Before I begin the analysis of my ill-fated attempt at NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I want to congratulate some of my lovely writer-ly friend who did win this year and showed me what Nano can offer every writer if given the right motivation. Both of my friends Denise and Rion are seasoned winners, and Rion has been an ML(Municipal Liason) for multiple regions in the U.S. These phenomenal ladies have many helpful tips and encouragement for any who wish to learn more about Nano or need help throughout the event. So, don’t forget to check out their blogs (linked above).
December 2014 marks the first failed attempt at NanoWriMo for the Spotted Writer. While it is only a technical fail since I didn’t write 50,000 new words for the month of November, I knew beforehand that I couldn’t succeed. Well, wouldn’t is a more appropriate word. If I had scheduled and outlined I might have won, but I did none of those things. There was little time for me to prepare when I was finishing Dollhouse right before November began. That on top of the fact that I had never written more than 700 words in a day meant that I was destined to lose. (For those who don’t know, a daily word count of 1,667 is needed to complete the 50,000).
Don’t worry my lovely minions, I was not discouraged and I’m not upset at the outcome. I knew going in that any amount of new words would be an improvement from my current standing (about 1,500) for the piece tentatively titled The Hawthorne Grove. I managed a total of 350 words give or take a few, but my mind was still focused on my manuscript. Which is why I’m hoping the below tips will be of help for those who also didn’t manage a win at NanowriMo to improve for next year-including me.
#1- Any new words…any at all 1-50,000 is a true win. The simplified goal for National Novel Writing Month is to create an uninhibited habit of writing daily and consistently. That kind of discipline is astronomically helpful for a writer no matter what age or experience level. I still continue to struggle with putting down new words daily, so next year, the plan is to write every day no matter what. Maybe not 1,667, but new words every day is a great achievement.
#2-Even if you’re not an outlin-er, a basic plot outline makes the goal of reaching 50,000 more manageable. Now in my case I did have an overall idea of what The Hawthorne Grove could be about. Unfortunately, I hadn’t ironed out any specifics other than some character profiles. For some, that may be enough, but for me I needed more direction if I’m going to write at a faster pace. And thus I say unto you slow writers, plan. Plan for all of October and by the time November arrives, you will have everything in your arsenal ready to go. This is also where I fell short because I was still writing a majority of Dollhouse Daughter even into the first week of November, so I never made time to plan.
#3-Focus on the one idea. This is a good tip in general, and coming from someone who skips between different works frequently this is a challenge in itself. I became so distracted in November (even after I finished Dollhouse) with revisions and my beta reader comments that I never switched my brain to focus on the novel I was supposed to be writing. So, focus on the idea at hand and don’t let revisions clutter your mind and distract you. If necessary, make notes in a separate document or put  in the place where you want to come back.
This is my advice. I found it all on my own. It’s little, and simple, but good. Yeah, still good. Now onto the phenomenal events that have happened in the last month.
First and foremost, I finished my first novel. You can view the post about finally finishing the piece here. It isn’t publishable yet, but Dollhouse Daughter has a completed first-ish draft. I hate say first draft because I’ve revised the overall story and the setting so many times. Ultimately, though, I finished it. Woot!
And then, my minions, I was asked to speak at a creative writing class at the school my boyfriend works at. The request came as a complete and utter suprise because I assumed that my boyfriend had been whispering awesome compliments about me to his coworkers. In reality, I had a fan in my midst…a.ka. my boyfriend’s boss. Imagine my further surprise as I had never met his boss and he had never actually read anything of mine. He was fantastic in his support, especially when I discovered he was an avid reader and huge supporter of local writers.
