Some final thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2014

Winner-2014-Web-BannerNow that I’ve had some time to rest, I’ll to post some thoughts on my first NaNoWriMo experience.

When I first heard of it, maybe a couple of years ago, I was very dubious about the value of NaNoWriMo. But a lot of indie writers have participated in NaNoWriMo, and I wanted to at least give it a shot.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was attending some of the local events. There aren’t but a couple of them (maybe only one), but I do not have the opportunity to sit down with other writers and talk the way I did in college, and I miss that. I thought it would be worthwhile and fun. But as I’ve noted, time was not my friend in November, and I couldn’t make any of the events. So one of my primary motivations for participating never happened.

Nevertheless, I walked away from NaNoWriMo with a new respect for it. In my experience at least, I found it hugely beneficial.

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a writing challenge where, to win, you have to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.

If you’re writing diligently every day (which I was not), you have to do about 1700 words a day to win NaNoWriMo. For me, that’s not a particularly high bar to hit. Obviously, plotting a story, character development, research – all of that takes time – but if you’ve done your planning ahead of time,1700 words can easily be written in a couple of hours.

I suppose the difficulty of NaNoWriMo depends a lot on your story and your writing style and how well planned your novel is before you get started. I knew long before November rolled around how my story would unfold, but for every hour that I spent writing I probably spent another 15 to 30 minutes researching.

The thing I found most worthwhile was having a goal imposed by a deadline. I’ve spent a career writing to meet deadlines, but I’ve never put a deadline on any fiction writing. Setting a goal and working hard to meet that goal forced me to put into writing what was already in my head.

For me, the last week of NaNoWriMo was a huge and difficult 30,000 word push. Fortunately, my wife cleared the decks for me and allowed me time to write. If it had not been for NaNoWriMo, I suspect she would have still expected me to do my part around the house – emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash … whatever else I’m supposed to be doing. The only thing she asked me to do all week was build a fire in the fireplace, and I think that took three minutes of writing time.

I’m glad I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. I’ll probably try it again next year, though hopefully I’ll write a little every day instead of trying to squeeze my writing into massive 10,000-word chunks.

If you feel like you’ve got a novel in you but you’re lacking the motivation to write it, you might find that NaNoWriMo could be helpful to you. Throughout the forums there are a lot of people who were first time novelists, and in the little that I was able to go to the website and spend a little time, there were several of those first time novelists who successfully got their 50,000 words.

Writers, generally, seem to be a very supportive bunch of people. I’ve run into several indie writers online – either in blogs or on Twitter or wherever – and most everyone seems to be genuinely interested in seeing others find success. In the NaNoWriMo forums, it’s no different. Folks tend to serve as cheerleaders for the other people trying to get their novels written.

For my part, I was ready to give up on November 24. I’d only written 16,000 words and reaching 50,000 in just a few days seemed insurmountable.

But I read an email from my ML (municipal liaison), Lucy (aka boomchick). I don’t know Lucy, and she doesn’t know me, but as an ML, she sent a mass email to all the Athens, Georgia, NaNoWriMo’ers on November 15 (yes, it took me nine days to read the email).

In it, Lucy said, “You can absolutely power through this Novel, without a doubt!”

I read that and thought, “Maybe I can.”

That was my motivation to keep going when I’d already decided to give up – a mass email from someone I don’t know who did not know whether or not I could power through the novel.

But Lucy (aka boomchick) was right, and I did power through the novel, and if I’d not participated in NaNoWriMo, I would right this minute be thinking about how I should probably get back to writing if I’m going to finish Jackson Speed at the High Tide by the end of the year.

As it is, I’m now thinking about how I need to be editing and rewriting Jackson Speed at the High Tide if I’m going to publish it by spring of 2015.

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I’m a NaNoWriMo winner!

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

 

If that looks like a NaNoWriMo winner banner at the top of this post, that’s because that’s what it is.

