If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know that I participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every November. Every year since 2008 (14 years)! I wrote about it here in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
And holy fish nuggets, I’m wondering where the heck this year has gone, much less this month. Here we are (nearly) halfway through November. And I haven’t written one blog post about NaNoWriMo 2021!
October whizzed by and now it’s nearly mid-November. And I haven’t written a blog post in nearly a month.
Where has the fall gone?
I spent October tied up in reading challenges. I participated in a record number of reading challenges and readathons across three platforms—Litsy, Instagram, and Facebook (although I post the majority of my bookish stuff on Litsy).
In October, I finished 45 books! And I blew past my Goodreads annual goal of 182 books. Here’s the breakdown of the 45:
1 one-star that was also a DNF
Yes, 80% of the 45 were audiobooks. Basically, I listened to audiobooks at all times except for when I was at work. I’ve found audiobooks are great because I can do other things, like crafts or puzzles while listening to an audiobook.
The two 5-star reads were The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, a fun romp through time and space to discover the origins of Halloween, and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, a middle grade novel about a boy raised in a graveyard. And my favorite thing about Neil Gaiman audiobooks is that Neil himself narrates them. So even though I have physical copies of most of his books, I still love the audiobooks.
In October, I was also organizing and managing a Halloween-themed book swap as well as participating in two other Halloween-themed book swaps. For one of my swaps, I completed this awesome witch-themed cross-stitch and I also made a sign that says “Own your magic,” but of course I forgot to take a photo of it before I mailed it.
I also spent October finally organizing some. I got a new bookcase, which I desperately needed. With the addition of my new bookcase, I finally organized my books and bookish knick-knacks.
The coolest thing about this book case is that the smaller front row of shelves slides. And those small shelves are perfect for knick-knacks.
I love it so much I *might* just have to get another one so I have a matching pair.
So reading, crafting, and organizing took up all of October. And now it’s November. Nearly mid-November. And I haven’t written a blog post in nearly a month. October blew by and now November is whizzing by. Why? Because I’m in the middle of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2008. This is my 12th year. And once again, I have fallen firmly in the pantser category despite my good intentions to do some planning. (Pantser, for those not familiar with NaNoWriMo terms, is someone who just starts writing on November 1 with maybe only the vaguest idea. In other words, pantsers write by the seat of their pants.)
I did have good intentions to do some planning in October. I thought I would not only jot some ideas down, but maybe do a tentative outline. But I admit that I did not spend October planning for NaNoWriMo in any way. Seriously, with upteen reading challenges, when would I have had the time anyway?
I did have a sort of story idea back in September. But I went with the new story idea that started nagging me for about a week in mid-October and I’m so glad I did. Of course, I didn’t write the original idea down and now that idea is gone. I hope whomever catches that idea does better with it than I did.
Despite my lack of planning, I did block out 7 pm to 9 pm Monday though Friday and 8 am to 10 am on the weekends to write. By scheduling writing time, I’ve not only made writing a priority, I’ve made it a routine. And my 2020 story, which is tentatively called Ghost Dog, has been flowing out of me as fast as I can write it.
After day 1 went so well, I decided to set a daily word count goal of 2,000 words, which is above the NaNoWriMo daily goal of 1,667 words. So far, I have hit my target 2,000 word count goal within 90 minutes or less. That has averaged out to about 2 chapters a night. Once I hit my target goal and reach a good stopping point (which has been more than 2,000 words), I allow myself to stop early. Like a reward system.
To further motivate me, I keep track of my daily word count. And this year, I have set some personal bests.
In 2017, it took me until November 15 to hit 25,000 words and until November 28 to reach 50,000 words. (See my posted 2017 daily word count here). Although I can’t find my word count by day for 2013 (the other year I “won” NaNoWriMo), I know it took me until the end of the month to hit 50,000 words.
This year, I hit 25,000 words yesterday, November 10. FIVE days before my 2017 record and five days before NaNoWriMo progress chart. (If I was writing 1,667 words per day, I’d be at 18,337 on November 10).
I contribute my success so far to primarily being in a good mental place—I live on a sub-tropical island, which I love; I watch the ocean daily, which is relaxing; I love my job and have a fantastic boss, which is all-around good—and so, despite the challenges of this year, I have relatively low stress levels right now.
And so I’m on track to hit 50,000 words on November 19. I may or may not make that goal, but I will write 50,000 words by the end of the month. And having such a nice word count cushion further eases the stress of writing.
I’m having a great NaNoWriMo season so far.
So make sure to check back at the end of the month for my NaNoWriMo 2020 wrap-up post. I may even share a bit of my rough draft. In the meantime, I’ll update my daily word count on my new NaNoWriMo 2020 word count page.
Remember a few days ago I posted about my flash of inspiration? And how I went from opting not to do NaNoWriMo this year to being geared up for it? (If not, then read this.)
Yeah, well welcome to my mega-fail moment.
Somehow the inspired first sentence, the one I sped walked home repeating to myself over and over again so I could get it down, has disappeared.
That’s right. Gone. Missing. MIA. No more.
I’ve searched every folder on my computer the past two days and nada.
It’s just gone. Vanished. *poof*
There are those of you who might tell me to put on my big girl pants and just write anyway. Trust me. I’ve tried. While I remember the gist of the sentence, I can’t remember exactly what I wrote. And nothing I’ve tried to come up with since has the same feel as the original inspired sentence.
Let me put it another way.
