What’s ironic about the fact that this is the latest I’ve ever posted a monthly recap is that I actually wrote most of this post in mid-November and I’m just having such a busy December that I’m only just now having the chance to post it. (Christmas + my kid’s birthday + baby + husband working a whole lot has made for a super hectic month with far too many all nighters and too few moment for my stuff.) But NaNoWriMo 2017 deserves a proper debrief so let’s get down to it.
Here’s what November 2017 looked like in writing…
Total Words Written This Month
85,858 words (Yay palindrome!)
Average Words Per Day
50,000 (to win NaNo)
610,622 / 500,000 (122%)
- Won NaNoWriMo 2017!
- Completed my 7th year as ML of Northeast New Jersey (Which is so much work, you guys. So much.)
- Outlined a contemporary adaptation of a Carlo Gozzi play I still refuse to admit I’m adapting
Other Works Actively in Progress this Month:
- The Months… thingie
- So many letters to my reps. So. Many.
I have some mixed feelings about this month so I’m going to start with a focus on the positive.
My primary goal for this month was survival and I achieved that. I successfully ran all my events, fulfilled all my ML obligations AND hit the NaNo target despite baby, political chaos, husband working all hours and being out of the country on business for a week, kids being sick, baby teething, etc. For most of November, and even October, I wasn’t sure I’d successfully make it all the way through the month so the fact that I did and hit all my marks is a triumph of itself.
There was also a cool high point mid month and that was getting to see an amazing premiere of my new play. That play represents several years of hard work and seeing it come to life was a wonderful experience. Now that I’ve seen in on its feet, I’m only a few tweaks away from calling it done which is incredibly exciting for a project of this size.
And, like, I wrote a ton of words. My fourth highest word count month of all time. But, as so often happens, the months I wrote the most are not necessarily the most productive so let’s talk about that…
I ran multiple NaNo Prep sessions where I helped people get everything set up to write their novels this NaNoWriMo which is why it’s particularly ironic that I never got a chance to prep anything for ME to write during NaNoWriMo. This has become a common theme since I became an ML. I spend so much time and effort trying to make everyone else’s November magical and productive that my own writing projects fall by the wayside.
I thought it would be OK, though. I had The Months project I talked about here that I was going to “pants” as the kids say during sprints and then, surely, I’d find time to prep something else during the month itself. In between these things, I would finish editing these three projects I needed to get done! Even without doing any prep, it would still end up being a super productive month!
But instead life was like…
I threw a whole bunch of words at it but it quickly became clear that The Months thingie wasn’t happening. I didn’t know enough about it to write yet and I was wasting my time working on it until I knew what I was doing. And people kept saying, “No, keep at it! You’ll have a breakthrough! Believe in unicorns and the magic of writing!” but, like, kiddies, I am not new at this. I know when something is ready to be written and when I’m forcing something that is not ready yet and this was the latter. I will absolutely write this thing someday because I like the idea but this was not that day. It’s gotta go back into the percolator for a bit first.
So I shelved it. But since I still hadn’t had time to prep anything else but still needed something to write in sprints, I just kind of floundered around for a while writing random things. Blog posts. Journal entries. Letters to my reps. Pep talks and regional emails for my region. Literary busy work, basically, just to keep the word count growing. And it was super frustrating.
Luckily, I finally get some time later in the month to do some prep and research and managed to at least use the last days to finish the outline and part of a draft of a new play adaptation I’ve been thinking of doing. It was nice to get at least a start on that, if frustrating that I couldn’t finish the whole draft because of the late start, but it was at least something and I’m hanging onto that.
Because the rest of the month felt like a big ole stressful waste of time.
My NaNoWriMo Problem
I love NaNoWriMo. I love what it did for me as a writer. I love watching what it does for other writers and shepherding Wrimos through their first drafts every year. The event is very important to me and I believe strongly in its mission.
NaNoWriMo works best when you’ve got a draft you’re passionate about that you want to get done in a hurry. My best NaNoWriMo years are the ones when I am using those 30 days to write towards the end of a brand new project or doing a total rewrite. Those years, NaNoWriMo is fun, motivational, and inspiring. To that end, in order to ensure a happy and productive November, I have to plan my writing life so that I have new project or rewrite that I’m excited about to write by midnight on October 30th every year.
