Now that NaNoWriMo is over and done with, time to return to the blog with a post regarding two matters: first a couple paragraphs reflecting on progress during November on the supernatural noir novel, Hum in the Highways, followed by a few paragraphs on plans for December, such as another short story for Writers of the Future by Dec. 31st.
First of all, progress during November was basically a success. I passed 50K and the novel is in relatively good shape, currently sitting at 52,412 words, with plenty more scene placeholders and transitions to fill in. I tried to fill in every section of the novel in equal proportion, and I found that a very motivating and useful approach for myself. The ending changed a great deal, for the better, and I will probably be cutting and refitting the current structure after finishing the complete draft (the goal for that is the end of January, due to other priorities in December).
While I was successful with the story and like how it has expanded on its short story origins, and how it filled in the scenes, chapters and acts I'd outlined in October, I was a bit disappointed with word output. I admittedly set my sights a bit too high, hoping for at least 2000 words a day on weekdays and 4000 on weekend days, and was even hoping to bring the novel to 65K or more, but beyond my day job, I had other writing work that took up some time (proofreading business contracts, polishing flash fiction entries, and getting a story done for my daughter's birthday), and I also found weekends to be much harder for writing than expected since my daughters were waking up fairly early and distraction was rampant. I also wonder if I was not quite consistent enough in terms of prepping before morning writing sessions. And I probably could have benefited from sneaking in more afternoon or evening writing sessions, but I wanted to see how much was possible with a focus on morning sessions and little else, since I have work and after work I have a family to be involved with. Early morning hours are really the best if you're still trying to lead a life paired with day job outside of writing.
With that in mind, I wanted to consider what brought success on my best writing days, to help increase word output in future months. I hope this will help readers of this blog consider how to best increase their creative efficiency as well.
My best writing day was 5193 words. Musing over some of the positive factors involved, here is what I came up with:
1) I woke up early, perked myself up with fruit and milk, and then sat at the desk and only got up for restroom breaks and nothing else (quick breathers or bites to eat aren't bad per se, just as long as you don't get carried away);
2) I wore a dress shirt and tie, like I would to a business office, to help myself treat the writing time as something separate and more official than other periods of the day (making it even more important than my day job, as I don't wear anything like a dress shirt and tie to my current day job), and it also felt great taking the tie off after finishing some major writing;
3) I visualized and reviewed what the purpose of this session would be before I started, by glancing at scene summaries or other plot/structure plans I had written up, and I had several back up scenarios to get written for when I finished what I had visualized;
4) Even though I had visualized and did have a brief summary of what the scene(s) was supposed to be, I also allowed myself to generate unplanned for new characters and new ideas on the spot and did not cut them out or hesitate, seeing as that unplanned for material could be exactly what I need to push the story;
5) I timed myself (with Write or Die software) for 30 minutes, breather, then another 30, and so on;
6) It might not be a good fit for everyone, but I really do think having a scheduled writing hour or two (or more if you can free up that time) is best. The writing time became the period of the day I most looked forward to. If I was able to get a good word count done in the morning before work, the rest of the day was much easier, and felt better, too. It also gave me something extra to mull over during the day (what to expand on in relation to what I just wrote, and start visualizing the next scene with the recently finished one in mind);
7) I had all the scene files prepped and ready to be filled, though I placed them there not to set them in stone but as temporary placeholders. That is to say, I generated scene files beforehand and placed them in the order I thought at the time, but I kept in mind that I would almost definitely be moving those scenes around a great deal, if not cutting completely. Having a file just to fill makes the writing process run smoother and more efficiently; knowing that the file is not set in stone encourages you to write without apprehension since you're in the be flexible mindset.
Less successful days usually came about when one of the following items occured.
1) I took a quick look at social media,
2) I didn't wake up when my alarm went off,
3) I hadn't thought about what that morning's writing session would be about so worried too much about the planning aspect to jump right in,
4) I worked through material that I'd already written and so had to be more careful,
5) I wrote in a new and more messed up perspective than my main MC and so had to slow down,
6) a revision I realized needed to be made was bothering me so much I couldn't write anything else, and I didn't deal with it right away;
7) of course, when I had other writing I needed to finish, I had to cut back on writing the novel.
Moving forward, I will try to be more consistent with the morning schedule, but I will also try to be somewhat flexible about it so as to avoid getting burnt out. Taking a few mornings off here and there is likely important, since burning out would just lead to a month of more of no writing. Worse than just a few days of no writing, and that would be depressing as all get out.
That brings us to the second order of business in this blog post: plans for December. I want to continue working on the novel, and I will, but only in small bits. My main focus for December will be writing and polishing a short story for Writers of the Future deadline of December 31st. I know the story I want to submit, but I am still considering the best story to push for this WotF submission. I'm also reading Writers of the Future Volume 31 and considering advice from others, such as this old blog post from Brad Torgersen. I agree with the post's first point, put your sci-fi or fantasy element up front from the start, based on what I've observed in the stories in WotF so far. I don't agree with its second point, which is to avoid writing a "downer". The first story I read in the anthology was a complete downer, and very well done. So I won't worry about that too much.
I think I've pretty much settled on polishing up a short story that links to the novel I was working on during November. It will make it easier to focus, as my mind is still very much obsessing with the world of that novel. Plus, it's a villain before he was considered a villain with a ton of material to work through, and a plot that proves intriguing, so good enough. Onward.
So, in terms of writing work, December will have me still working at the current novel, working intensively on the WotF story, trying to complete another creative work for my other daughter's birthday (another short story, or maybe a poem this time, still mulling that over), and, who knows, more proofreading jobs might come up as well.
Best of luck to the other creatives out there!