Failure To Launch: My NaNoWriMo Experience

failure to launch

It seems so long ago, now. It was November 1 that I announced my intention to participate in the National Novel Writing Month project: an attempt to write a functional first draft of a novel in one month. 50,000 words. 30 days. Piece of cake, right?

And now, I sit at my desk, 14 days removed from last writing anything at all. November is behind me, my path forward lit only by the flickering embers of my dream of writing a whole novel in one month.

So, what the heck happened?

That Which Burns Brightest…

It didn’t seem like an unreasonable idea. I write a pretty substantial amount in any given month. So, I thought, why not turn that effort into focus on a single project? Turn my attention to one project with a laser-like focus, ignoring all other distractions, and complete a first draft.

I announced my intentions and signed up at nanowrimo.org. I even built a Tumblr page to log my daily activity.

Then, on November 1, I started, full of fire and enthusiasm.

At the end of Day 1, I was about 1,500 words in. A little short, maybe, but I was on my way. Day 2 was similar. Day 3 I had seriously slowed down, and was looking forward to a group meeting of fellow NaNo writers, who I thought would give me a hand and some encouragement.

The meeting was…not exactly what I expected.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that you have to be responsible for your own journey in life. You can’t count on others to provide your motivation or your effort. But, surely, a little camaraderie was not too much to expect?

Instead, I found a group of people who were all long-time veterans of NaNoWriMo. Some had participated 3, or 5, or even 7 years in a row. Encouraged, I asked how many of these books had been published.

A bit of a faux pas, as it turned out.

Apparently, by the tenets of the group I visited, the point wasn’t to publish a book. Oh, heavens, no! It was to write a book. And, then, apparently, to lock it away where no one would ever read it.

When I confessed that I had just published my first book in September, the temperature dropped. “Self-published, I suppose?” asked one of my fellow NaNoers.

When I confessed that, no, I had been published by a real, live publisher, the temperature dropped all the way to glacial. Conversations immediately formed in groups around me. I felt like the last kid to be picked at recess.

I have always thought the point of telling a story was to share it with others. My opinion wasn’t shared by this group, and I left early, feeling uncomfortable and isolated. And with no new ideas or motivation.

…Burns Out Fastest

Discouraged, the next day I went to my #1 advisor: Lor. I confessed to having run out of “creative juice” only 3 days into the process. She pointed out that I had a perfectly good idea for a Fantasy novel that I had been sitting on for over a year. Why was I not using that premise, instead of this entirely new one?

Well, because that felt somehow like I would be cheating? I should come up with an entirely new idea for this project, right?

Returning to my tale of woe from the previous night, she asked me: was the idea to follow a set of self-imposed rules, or to tell a story I wanted to tell?

Stung by the (all too correct) comparison to the folks I had complained about the night before. I pulled out my notes and got to work.

Despite my new motivation, it was still rough going. I would sneak in 250 words here and there, between other jobs. I had edits to read. Web pages to be updated. Blog posts to write. Even some honest-to-goodness contract work to be done.

And, of course, about 10 days into the project, my muse raised her head. The time I should have been spending working on NaNo was suddenly being spent working on the sequel to Inheritance.

Crash And Burn

As of Day 16, I had only managed 21,286 words on my NaNo project. Several of my acquaintances and mentors were already done with their projects.

I have not mentioned that, through all this, I had been having intermittent problems with my PC. Random power outages, strange graphics slowdowns, and the like. I finally took the thing apart and determined that the graphics card was overheating. Bidding adieu to my ability to run anything over the level of Facebook games, I pulled out the graphics card and got back to work on about the 10th of the month.

On the 17th of the month, the true problem revealed itself – my power supply gave out completely. I now realized that intermittent voltage from the power supply had first fried my video card. I now had no source of power for my PC and no way to replace it.

It was Thanksgiving week anyway. I dusted my hands of the whole problem and resolved to continue writing with a stylus and my Kindle after the holiday was over.

