January 20th, 2014

Darren - Glasses Skewed

NaNoWriMo '13: Week 4 Retrospective

Find this week's post at tumblr here.

I'll be honest. I don't remember a whole lot about what went on during Week 4. I'm putting that down to heat-induced amnesia. What I do remember is that I went into Week 4 with a whole lot of word debt and not a lot of confidence. Until Sunday night, that is, when I was lying in bed trying to sleep and started doing some mental maths instead (not the easiest thing for me, even with fully functioning mental processes). Basically, I figured I could reach 50K by Friday if I wrote 4000 words for a few days and thn didn't slack off on the remaining days. Oddly, the thought didn't put me off. If anything, it made me more determined.

So I woke up on Monday, went through my usual routine and then sat down to write 2000 words, which I did. Later that day, I wrote another 2000 words. On Tuesday, I didn't write in the morning. I needed thinking time, if I recall correctly. But that night I wrote 4000 words in one big hit. Success! Over 8000 words in two days! I was walking on sunshine (almost literally, given the heatwave that was moving in during this time). Wednesday I don't remember at all but my word count tracker tells me I did a day's worth of writing that day, so that was good. By Thursday I was well on track. I had 7500 words to go (exactly!) and, if I wrote about 1800 words for the next four days, I would hit 50K right on target. Of course, that wasn't good enough for me; I wanted to cross the line early. At that point, the worst thing happened.

I sat down to write on Thursday and it was going okay. I wrote the scene I had planned to write but it ended sooner than I had expected so I started what I felt was the next logical scene, wrote a few paragraphs and then...nothing. Hands poised over the keyboard I had literally run out of words, 7000 words from the finish line.

"Okay!" I told myself. "Don't panic. Don't force it. There's still plenty of time." So I put the writing away for the day to give my brain some time to mull it over. Only on Friday, there was still nothing. Again, I forced myself to be calm. Saturday dawned and I was on the verge of panic. I was still 7000 words out and the deadline was now less than 48 hours away. Plus, Saturday afternoons are now scheduled for workshopping meetings, which take a number of hours, and Sunday's have never been good writing days for me, due to family commitments. To borrow a line from Glee's Kurt Hummel, the Titanic had hit the iceberg and I was on a sinking ship.

During this time I felt...just really bad. To come so close and then fail? It was the most awful feeling.

Saturday's meeting didn't take my mind off the problem, exactly, but I went home feeling like maybe I had counted myself out too soon. If you know me personally, you should know that I work best under pressure; the university assignments that get me the highest marks are always the ones that get written at the last minute, usually the day before or the morning of submission. So why should this be any different? I chilled out Saturday night, didn't stress about it, went to bed and got a good night's sleep. And then Sunday came.

Again, no stress. I made myself a cup of coffee, spent an hour on Tumblr, did some reading, and then I opened my Word document, put in a 'To Be Continued' under the scene that I had abandoned four days earlier and started a new page. I had no idea what I was going to write or how far it would take me so I just started writing about the scene developing in my head. That's when things really took off. I was flying and, by the time I stopped for lunch with my family an hour and a half later, I think I was about 2500 words in. Back to the grind after lunch and the  words kept coming. Two and a half hours later, when I left for afternoon tea at my grandmother's house, I had written another 3000 words. By this stage I was sitting at about 48,300 words in total and I spent the whole visit stressing that I would get home and find the stream had finally run dry. But no. I got home at 5:15, checked my email and then started writing again at 5:30.

"Only 1700 words to go," I thought. "I can do that in an hour, easily."

And you know what? I did. At 6:35 last night I hit 50,000 words. I finished the scene I was writing which, as it turns out, closed out the chapter I had been writing all day, dropped my head into my hands and laughed hysterically. I figure it was that or cry. Because yesterday I wrote 7,132 words in approximately 5 hours, for a grand total of 50,022 words. Actually, my icon is a pretty good visual representation of how I felt once I was done.

In addition to crossing the finish line, I came away with a few ongoing problems solved; an understanding of how to work the main plot into the story I currently have; another POV character; a rough idea of how the rest of the book is going to be broken up (by my reckoning, I'm currently only about a third of the way through the first story); and knowledge of the how the first book will end and a general idea of the plot of the next book (!!!).

Here are the things I learned during NaNoWriMo '13:
- I really can make stories up on the fly and have them make some sort of sense.
- I'm a late-in-the-day writer. 5pm-8pm is my Golden Zone for getting shit done.
- my brother's bullying and disappointed-in-you face are two of the best motivators I've ever come across.
- colour-coding and cue cards work with my writing style.
- if I mentally break writing sessions into 1000 word blocks, it's much more managable than trying to think of the whole thing at once, even if the rest is only an extra 600 words.

No sneak peek today because there are major spoilers in everything I wrote this week. But this probably won't be the last you hear of this story; as I've said, it's a long way from finished.

Thanks for sticking with me. I'll keep you posted.