Sunday, December 1, 2013

Now What?

The anatomy of a NaNoWriMo journey and what lies beyond


It's somewhat convenient that December 1st falls on a Sunday this year as it allows me the opportunity to provide a post-NaNoWriMo analysis while it's still fresh in my mind.

For starters, I won!



Not everyone did, however, but that's okay. Unlike those techie jerks on Linux forums who berate and belittle those who don't "get it" I am equally as proud of everyone who tried and didn't make it to the 50,000 word mark as I am those who did. There were some truly inspirational stories this year to be sure, not the least of which is Cate, a high school girl in Ottawa who wrote 16,000 words on the last day to claim victory. Now that's impressive on so many levels.

Cate's Graph. Check out days 10, 12, 19 and 30!

What it takes for one person to meet the target is different for everyone. Notice I used the phrase "meet the target" instead of the word "success"? That's because success is different for everyone as well. Success for me was getting 50,000 words written on a new novel while tying up a few loose ends on the novel I started last year. Yes, it was considered "done" but there were a couple gaps that needed filling and I wasn't happy with it as it was. Not happy enough to say that I had finally written my first book, at least.

Regardless of what the measure of success is, if you were simply trying to hit a target (50,000 words or some other number) or if you were trying to polish off that long forgotten manuscript, or if you were simply trying to see what you were realistically capable of stringing together in the time you weren't being a mom/dad/student/employee/vampire/zombie/werewolf/wizard/husband/wife/friend/hobbit/daughter/son; there are a few things that you'll need if you're going to pull it off:

  1. Desire
  2. Commitment
  3. Support

Much like any other journey, it starts with desire. Desire to see something, see someone, accomplish something, make a difference... In a nutshell, you have to want to get off your ass in the first place (or in the case of writing, sit your ass down).

Just starting isn't enough, though. You have to continue. You must persist. You have to be more than dedicated. You have to be committed. You have to be a pig. Say what?! This is a common analogy in the Agile software development world. Think of your journey as breakfast. Who would you rather be, the chicken or the pig? The chicken is dedicated. The chicken will wake up every morning with the sun and give you an egg. The pig, however, the pig is committed. The pig quite literally has skin in the game. The pig is committed, and you need to be as well (if not as you go then quite possibly - though in a different sense - after).

Finally, you need support. I wrote back in January that while writing seems like a solitary practice it's actually not. It requires interaction and support from a variety of people. Surrounding yourself with people that understand and appreciate what you're trying to accomplish is absolutely necessary. A support network of people who have a genuine interest in what you're doing is absolutely invaluable. This year I leaned heavily on my wife, kids, and a couple Facebook groups of like-minded crazy people and it was absolutely instrumental to my success.

So now what?

If your novel is done, take some time off and distance yourself from it. Stat revisions and edits in the new year sometime. If it's not done then set a schedule and finish it. Me? Well, I'm shelving the novel that's complete, hitting pause on the 60% of one I just wrote, and trying my hand at writing a screenplay. After the screenplay is done then this year's novel will be finished and then I'll start revising novel #1.

Whatever's next up on your agenda, I wish you all the best with it. I can't help you with the first two items on the list but I can definitely help you with the third one. Find me here, or on Facebook or Twitter anytime, and I wish you all good writing.

~ Andrew

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