On the 21st I received my weekly Grammarly report. Apparently, I had worked on 78,000 words the previous week. About 7K of which was part of my project.  On Twitter, I lamented that I could totally be kicking this writing project’s ass if I could just stop writing other stuff.

Holiday Malaise

The icing on the cake turned out to be the holiday weekend. My grand-niece was suffering from a sinus infection during the festivities. By the end of the holiday three-quarters of the family had contracted it – including Lor and me.

This was not an “oh, I have the sniffles, I should man up” kind of thing. This was an “oh my God, my head is pounding, I can’t breathe, and it hurts to move” kind of thing. And it completely destroyed my productivity all the way into the first days of December.

So, my totals for the project:

5,000 words in my first, aborted project.

21,000 words in the “official” project

6,000 words in outline and scene sketching for the sequel to Inheritance

130,000 words in “other” stuff.

For a grand total of 165,000 words for the month. With no activity whatsoever for the last week of November, breaking my streak of producing something creative every week at 19 weeks.

The Discomfort of a Moral Victory

So, instead of having a completed novel to show off, I have to be content with the fact that I produced enough content for 3 draft novels instead.

Except I am not content at all, of course. I wanted to, in the words of my fellow author Martin McConnell, #finishthedamnbook.

But, I didn’t. Such is life.

I now have a new set of responsibilities to start working on. The sequel to Inheritance needs to be worked up through December, and be ready to be peer edited and prepped for serialization by January. I have tons of work that I skipped the last 10 days to make up. And, you know, holidays, family gatherings, blogs, advice, etc.

At least I am not doing it on a tablet with a stylus. My family was able to come up with an old retired laptop that I could use. So I am counting my blessings for their generosity.

So, what about the abandoned fantasy project sitting there at 21,000 words?

I’ll stick it in a metaphorical drawer, I suppose. And, who knows? Maybe it will still be there next November.

Is It Cheating To Start NaNoWriMo 2018 With A Headstart?

Jeremy

 

The Deep Breath Before November

Technically, I should be working right now. I have a website to maintain, articles to write, other author’s short fiction to read for Fiction Vortex, and a thousand little projects around the house patiently waiting for me to get off my butt and get to work.

Instead, I have given myself the day off. Except for this communication to my Misdirected readers, I suppose. But that doesn’t really feel like work. More like a one-sided telephone conversation with a really large group of friends.

Celebration of The One (Out of Two)

Today’s day off originates thanks to the day itself: Halloween. Those of you who know us and love us know that Halloween is one-half of the two monster holidays celebrated in our joint household. (The other being Superbowl Sunday. We’ll talk about that one closer to February.)

This year, as usual, we have decorated, bought candy, re-decorated, considered and rejected costumes, made some additional changes to our decorations, and finally arrived at today – the holiday itself.

Lor will undoubtedly make more changes to our decorations today, though.

We discussed moving to a “skeleton” theme this year but ran out of planning time. So, instead, we pulled the trusty “spider” motif out of storage. Upon applying it to the house, we decided it needed a little more “Oomph.” We added bits here and there, and now it looks like this:

Yes, that is a gigantic spider hanging just over the mailbox under the eaves. Let’s hope our mailman is not an arachnophobe.

Now, we sit and wait for the hordes of little monsters to come and beg for candy and toys. (Yes, we give away both. The kids actually like the little 10-cent bubbles and slime better than the actual candy. Who knew?) Lor still has to carve her pumpkin, but otherwise, we rest in the calm before the storm.

Speaking of that…

The (NaNoWriMo) Storm Descends

A month from now I’ll be an author.

Again.

Well, sort of.

For the first time, I’ve decided to participate in the National Novel Writing Month event. This is a challenge to novelists to complete an entire novel in the month of November.

Well, sort of.

The target for the month is 50,000 words, which would be a very short novel indeed. (Inheritance, for example, clocked in at 85,000 words +/-.) So, really, what I’ll be left with at the end of the month is a framework of a novel. Hopefully a beginning, a middle, and a resolution. Introductions of my main characters and plotlines. And the warm and fuzzy glow from having actually finished a book.