At 3:48 a.m. I topped 50,000 words for November!

Conveniently, I also finished out Jackson Speed at the High Tide. I still have edits and rewrites in front of me, and who knows how long that takes because I do not believe there is a NaNoEdiMo in December (National Novel Editing Month) or a NaNoReWriMo in January. But with the novel finished I think it won’t be long now before I can get that baby polished up and ready to present to the world.

I’ll come back later when my fingers aren’t so sore from all the writing I did this last week and talk a little more about NaNoWriMo. Honestly, I was very skeptical about the value of it before I did it, but now I’m a true believer.

Anyway, as always, I owe Jean a huge THANK YOU for constantly supporting me in whatever foolish endeavors I get into.

Over the past week, when I was in a 30,000 word hole and trying to write my way out, my beautiful wife created an environment where I could do it. She only once interrupted me while I was writing (and that was to spend three minutes building a fire in the fireplace last night) and at least twice – probably more that I did not notice – she took on my chores around the house so that I could stay planted in my chair at my keyboard. She didn’t complain when I didn’t come to bed at night this past week, and she didn’t gripe when I couldn’t wake up in the mornings because I’d been up so late writing.

Jackson Speed at the High Tide comes in at a staggering 101,900 words (by way of comparison, the other Speed books are all around 65,000 to 70,000). I imagine it will be shorter or longer when I’m done editing, but I don’t know that I ever expected to write a 100,000-word novel.

I think it’s good stuff, too. If you’re a fan of the other Jackson Speed novels, I do not think this one will disappoint. It picks up immediately where Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike left off.

If you were following my progress and rooting for me, thank you so much. Over the course of the last week I got some kind words of encouragement from some friends, and I appreciate that. If you were following my progress and deep down wanted to see me fail, then the only thing I can say to you is, eat that!

Now I’m going to go watch some Walking Dead and then go to bed early.

NaNoWriMo 10,000 to go!

Just a quick update for those keeping score at home … I’ve been writing all day (and most of last night) and I just this moment passed 40,000 words! With less than 10,000 words to go to win NaNoWriMo, I have a fair amount of confidence.

Our hero Jackson Speed is currently in the woods on Seminary Ridge with George Pickett. Pickett is writing a love letter to LaSalle Corbell, and Ol’ Speedy’s bowels are exploding to drown out the cannons.

“Run old hare! If I was an old hare I’d run too!”

NaNoWriMo update

Just a quick update on my post from yesterday about NaNoWriMo …

I started writing in earnest last night around 11 p.m. When I went to bed at 4 a.m., I’d managed to knock out 4,000 words. I’ve gotten an accurate word count of everything I’ve written so far in November on High Tide, and I’m 19,496 words into the 50,000 (that includes the 4,000 I wrote last night). If I can hit a pace of 5,084 words a day, I can finish out NaNoWriMo!

I’m really excited about what I wrote last night. I think it’s pretty good stuff. It was a scene that came to me more than two years ago when I first started writing about Jackson Speed, and it is the moment in the Battle of Gettysburg when Speed earns himself a Congressional Medal of Honor.

I have this print of a painting by Dale Gallon hanging in my office at home, and it helped to serve as inspiration for me as I wrote the scene. I love Dale Gallon’s work, and if I’m ever a rich man I’ll paper my house with his paintings.

That’s it for now … I have to get to writing!

November 24, ready to start on NaNoWriMo

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

Six days left in NaNoWriMo and I’m ready to get started. 50,000 words in six days? No sweat.

For those not familiar, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Somewhere along the way I became intrigued with the idea of participating in NaNoWriMo. I wrote the first Jackson Speed novel (El Teneria) in 28 days. It came in around 60,000 words. But I did that in June of 2012, so I picked the wrong month to do it and it didn’t count. But I figured if I could do it once, I could do it again.

