This Year, The Word is ‘Planet’

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Hey, bear feeders, did you miss me?  I kind of dropped off of your radar, didn’t I.  Well, it’s cause of this NaNoWriMo thing I talked about way back in October in this post: NaNoWriMo – It’s That Month Again.   That whole process turned into a major drain on my Bear Feed time, so I neglected you all for my own personal writing party. Good news is that it wasn’t for naught.

For the third straight year – I am a NaNoWriMo ‘Winner’.

Yup … I’m a Winner.

I actually hate that term, for a program that is all about words, you would think they would come up with a better word to use.

But for those of you who are still confused what the heck I am talking about, let me give you the rundown.

NaNoWriMo, or the National Novel Writing Month (or NaNo for short), is an effort to support the desire for people to pull novels out of their brain and put it on paper.  It happens every year in the month of November and asks participants to do one simple thing — write 50,000 words.  You can write a novel, a childrens story, a nonfiction thing, or even the word ‘idiot’ 50,000 times; but if you reach that 50k mark you are considered a ‘winner’.  Participants, typically called WriMos, can approach this event any way they want — whether by plotting out their story in full before executing it completely (we call them Plotters), writing from absolutely nothing with no plan as if from the seat of their pants (they’re called Pantsers), or a hybrid of both like me (call Plantors or Plosers or soemthing like that).

It’s actually a crazy mix of introverted and social activities.  Most of the time, we write by ourselves, but there are usually supporting events put on by regional organizations, most typically in the form of ‘Write-Ins’.  Write-ins are places where groups of WriMos get together and work on their number count with different aids to get them there.  For an outsider, this could look kind of funny, because you can walk into this room and see 10 to 30 people with all variety of headphones plugged in, not a one making a sound except for the mad smashing of keyboards.  I attended 6 of those this year, including two right on the JPL campus with fellow JPL WriMos, one in the loudest room I ever had to write in (shared with roleplay gamers), and one in a wine bar … which .. was … AWESOME.  Talk about sharing my two favorite hobbies.

This was unofficially my fifth attempt at NaNo — but my first didn’t really count, because I only heard about the dang thing on November 10th, and I gave up a couple days later.  The second attempt was the first real serious attempt, and I failed and flopped miserably.  2015 was the first time I ‘won’, but barely – reaching 50k on November 29th.  Last year, I knocked it out of the park.  Even with all the madness going on in my life, I jumped out to get way ahead, hit 50k with five days to go, and ended up with 54,000 words.  I thought this one was going to be tougher; but I won on the same day as last year and already topped the 55k mark with 10 hours to go.

Each year seemed to fall into the same pattern, loosely broken into five groups of 10,000 words (and strangely broken up into the 4-1/2 weeks).

0 to 10,000 — The What Was I Worried About phase.  I always thought I would suck on cranking words, every year.  But that first 10k seems to fly by.  Last year I had 10k in two days; sometimes it takes me a couple extra, but I usually am crushing through by the first weekend.

10k to 20,000 — The What Was I Thinking Phase.  This far in, I’ve gotten through some of the initial thoughts and character introductions; but I realize … I have no frickin’ idea where the story is supposed to go.  You see, novels are supposed to have these things called ‘plots’ and ‘direction’.  It’s usually at this point where I have to actually pull my head out of the clouds and come up with a plan.  This ends up to be the first full weekend of writing; because I usually have more freetime to mess around a bit with structure and want to take longer breaks between mashing keys.

20k to 35,000-ish — The Who’s Writing This Thing Phase.  Honestly, this is the best part of NaNo for me.  By this time, I am about two weeks in, and for all that time I have been thinking about the story nearly every waking minute.  The characters are flushed out and I can hear their voices, the writing flows easily as if I did it my whole life, and I am deep into the good parts of the novel.  Usually, somewhere in there, I create a scene or a chapter that just comes out of nowhere.  I enter this trance like state, and what comes up on the screen isn’t anything I am consciously writing about.  To be blunt, just by reading what I wrote, I see exactly what drove me to write this story and to learn what therapy it is doing for me.  This typically happens over the week just before Thanksgiving, and can roll through long nights and weekend writing.  Right up to the …

35k to 45,000-ish — The Oh Yeah, I’m Supposed to Be a WriMo Phase.  Annually, I visit my family and hometown for Thanksgiving.  It is rarely a creative time for me.  In part, writing requires a lot of downtime for me to contemplate what I am going to write before the actual act of writing.  That’s just not feasible or allowable.  My stats outright prove this.  I can be crushing going into that week, and then it thins.  This year, I reached 40k the Sunday before Thanksgiving on Nov 19th – meaning I was on course to reach 50k by Thanksgiving Day (Nov 23).  Yet when I flew home on Nov 26 I barely reached that 45k mark.

45k to 50,000 — The Where Do I Have Words Left Phase.  At this point, I don’t want to throw the month away, and I want to reach 50k.  Problem is, all the good ideas, all the well researched, and all the well through through chapters are mostly written … well usually except for one.  The last three years, there was always a long, fulfilling chapter I left to the end.  Usually it was the end, like the climax or the last chapter.  When I got home from Thanksgiving, I worked on that – and with that, I put myself over the top.

This year, I ‘won’ on November 27th– the 50,000th word this year was ‘Planet’.  I continued writing the last couple days and reach a milestone that hadn’t happened in any of the previous NaNoWriMo attempts I made.

Today — I finished a 1st Draft.

Thing is, 50,000 words doesn’t mean you wrote a novel – and the first time you write those words, it doesn’t mean they are very good.  Writers tend to be way better at revising what they wrote then writing them down; that’s why it is so hard to do this.  Even when I just tried to do short stories before all this, I rarely finished one complete.  I rarely followed through to get it together.  So early this morning when I was staring at my workbook with all the chapters listed and all my notes going with it – I scanned them over and realized … there’s nothing left to add.  It’s done.

Tomorrow stars December – which I jokingly called the National Don’t Touch Your Novel Month (or NaDoToYoNoMo) as most WriMos put their novel aside to give themselves a break.  At some point, I will take it up, and start editing it – and it needs a lot of work … A LOT of work.  From there, I don’t know.  I know I don’t want to publish it at this point of time (this is actually a ‘Book 2’ of a series, and I have to get a 1st Draft of ‘Book 1’ done).  I’m already churning ideas in my head for NaNoWriMo 2018.

But for now, I’m happy enough to say that I won again, and leave it like that.

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