Thursday Thirteen - 255 - Revisiting 13 Things That I've Been Doing During NaNoWriMo 2012

by Julia Phillips Smith

Thank heavens, NaNoWriMo 's finally winding down.

Every time I do this thing, I reach a point where I question my sanity.

More than normal, I mean.

With my personal finish line only a few thousand words and a day away, let's revisit how I've spent this year's NaNoWriMo:

1 - The honeymoon stage of the story is strangely holding up, even through the bleakest wandering-through-the-desert moments. I guess this is the saving grace of writers everywhere. We're the very first 'readers' of the new story, and we want to know what happens next.

2 - Fighting the urge to write well - unlike the NaNo writers who burst out of the gate and start strong with high word counts in the first week, I always fight down my urge to continue writing in my normal style. Once Week 2 starts and my word count waves red warning flags, that's when the real NaNo starts for me. I start chucking the ordinary for the extraordinary.

3 - Back story scenes - I applaud the NaNo writers who somehow churn out a plausible linear plot, however rough it may be. NaNo for me involves deep forays into the hidden lives of my characters, scenes that will mostly never see the light of day for the finished manuscript. Somewhere in all of these jumbled stream-of-consciousness writing are hidden gems that will be plucked out and added into the real storyline.

4 - Writing in sequence - Generally, I do tend to write from A to Z, beginning to end. Except for NaNoWriMo. Then, in a desperate bid to keep up my word count, I throw the deck of cards called plot in the air, pick one scene and start writing whatever the 'card' shows me. I'm a great mull-er, normally, but NaNo gives me no time to mull.

5 - Writing longhand, then retyping for word count - In past years, I've written daily scenes longhand, but this year, other than the writing I did while on my trip to New York (see: Do Writers Ever Go On Vacation?) I kept it to nightly sessions in front of the computer.

6 - Fellow NaNo-ers burning rubber - Previous NaNo's have seen some of the Formula One writers finish so early, their chequered flag usually knocking me on the head as I choked in their dust. For various reasons, the sprinters all seemed to be skipping NaNo this year. I felt like I was keeping pace with the pack with much less difficulty. Made a difference to my psychological edge.

7 - Life always happens. Keep writing. - This year I had the joy of a birthday dream trip to Manhattan with my mom and sister. Of course, between the trip itself, and recovering during the following week from allergy exposures while on the trip, eight days of NaNo fell by the wayside. The key was getting right back into the race.

8 - Knowing without a doubt that you cannot cross the 50,000-word finish line in time - I experienced this a few NaNo's ago when I had a brutal month of unrelenting migraines. Ultimately I dropped out of that year's writing marathon. However, the scenes I wrote then will be added to this year's NaNo first draft. No regrets. Any writing is forward motion.

9 - Watching footage of actors I've 'cast' as my fictional characters - Virtually every session of this year's NaNo has included some of this. I listen to emotion in their voices, not only the officially 'cast' actors but in my collection of scene clips that I have on You Tube play lists specifically for this purpose. Also, some of what I watch is scene tone (cinematography/art direction) or basic blocking of fight sequences or courtly manners or servant/slave body language.

10 - Going without sleep - Check, check and check. My average for this year's NaNo: three or four hours a night. But where would I be without my sleep-deprivation trance state?

11 - If it was easy, it wouldn't be a marathon. - My day job co-workers have often asked me, 'Why do you do this to yourself?' LOL! Good question. Short answer: the ordeal of NaNo never fails to give me material I would never have come up with any other way.

12- The fleeting thought 'oh, what does it matter if I even finish this thing?' - My personal record of writing 11,525 words last weekend to catch up from my trip deficit left me seriously questioning my desire to even be a writer.

The moment I send my 50,000 words to the NaNo counter and my 2012 badge shows up, it will all be forgotten.

13 - Be willing to go wherever my muse takes me - To say that one of my major characters has shocked me with his back story details is one of the best reasons of all for me to do NaNo. I like a good jaw-dropper as well as the next person.

If you've been doing NaNo this year, congratulations on a major accomplishment! Some mountains are made up of 50,000 words. And aren't mountains made for climbing?

Photo by Helen Tansey

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  1. I'm one of those folks who have never done this. November is not a good month for me, ever. I don't know why, but it never works out.

    One day, maybe?

    Happy TT!


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