I accepted without question at the opportunity to share what small nuggets of wisdom I can manage to articulate to other. Most of the wisdom I’ve learned from my mentors and guest speakers is currently bumbling around in my brain waiting to be absorbed and utilized at the right moment. So, what I really wanted to focus on was giving them an introduction into writing in the real world. Beyond the classroom assignments and what to expect if they want to pursue higher education (which even to this day and thousands of dollars in debt I still support). Lucky for me, the class was made up of mostly seniors and some sophomores and underclassmen and the class was an elective, so the students were invested in what I had to say at least in some respect.
I started off the class with Mark Twain’s “what what you know” not in the sense that you must ONLY write what you know. Instead, I wanted to impress upon these writers how import it is not to put more into your story than you’re capable of accomplishing. I had learned first hand that no matter how much I wanted my novel to be in Revolutionary war England, it was going to take my characters and I decades (and a degree in history) to write it. It didn’t fit to try and make the story work in a setting and a time that I knew nothing about when I had all of the knowledge about modern day America already in my arsenal.
My initial fear is that I would sound pretentious and condescendingly repeat the same precepts that are drilled into every beginner’s brain. The students, however, were a blessing. Sure, every speaker would love to have more questions, but out of the eight or nine students there was at least a dozen questions, which was exciting. There is so much promise for these writers to be even if they were just taking the class for fun.
One of the most difficult points to cover during the class was higher education (my Master’s degree included). For the parents of the millennial generation and later, college in general may seem like the obvious next step, but for the students it’s much bigger than that. In 2014, college is the equivalent to the mortgage on an incredibly expensive home without the guarantee of a return on investment (although to be honest depending on where and when the house may not be guaranteed either). And with a liberal arts degree or concentration…forget about it! With the average American having a potential of two to three career changes in their lifetime (source: some article that is probably now outdated by a few years) what room is there for thousands of dollars in debt for an education you may never fully utilize? These are a few of the fears/concerns that make it that much more difficult for students to choose what to do next, especially if their true passion is writing.
Yes, an understanding of the English language and communication is a vital skill set that students, and people in general should be more in tune with, but how does that translate to a well-paid career? With the right choices, it can pay off well. If you push yourself toward an unconventional or non-traditional career path, it could bring you a wealth of success and stability. I guess my main point (and I made this to the class) is being confident in your decision. I knew in high school that English/writing/reading/literature would be my life. I knew that nothing else would do, and I was willing to sacrifice everything I had been taught to achieve it. I was willing to forgo the more traditionally stable positions in the medical field (at the behest of my father) or education (at the request of my mother) in favor of my passion. To this day, I don’t regret that decision. What I regret most is not choosing wisely about which school to ascertain my degree from, allowing my debt to pile higher than Mt. Everest.
But, I digress. My temporary class had little to no knowledge or advice on what to choose or even if they had a choice. I impressed upon the necessity to fully support their decision and if they had doubts not to make one hastily or at the behest of anyone! I agreed to the possibility of living paycheck to paycheck until I found my place in the work force. I was 100% ready to follow my passion wherever it lead. And I am so incredibly happy with where I’m headed.
I’m sure these students still have their reserves and questions about the craft and especially about how writing fits into their future, but I think…I think…I gave them something to chew on for a little while. They had the opportunity to read some of my novel that I continue to slave over for three+ years, and experience a public reading. It gave me a chance to see how it would be in front of a high school level class as well as a chance for those students to see possibilities for themselves if they are passionate about writing. And even deeper, it provided a continuous flow of information between writers regardless of age, experience, education or amount written. I saw in those students a glimmer of hope for something they enjoyed or the potential for it to grow. The experience has opened me to the phenomenal path ahead, and I cannot wait to share more milestones with you.
I’ll leave you all with some of the pictures from my vacation. I attended Blizzcon in Anaheim and experienced the glory of San Diego. If given the choice to live in a mansion in Pittsburgh, PA or homeless in San Diego, CA- I would choose San Diego in a heartbeat. It is quite the change from being on the east coast and I relish the thought of going back! Look for more updates and maybe even some excerpts from Dollhouse Daughter to come.
Happy reading and writing!