Well, sort of.

For me, the main goal is to see if I can finish a story in a month. My stories normally are long and rambling affairs that take me literally years to complete. I cut dozens of scenes totaling thousands of words out of Inheritance. Over the course of seven years! With the majority of that work taking place in the last two years, of course.

So the real question is: can I remain focused enough to write an average of 1,600 words a day? Every day? For a month?!?!?

November is gonna be a beast. I still have my commitments to Fiction Vortex: I will be reading and editing 10,000 words of text every week.

I still have my commitment to Misdirected: I will still be blogging once a week here.

And I still have client writing work: you know, the stuff that actually pays for food and coffee.

Somewhere, in all this, I am going to have to find time to write an average of 1,600 words a day. Every day. For a month.

I am simultaneously frightened and excited. What if the whole thing crashes and burns and I give up after 4,000 words?

But, a little voice keeps asking me: What if it is good?

Starting tomorrow, I am about to find out.

 

…And A Question For You

As part of the project, I am going to be keeping a log of sorts of what I manage to do every single day. Otherwise I will never finish. I know myself well enough to be aware that if I don’t hold myself accountable, I will hit a rough patch and say “Oh well, couldn’t do it.”

So, the question becomes: are you, the readers of Misdirected interested in this log?

If you are, I will log somewhere public. I have a Tumblr page that has literally been sitting ignored for months that I could dedicate to a “micro-blog” tracking my progress.

But, if no one is interested, I will simply write things down in a journal for my own edification. Let me know what you think on Facebook or Twitter.

Hyper Ventilating,

Jeremy

 

Non-Fiction Friday: Not Quite ‘Fiction Friday’

Not Quite Fiction Friday: The reasons that our first Fiction Friday has been delayed

Today was supposed to be our very first ‘Fiction Friday’. I was going to chat about our big upcoming fiction project, and release a contest as well.

Instead, we had a bit of a fender-bender on the Information Superhighway.

Discovery: The Painful Process

I freely admit that I have never published any fiction at all before, so this entire process is new to me. As it turns out, there are dozens of moving parts that all have to work in perfect synchronicity to move a full-blown fiction project from inception to publication. And, from time to time, a little grit can get in the gears.

My serialized novel, “Inheritance”, is currently going through de-gritting. As is the whole Ash Falls shared storyverse.

I have grown very used to blogging. You have a concept, you sit down and write it, you make some revisions, then you press the “Publish” button. Nothing to it.

However, as it turns out, publisher-backed fiction requires a few more things. It requires a project plan. You need a marketing plan. Artwork must be conceptualized and created. You need oodles and oodles of “extra” material that will never make it into your story. And you need a very thick skin, to deal with the ego-crushing edits and revisions that will be visited upon you by your proof-readers and editors.

Building a Shared World

In a shared storyverse, like Ash Falls, you also need some extra tools. In our case, four different authors are writing four different stories all set in the same city. As it turns out, you need an encyclopedia full of facts and figures available to all your authors. Where is your setting? How does it function? Who are the movers and shakers? All these details need to be fleshed out.

Someone has to draw a map of the setting so that we know where things are happening in relation to one another.  We need a history of the world around our characters. Do our characters even know each other? Do they meet? What do they think about one another?

Yeah, there’s some real detail-oriented stuff in here. Which sort of jumped up and bit us right in the schedule.

Delay is not Destruction

So, we will now be pushing our release towards the end of February, instead of the beginning. As an author, I am chomping at the bit, ready to get my masterpiece out into the world. As the creator of Ash Falls, and the lead author out of four, I am internally kind of relieved that we have a little extra time to polish things until they gleam.

This is the split personality disorder of shared storyverse authoring.

However, I can tell you all this: the method we will be using for our Fiction Vortex contest in a couple of weeks will be using email address registration as our entry method.

