am using this NaNo "non-win" to learn some lessons as to how I personally can become a better writer. These lessons may mean nothing to my readers, but simply putting them into a public forum will help me be more prepared for the task next November 1st.
#1: I am a planner, not a "pantster"--I write much better when I have my historical facts already researched and a simple outline of my plot and characters. Since I am currently writing historical fiction with a time-travel twist, stopping to look up facts in the middle of a sub-plot slows me down considerably. Because of my apartment remodel this year, I had not planned anything as far as plot, minor characters, settings, etc. and it showed from the very beginning. Much of the time I would have spent in the actual writing process was spent in figuring out who was who, why they were where they were, and what difference it really made anyway ;-)
#2: NaNo is about getting the words down on paper and shushing your inner editor as to grammar, spelling, etc. I gratefully use spell-check at the end of each session, but I have learned that editing the story's flow and punctuation can definitely wait until later.
#3: I am NOT a linear thinker. That may sound strange from someone who just said she has to plan out a plot, but when researching history, I usually find myself jumping from settings to personages to food to transportation to economics to... (well, you get the idea). As any and all of this minutia may come in handy, I hesitate to stop researching in this fashion. I simply need to do it during the other eleven months of the year LOL.
#4: If work can get in the way, it will LOL. And I am not just talking the "9-5" job I have that pays the bills; I even took some vacation days during November in the hopes that I could dedicate those days to nothing but writing. Some writing got done those days, but I also had housework, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, granddaughter's birthday party--again, you get the picture. Since I have neither a personal assistant nor a spouse/roommate, if these "general living" tasks are to be done, I must do them. And since I cannot think well surrounded by cluttered chaos, I defeat the whole shebang trying to work with a mess around me.
#5: I don't create well when fueled only by caffeine and chocolate. Perhaps because both of these (especially caffeine) are a part of my daily life, they are not efficient pick-me-ups when my body is weary and my word count is flagging. Actually, I am now reducing my chocolate intake on a regular basis since I have discovered that protein actually boosts me into extra energy. I'll never totally abandon my dark chocolate, but I no longer consume it in quantity at a sitting. It gets savored only as a treat and for energy I turn to dried fruit, protein, nuts, and healthy low-glycemic carbs. Coffee, on the other hand, is still very much a daily staple LOL.
So, I lost the battle of NaNoWriMo 2010, but I won the war. I learned more about my writing and research style and I learned how to fuel my older body to respond more proactively to stress. Onwards and upwards toward NaNo 2011 and I'll see everyone at the finish line--I'm off to write another chapter...