Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finishing Camp NaNoWriMo

I have just finished writing my second 50,000 word novel! Last November I took part in the NaNoWriMo challege, and this July I decided to join the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge to write another novel I have been thinking about for a long time.

The differences between the two experiences are significant. I started this challenge with the knowledge that I had already succeeded the first time I tried, so I was more confident that it could be done. I also knew that writing the daily target word count was not going to be too difficult for me, though sometimes I knew that the quality of what I was writing was not my best. This time, there were several days when I was unable to write, and there were several days when I had to catch up, writing the word count target for two or three days in one session. I think the most I managed to write in one day was about 4,000 words (with about 1,660 being the daily target), which I recently read a published author saying was about the maximum output he could manage in a day. So I now know that when necessary I can do much more than the minimum.

I am not a summer person, and the heat bothers me a lot. July is probably my least favourite month of the year. However, I was happy to retreat to my air conditioned office and work on my novel in the heat of the afternoon, trying to imagine it was cooler outside. I was also fortunate to have less pressure of work this month, allowing me to concentrate on my writing. I now feel ready to take on a greater work burden, having spent a month expressing my creative side.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I did not have time to outline this novel. My experience last November, and this current experience, have shown me that I would prefer to outline and plan the novel in advance. I had to make up quite a lot as I went along, and the pacing of the story is not quite right. Both this novel and the one I wrote in November will need a lot of rewriting to be considered finished to my satisfaction. The rewriting process will teach me a lot, and inform my future writing efforts.

I recommend this challenge, which is also taking place this August, to aspiring writers who have yet to make the commitment to write every day. The pressure can be difficult, but I believe it is a worthwhile experience and life lesson. Professional writers almost all advocate writing every day, with some giving themselves a minimum word count to achieve. I look forward to taking the November NaNoWriMo challenge, this time with a novel I hope to outline in advance.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo

Having written a 50,000 word novel last November, as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge, I am currently taking part in a new challenge, Camp NaNoWriMo. Once again, the aim is to write 50,000 words in a month, and the new camp version takes place in July and August.

I had decided that the next novel I wrote would be outlined and planned, as I found the "discovery writer" method I used in November to be a bit unsatisfying. But when I heard about the challenge in July, I decided not to wait until November. I am now working on the second of two novels I had been thinking about writing for years. Having ideas for plot, characters, and setting in your head is not the same as outlining a novel! Things still change when you start writing them down, and I'm waiting to see if this novel drifts as far from my original thoughts as the last one did.

July is not such a good time as November, for me, because I dislike the summer heat. I usually feel more motivated and creative when the weather is cooler. But at least this time I happen to have less pressure of work, so I'm taking advantage of this free time to be a full-time writer, until the next job comes in. I know I should be getting ahead, writing more than the minimal word count each day in case I have to spend hours working later in the month, or be away from home. So far I haven't managed to do this, though I find the daily word count relatively easy to achieve. I'm learning what my limits are, how much writing I can do, and how tiring it can be.

After I finish this novel, my aim is to start the revisions of the previous novel. I have not looked at it since I finished it on November 30th, and I know it will need a lot more work before I consider it finished to my satisfaction. I have often heard that it is good to put a piece of writing away for several months and then return to it with fresh eyes, seeing the product rather than the process. I hope I will be able to evaluate and revise it more objectively, as if it were someone else's writing. Eventually I will have to do this for the novel I am now writing.

I find it difficult to critique my own work while I am writing it. Perhaps the creative mind is naturally resistant to analytical thinking. I think if I were constantly judging my words and the structure of my work, it could cause creative paralysis. On the other hand, I want my writing to improve so that eventually it naturally requires less editing or revision.

I am enjoying this challenge, and encourage any readers who find this idea inspiring to sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo in August, or for NaNoWriMo in November and start writing their own novels.