Since we’re just pas the half-way day count, it’s time for more comparison/contrast. If this is your first year, it’ll be helpful to remain aware of your experience this year, so you can adjust as you hit obstacles, should you decide to do it another year.
I’m going to use four years of Nano experiences for today’s comparison/contrast. I did four consecutive years of National Novel Writing Month, where I completed 50K in 30 days. Usually, I did far more than 50K.
I took a big break from Nano for quite a few years, because it interfered with my contracted work. This year, I’m doing what I call “Tandem Nano”, which means I’m working on two projects — a Rebel Nano, where I’m continuing a book on which I have a good rhythm, and a mystery for “Classic Nano.”
In some ways, I found the second year easier than the first year. I was warned about “sophomore slump”, but, although some days were more difficult than others, the second year flowed better.
Part of that is where I stood in my writing life. During the first year, I WANTED writing to be the priority of my life. The second year it WAS. I was further along in my transition from dual careers into writing full time. That’s bound to help Nano.
Part of it how I structured my preparation for Year 2.
In Year 1, I got my idea in summer – July or August. I outlined it in a frenzy, did the historical research, and then didn’t look at it for a couple of months until Nano started. Although I liked the idea, I was in the midst of other projects, and it was hard to make it a priority.
In Year 2, I got my idea in September. And I worked on it every day until Nano began, even just a few minutes reviewing notes, to make sure it was fresh and exciting to me on Day 1.
In Year 3, I played with three ideas during the month of September. One idea was a comic mystery, with whose premise I’ve played for several years. Then, in The Muse Online Workshops (where I both attended and presented), I developed material for two new novels. One of them grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I did a scene-by-scene outline, and that’s the one I decided to pursue for Nano.
In Year 4, I knew I wanted to write a mystery, so I took classes in mystery writing to prepare.
In Year 1, I set my quota, but there were days where I went far beyond it, writing myself into exhaustion. And then, I could barely squeeze out the words the next day. I forced myself to do it until I hit 50K, then only did 2 or 3K additional until the end of the month, and only sporadically worked on it after that. I realized that it was really two books, and it is being restructured and re-envisioned.
In Year 2, I set my quota – 2500 words/day. If I wanted to go beyond that, I only allowed myself to do so if it meant finishing a chapter. And then I MADE myself stop, and work on other things. Novel #2 was rewritten over a period of five years beyond that Nano, and eventually published by Champangne Books as the romantic suspense novel ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT under the Annabel Aidan name.
In Year 3, I planned to use the same quota system as Year 2.
I found it frustrating in a different way, but I didn’t feel the exhaustion and despair I often felt in Year 1. By the end Year 1, even though I hit the 50K goal, I never wanted to do Nano again.
Part of the reason I did it in Year 2 (in addition to wanting to socialize more with other participants) is that I wanted to see if I could create a different experience. Which is weird, because in Year 1, I tried to “make” certain things happen and was disappointed. In Year 2, I “let” them happen, even though I was consciously trying to create a different experience, and it worked.
For Year 3, I took a more business-like approach. I want the writing to be a playground, but I’m setting up a structure to allow me freedom within the next structure. I wrote a combination fantasy/sci-fi book. Over the years, it’s had substantial rewrites, grown into a trilogy, and the first book is out on submission.
In Year 4, I kept up a steady pace. However, my grandmother was dying, and I had to go back and forth to Maine frequently. When the draft was finished, I put it away and could not look at it for several years, associating it with my grandmother’s death. It’s only recently I’ve been able to pull it out and look at its potential.
This year, for Tandem Nano, the goal is 1000 words a day as a rebel and 2000-2500 words a day on the “Classic Nano” mystery.
For the year-long novel-writing class I taught, everyone was required to write a minimum of 1000 words/day or 7000 words per week. We had a month of planning, four months to write the first draft. Then we put it aside for two months while we worked on short stories and our second novel. We continued writing a minimum of 500 words/day on the second novel, once we started the intensive revision process – eight weeks for the first revision, a manuscript swap, and then four weeks for the next revision. Some novels were close to submission-ready by then; others needed more drafts. Each novel is different. But if you don’t have a first draft, you have nothing to revise.
The more you plan, the more steadily you show up at the page, the more you accomplish.
Come Write In! at the Marstons Mills Public Library, 2160 Main St., Marstons Mills.
Tuesdays 11-1 and Thursdays 2-4 during November.