Then this year, BAM. I'm doing it. Characters are coming to life. Relationships are being developed. Hints are being dropped about what comes next, because I'm pretty sure there will be a "next".
- It would be disingenuous of me not to acknowledge the biggest change: the last two years, I was working at a job that I loved (a lot of the time) but which left me exhausted, frequently frustrated, and with stacks of planning and grading during my nights and weekends. Now I stay home and cook and clean and write. HOWEVER. I think that if I were to go back to work tomorrow, I would make this work because of the rest of the bullets on this list.
- I've developed a truly awesome network of fellow writers who I've met through blogging. Not only are you guys an amazing support system, I've also learned SO MUCH about craft from you. Talking about the books we love (and don't love) has been a perfect foundational course in storytelling. All the posts I've read about specific elements of craft have been like advanced electives. And beta-reading two fabulous manuscripts? I felt like an undergrad being allowed to sit in on a graduate-level course and occasionally finding something pithy to add to the conversation. Mostly, though, I just enjoyed the chance to watch people who were way ahead of me work. Now as I go, I can see things that I'll need to go back and fix that I would have never seen before. Which leads to...
- Freedom to suck! A cornerstone of NaNo, I didn't totally get this one until this year. I was still in the novice writer position of vaguely thinking, "Yeah, I'll fix this up later," but not knowing how I would make it actually any better. After a year+ of talking and thinking about craft, I'm actually elated when I type something and think, "oh, that needs XYZ," because it's a specific note. I do NOT stop to fix it, but sometimes I change the font color to remind myself to come back for it. It's exciting that I can see specific revisions I know I'll need, and it's exciting that I can skip over them for now.
- Last but not least, I've found Write or Die to be absolutely invaluable. Since I'm not writing weekends, I need to get through 2500 words a day to finish on time (with half-days for travel and holidays.) I know that I am the kind of person who, if I give myself a break one day, I will fall right off the wagon and never finish. But 2500 words is a daunting number. And sometimes I leave off right before a problem I don't know how to solve, which tends to lead to a morning of playing Plants Vs. Zombies, watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and my second-viewing-in-four-months of all of Friday Night Lights. But when I use Write or Die, I really, truly just have to throw words on the page. Why? I set it to kamikaze mode, which actually starts to delete your words if you don't meet your word goal in the number of minutes you set it for. You can set your own goals; I like to do smaller chunks, but today was a mega-unproductive day until late afternoon, so I managed 1000 words in just under half an hour. When you realize you're about to lose words, it really makes them flow more freely.
In short: time is good, but even if you're short on time, I think you can do this. Having a network of brilliant and awesome writer friends makes everything a million times better. Let yourself breeze past the things you don't like; you'll come back for them. Really. And short, timed blasts can really add to your word count quickly.
How are you getting through your NaNo? Or, if you're not, how do you tackle big scary tasks?