I’ve tried to write another first sentence, but that’s as far as I get. The rest is just blank. When I came up with the missing sentence, I saw the characters, the story line, the action.
See the difference?
(This might make more sense if you could see inside my head. Then again, that might be too scary of a place for you non-introverts.)
And so I’m back to where I was pre-inspiration. le sigh
So lesson learned kiddos. Always make a back-up. And in my case, in the future, I’ll be making a back-up of my back-up.
For those keeping track, I’m now 5,001 words behind schedule. (Or 4,678 if I count this blog post.) So far, 2019 is not shaping up to be the best NaNoWriMo year.
If you happen to have some spare inspiration, send it my way. Or better yet, if you’re a computer genius, help me find my missing file. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting over in the corner grumpy and despondent.
We are days away from November 1. You know what that means . . . it’s (almost) time for
Since 2008, I have annually participated in National Novel Writing Month. Every year I make a valiant effort and usually get a few good blog posts out of the process even though I don’t always “win” (i.e., write 50,000 words). Check out a few of my previous NaNoWriMo posts here, here, and here.
But this year I (almost) decided not to participate.
If you’ve been keeping up with my writing challenge updates, you know that I got the results of my NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge Round 1 story on Wednesday and then feedback from the judges on Thursday. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read this and this first.)
Round 2 then started at midnight EDT Saturday when I received the email informing me of my next assigned genre, location, and item.
(The nice thing about living on the west coast is that email arrived 9pm my time, so I had several hours to think about it before heading to bed.)
And can you believe NYC Midnight does a micro-fiction contest where the word limit is 250?
Me neither. Needless to say, I’m not signing up for that one.
While I didn’t expect to place in a writing challenge where 3,500+ writers enter, I had at least hoped to at least make it into the bottom 10-15. But sadly, not to be. Needless to say, I’m still disappointed.
NYC Midnight also sent us feedback from the judges (via email). I received feedback from 3 anonymous judges that included both what they liked and what they thought needed work.
Overall, the feedback I received is good. Feedback is always a bit of a tough pill to swallow, particularly when you’ve worked hard to create something. Luckily, I’ve had enough experience now and some excellent mentors who have helped me learn to accept feedback.
For me, I’ve found it’s a two-step process to deal with feedback.
First, I have to get out of my own way. I have to take a deep breath and realize that feedback (and I’m speaking of constructive feedback here) is not a personal attack. It’s not a comment on my person and that I’m still awesome no matter what.
I’ll stop here to say that if you ever receive “feedback” that personally attacks you, says some derogatory about you, or insults you on a personal level, then that’s not feedback. That’s just unacceptable rudeness masquerading as feedback. And you shouldn’t take it.
But I digress.
Second, I have to look at the feedback with a critical eye. Just because someone gave feedback, even if it’s valid feedback, it doesn’t mean I must follow it.
But this is where it gets tricky.
In order to judge the feedback, I have to be honest with myself. I have to look at my product (in this case my short story) and honestly evaluate it with a critical eye, as if I were reading it for the first time. In this case, it helps that I haven’t looked at the story since I submitted it.
Once I got out of my own way (I may have had a little pity party when I read the results), I took a deep breath and with fresh eyes re-read my story and the feedback. More tweaking, a little tightening, a bit more explanation and maybe I would have made the top 15 in my group.
All things I will keep in mind for the next round. Because at the end of the day, that’s what feedback should do—make you a better writer (or artist or musician or electrical engineer or whatever).
But while I felt I received overall great feedback, I’m not necessarily going to use all of it. For example, here are two snippets from the feedback I received:
I would generally advise against using all caps for sound effects – find other ways to get these across.
Tighten the dream sequence. Use it to clarify: why would mercenaries be after her and Mark? Let that fear percolate and color her dream.
Both provide valid feedback. But I view the first one (against using all caps) as more subjective. How many times have you read a story where a sound effect was all caps? Or italicized? Or some other kind of font stylization? While this is valid feedback, it addresses style rather than substance. Where one person dislikes all caps for sound effects, another reader will not see any problem with it.
And really, at the end of the day, all caps versus not all caps is minor point. It won’t help make the story stronger. It wouldn’t have propelled me into the top 15 (I wouldn’t think).
In comparison, the second one provides specific feedback going to the substance of the story. It identifies a weakness in the story and provides me something to consider to make the story stronger. For me, that’s constructive feedback—it’s specific and useful.
Now I still get to go on to Round 2 (which starts at midnight EDT tonight). Everyone who entered gets to do Round 2. But the odds of me making it to Round 3 are rather low at this point since I’m going into Round 2 with 0 points.
But that’s okay for several reasons. First, I actually took a chance and entered and most importantly, submitted a story. I consider that a huge win for me.
Second, I’m actually pretty happy with the story I wrote. The genre was completely out of my comfort zone. I’m not a thriller writer. I don’t even usually read thrillers. So the fact that I wrote a thriller short story (in less than 48 hours) is a win for me.
Third, I completely acknowledge the story is what I’d call a second draft. It’s a bit more than a rough draft, but it really did need someone else to read it and point out the flaws. It would’ve been nice had I been able to have someone else read it and provide that feedback before I had to submit it, but like I said upbove, I will definitely internalize the feedback to make my Round 2 entry stronger.
I won’t know until midnight EDT tonight (9pm for us west coasters) what my Round 2 assigned genre, location, and item are. Let’s hope I get a genre I’m much more comfortable with. Fingers crossed!