02 December 2009

NaNoWriMo Update: Days 25-30 -- An End

Daily Stats

Days 25-30 Word Quota: 15,100
Days 25-30 Words Written: 15,167
Cumulative Word Count: 50,067

Reaching an end

At midnight on Monday night, NaNoWriMo 2009 came to an end. I have been woefully lax in blogging about my progress for the past week. I'll end the suspense early: I achieved the 50,000 word goal, and I am a winner (I have the PDF certificate to prove it).

I hvae perfectly good reasons for not providing an account of my doings over the past seven days, and although Thanksgiving is over, I'd like to share with you my recipe for How to Make The Last Week of NaNoWriMo Really, Really Difficult.

1. Start from behind

If you want to make the last week of NaNoWriMo as difficult as possible, you want to be behind schedule. Take my experience. After renewing my excitement about the story on Day 24 and writing a quite impressive 3,300 words, I found I was still far behind where I needed to be. To that point I was somewhere just under 35K words total; which meant I would need to knock out some serious word count over the next six days. Difficult, yes, but hardly impossible. I needed to add some more challenge.

2. Throw in a Holiday mix

I found that challenge in the approaching holiday weekend. I love Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays; there is something about family and food and the cool weather that touches me. It does not, however, make for good writing. Nor does an incredibly busy day at work the day before. Add in the Iron Bowl on the Friday following the annual gorge-fest, and you can make things really hard in that last week.

I knew both Wednesday and Thursday would be busy days, so I scheduled accordingly. I set small goals of 500 words on each day -- not where I needed to be, but I would make some kind of progress on the story. It was part of the plan.

Of course, on Wednesday, I completely blew off writing, thanks to work. The day before Thanksgiving is a big day at the Pork Palace for carry-out business. We sell a lot of smoked turkey breasts and side items, as is to be expected, but also a surprising amount of ribs (I imagine I could eat ribs on Thanksgiving, but it just seems very, very wrong to me. I'm a turkey man). As such, I ended up working a double shift of Wednesday, both to help out with the increased business, but also to make up for the shift I would miss when the restaurant was closed on Thursday. By the time I got home on Wednesday night, I was exhausted and had to call it a night without even looking at the computer.

I made up for it on Thursday, mostly writing in the morning. We had great dinner that afternoon with Jean, Caroline, Katie and Juliana, and after one of the best Thanksgiving Days in recent memory, I had ended up writing almost 1,100 words. Good for a holiday, but not good for my cumulative total. I was still just under 36,000 words with only four days to go.

I expected to gain some ground on Friday, or at least that's what I told myself. I scheduled a 3,300-word day, and I was eager to get some good writing done.

Yeah, right. It was Iron Bowl day.

I did some writing that morning, but most of the time I spent on the computer was taken by checking on pre-game information and reading articles about both Auburn and Alabama. Once game time arrived, any more writing I had hoped to do simply wasn't going to happen. I went to work during the third quarter of the game, came home after the Pork Palace closed early, and went to bed. I had written 1,500 words for the day.

3. Mix in new projects

At this point, I had three days left to write and more than 13,000 words to go.
The task before me was daunting. Scary, even. That's a lot of words-- a whole lot of words -- to knock out in three days. And not to just type them into a computer; I needed them to make sense and advance my story. Ah, yes; the story. I was rapidly running out of ideas for the story as well. By then I had only one phase outline completed for one of the chapters, and another phase outline sketched out in a raw form. The rest of the story was wandering around aimlessly in my head, making itself incredibly difficult to find.

But that just wasn't enough difficulty for me. Something else needed to be thrown in to make things really, really hard. Namely, a newsletter and a website.

Not only would I be typing like a madman over the weekend, but Jean would need a significant amount of computer time herself. Magic City Blues News, the newsletter Jean and I lay out each month, was behind schedule and needed a lot of work. Jean is also building a website for a client of hers, a gentleman who hand-builds guitars from cypress knots (more about that later).

Instead of panicking (to be honest, there was a little panic. What do you mean we have to do all this by Monday?), we planned. We plotted. We scheduled. And by early Saturday morning, we had a strategy that might -- just might -- let us get most everything done, if we stuck to it.

4. Hit your stride

Time was slipping away and there was too much to do. If I was going to hit that magical 50,000-word goal, something would have to happen -- and soon.

I guess I was exactly where I needed to be.

Maybe it was the deadline pressure, or perhaps the structure; it might have been the synergy I felt from working with Jean, but I hung in there and Saturday was the day when I hit my stride. We swapped time at the computer, each of us working in shifts that lasted between 45 minutes and an hour, and we each made the most of our time. And during my shifts, the words just started flowing. I was hammering out a lot of material, completely focused on the task at hand. If I got stuck with something, I just moved on to the next idea. Quantity was the important thing here, not quality.

I made a decision to work with the story in sections; trying to tell the story from start to finish wouldn't work. There was just too much story left to write; I figure that telling all of Snakebit will take 80,000 words or more. I took a hint from the NaNoWriMo website and worked on pulling together a decent beginning, middle and end, with highlights in between and the details to be filled in during the editing process.

And it worked. By the end of the day on Saturday, I had written more than 5,000 words. My cumulative total was over 42,500 and I could not only see light at the end of the tunnel, I could also make out the exit and what lay beyond. After Saturday, hitting the 50,000 word mark was practically a foregone conclusion.

Sunday was another very busy and super productive day, following the same pattern as Saturday. I knocked out more than 4,000 words on Sunday, working mainly on the ending of the story.

5. Bask in the glow of success

Monday was more difficult than the other two days, mainly because I almost ran out of things to write. I was happy to type out the words "The End," but when I checked my word counter afterward, I was still 800 or so words short. I ended up adding two more sequences to the middle of the story, and sometime around 3 o'clock that afternoon, I became an official NaNoWriMo winner.

That's 50,000 words in the month of November. For me, that ended up being twenty writing days. And there there is still much work to be done on Snakebit. There are plot holes to be filled, characters and descriptions to be fleshed out, and probably two months of editing work to do. It is a book that is far from complete, and I know it. Yet I also know this: I have a foundation. A good one. My first one.

I am eager to see what happens next.

Tomorrow: What NaNoWriMo taught me

1 comment:

Wade Kwon said...

Nice job, Richard! That's quite an accomplishment.