My initial plan for NaNoWriMowas to write the fifth Jackson Speed novel, and in October I sort of started doing research for that book. But I never really got moving on the research the way I needed to. And I’m still writing the fourth book, and I found it harder than I thought I would to switch from one book to another.

The rules of NaNoWriMo allow me to finish an already-started novel as long as I write 50,000 words in 30 days. I was already just over 50,000 words into High Tide, and I’ve always figured it would be close to 100,000 words (much longer than the other three Speed novels, but it is Gettysburg, after all).

So a couple of weeks ago I abandoned my initial plans and decided to just keep rolling on the fourth book, Jackson Speed at the High Tide.

But November has been terribly busy for me. The boys have had soccer games and tournaments on the weekends and it’s been cold and I’ve been sleepy a lot. The result is I haven’t been writing much at all.

I’ve got six days left in NaNoWriMo and I’ve written somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 words. So I’m not really starting from scratch with just six days to go, but I am very much in a hole.

But I’ve not given up. If I can write an average of 5,000 words over the next six days, I can still win NaNoWriMo, and I think I can do it. I’ve got a couple of days off from work this week thanks to Thanksgiving, and there’re no soccer games this weekend.

So I’m deep in a hole, but I’m committed to seeing this thing through.

I’ll post an update December 1 (or sometime thereabouts) and let you know how it turned out.

In the meantime, keep watching this space. My hope is to release some short stories prior to Christmas for all you people who have Kindles on your wish lists.

50K words in 30 days

The last time I checked the word count I was just over 53,000 words into Jackson Speed at the High Tide. I might be up to about 55,000 now.

I’ve been working on this fourth novel in the Jackson Speed Memoirs for more than a year, pausing periodically to finish up other projects (including Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike which was published in May).

The previous three Speed novels were all between 65,000 and 70,000 words, and generally that is my target length when I’m writing. However, I believe High Tide – which takes up Jackson Speed’s involvement in the three day battle of Gettysburg – is going to turn out to be a good bit longer.

At 53,000 words, I am only up to about 3 p.m. on July 2, 1863 (the moment the second day’s fighting started). Granted, about half of what I have written so far involves the month or so leading up to the war, but I suspect I’m still at least 30,000 words from finishing, maybe more than that. It seems like there is a lot of story left to tell, and I could easily see this book approaching 100,000 words.

My intention was to have the book ready for my editor well before the end of the year (maybe by the end of October), and at my current pace I suppose that’s still possible. Because life and work and kids’ soccer games tend to get in the way, I suspect it could be next spring before I’m done.

I’ve never liked working exclusively on one project. Instead, I like having lots of irons in the fire at one time. So to keep plenty of irons heating up, today I made the decision to go ahead and start the fifth book in the Jackson Speed Memoirs in November.

Among the writing community the NaNoWriMo challenge is a pretty big deal. This is a challenge where you set a goal of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Lots of authors do it with varying degrees of success.

I’m not big on gimmicks, but if you know the story of my first Jackson Speed novel, then you know that I wrote the thing at a frantic pace. I skipped meals, wrote at work, stayed up all night writing and in 28 days I’d knocked out a 65,000 word novel.

But when I did that I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, and I did it from mid-May to mid-June of 2012 so it didn’t count for the National Novel Writing Month.

Since first finding out about it, I’ve thought often about maybe trying to participate NaNoWriMo, and I’ve decided now that I am going to. I signed up today for NaNoWriMo 2014, and I am going to start getting some of the preliminary research done for the fifth Jackson Speed novel so that come November I can hit the ground running.

My goal is to put myself in a position where next spring I can publish back-to-back Jackson Speed novels. I’m really excited about it, and I hope it doesn’t turn into a complete disaster where I can’t get anything done – that’s as possible as being able to finish two novels at roughly the same time.

But, the challenge is made doubly difficult because all through November AMC will be airing new episodes of The Walking Dead, and obviously TWD will take precedence over Jackson Speed (or anything else).