So, if you are interested in qualifying for the contest, feel free to register your email address now, and avoid the rush. You will not only qualify for the upcoming contest, but you will be informed any time a new article is published here on Misdirected. And what could be better than that?

Well, actually, lots of things could be better than that. But you will also be automatically entered into any other drawings or contests we have down the road as well. So, if you have the slightest interest in qualifying to win stuff, make sure you drop your email in the “Subscribe to Blog via Email” box over on the right side of the page.

If you are already a follower, we’ve got you covered. No need to register again.

Still Waiting For Fiction Friday,

Jeremy

Ask, And You Shall Receive

Yesterday, I put out a request on my Facebook page, looking for additional writing opportunities due to a downturn in our family finances.

Today, I just finished setting up my profile with Lifehack: a “productivity and lifestyle” website. In a single day, they reviewed my portfolio and invited me to start contributing. The job requires writing multiple articles every week. These articles will appear under my own byline and pay a heck of a lot more than the content mills.

The opportunity to do more lifestyle and health writing is exciting. The articles I wrote for WellnessNova earlier this year really challenged me as a writer. Surprisingly, my research actually led me into making some changes of my own around our household. The idea that I can discover some additional life improvements simply by performing research feels like a win/win for me.

The Misdirected blog has taken the lion’s share of my attention for several months now, but I’ve still been working on other projects. My Fiction Vortex project is moving along smoothly. We are still on target for the release of the “Welcome To Ash Falls” series of serialized novels in February. The three authors that I have selected are all excellent writers, and I am enjoying their work and their development of the world I created in Ash Falls. My own piece, “Inheritance”, has reached the 50% completion mark. I am just about ready to take the brakes off and plummet downhill to final copy. A couple of other potential fiction projects are bubbling in the back of my mind, motivating me to wrap this one up.

Putting your request out there into the Universe can have unexpected dividends. Stay tuned here for more news about my upcoming work with Lifehack!

– Jeremy

The 15-year Itch

Only 9 years later than the rest of the world, I am working my way through The Name Of The Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Frankly, the book is astonishing. Equal parts epic fantasy and fictional biography, it contains beautiful language, a magic system based on scientific principles, and a story so captivating that, 500 pages in, I find I do not care that the protagonist is only 15 years old. It is the kind of story that makes me wish that I had written it.

As I frequently do with writers whose works I admire, I have spent some time researching Mr. Rothfuss as an author. As it turns out, The Name of the Wind is his first novel, and he began writing it in college. He had “completed” the trilogy it is a part of 6 years later, but continued working on the books for another 9 years, until the work was published. While I admire his dedication to the development of his story, I freely admit that there is not a whole lot here for me to learn from and apply to my own writing career.

The problem is, unlike Mr. Rothfuss, I do not have 15 years in which to write my first novel.

Consider the problem: In 15 years, I will be 61 years old. Nothing wrong with that, many people have made great contributions in their sixties. But now, in 2016, Mr. Rothfuss has yet to complete his trilogy. Following his example, at 70 years old, I would not yet have completed my novel. (Remember, this is a trilogy we are talking about). Fifteen years after that, I will be 85…I am sort of running out of time to produce anything more than one “masterwork” if I am to emulate his schedule.

Now, I run into a difficulty here. Do I desire to produce something beautiful, like “Name of the Wind”? Or, in the name of time management, should I merely be settling for good enough? Right this moment I am working on my first serialized novel for Fiction Vortex, which is actually due out at the beginning of next year. Every day I re-read the story I have created so far, and am terrified: What if this is just “good enough”, but not great? Do I really want to produce a novel that isn’t great, in the name of expediency?

This is my dilemma. So far, the only solution I have found is to distribute the episodes as I write them in order to get honest criticism back from picky readers, hoping that the friction of critique will rub off the elements that do not contribute to greatness. My greatest fear is not to crash and burn spectacularly. My greatest fear is that of a reader opening my book, reading a few pages, and then shrugging and going on with his or her life – completely unaffected by what I have created.

 

  • Jeremy C. Schofield