But with how many projects I’m juggling and how little writing time I get these days, that is nearly impossible. So I either have to drop everything and start a new project every year to participate in NaNo or ignore my revision obligations and current works in progress to do the kind of literary thumb twiddling described above. This year was the latter and it was soul crushing. And the problem comes entirely from the combo of being an ML and running word sprints.
Sprints are like writing races. They’re a big part of NaNoWriMo and pretty much the only way I write any kind of first draft. I am a big fan. But it is almost impossible to “sprint” a revision.
As the ML, I can’t opt out of word sprints, wars and other competitive writing challenges for many reasons the biggest of which is because I’m the one running them. So while you can do editing or revision for a NaNo project, I, personally, can’t. Or, rather, I can, but just not during a NaNo event I’m hosting. I can edit on my own time as long as I have something in reserve that I can write quickly for sprints (which I almost always do). But when the only writing time I have all month IS NaNo events I’m hosting, as happened this year, it means I spend the entire month doodling around, sprinting random things, while the revision projects that I actually WANTED to be working on sit untouched. So NaNo ends up being a very wordy month with lots of writing… but none of it is what I want to be working on. It’s a big problem.
You know I am forever on the team that says any writing is good writing. Anything that keeps the pen moving, even something random or that seems unproductive, is always better than doing nothing at all. But there’s a big difference between being stuck on your main project and working on the kind of random writing I just described just to keep yourself going and where I was last month, which was desperate to work on my main projects but unable to because of the nature of NaNo and my role as an ML.
I’m at the point in my writing life where I don’t want to write something new just for the sake of it when I have other projects I’m already excited about that I need and want to finish first. So wasting what little writing time I have writing something just for the word count and playing along is not fun for me. It’s only annoying. And November is an especially weird month because I am, in theory, getting all this extra writing time I wouldn’t normally get because of all these designated write-in times and events I’m running… but I can’t actually use any of that time for the writing I need or want to do because of the nature of the beast!
For example, I saw my play mid-month and immediately noticed a few revisions I wanted to make to the script before the next production in January. The following week I had the rare benefit of childcare on two nights buying me the unimaginable luxury of two kid free evenings in which I could have done these revisions I was eager to make… but instead I was running NaNo events for all of that time, writing any old thing so that I could play along with my region. And, yes, those write-ins were fun and the stuff I wrote those nights will be useful someday in its own way, so I don’t regret it per say. But the fact that I had to put the writing project that was important to me and my career, the one that I was passionate to write, on hold so I could play the NaNoWriMo game… sucked. And when I tell you that we’re mid December and I *still* haven’t had time to make those revisions to the script, you can see how I look back at those times in November when I had some help but had to burn that time on writing random nothing and how it would start to sour me on the whole thing.
And a lot of the problem is because of where I am right now. Someday my kids will be older, I will have more writing time and more freedom to schedule my writing year better. If I had more time to write overall, I could make better use of all that November sprinting time and would resent it far less because it wouldn’t be all I get for the month. But, in the meantime, it’s making November toxic for me and my writing and I need a solution. Maybe it’s disappointing my Wrimos by ducking out of a sprint or two. Maybe it’s cutting back on ML stuff so I have more time to concentrate on prepping my own writing projects (and scaling back how much ML work I do is not a bad idea on several levels because it’s getting out of control).
I don’t know the solution. I’ll have to mull it over the next year. But I do know that a month like this one was no good for my writing life and I need to make sure I’m not in this position again.
December is so busy between holidays and birthdays and everything that I don’t expect to get more done than my usual annual spreadsheet tinkering and end of the year round-up stuff. In years past, I got a lot of writing done over holiday break because my husband was home to watch the kids (I famously wrote an entire book in that week a few years ago) but he’s working over break this year so I don’t expect to get much more time than usual. But at least now I can work on whatever I want at the pace I want with no ML work hanging over my head so that’ll help get me back on track.
I really super need to do the play revisions mentioned above and hope I’ll get the chance to do them soon because they are priority one. Then comes finishing up the 4th Orange full length (which is mostly fine tuning and trimming for length). And then, for all my grousing, I really did get a pretty solid start on that new adaptation this November and I hope to be able to get a real draft of that done very soon.
But, boy, did this month leave me burned out on writing and NaNoWriMo and everything. And the crappy current events aren’t helping this feeling AT ALL.
Luckily, November ends my writing year so I can leave that mess in the past. December is a fresh start with a whole new goal and none of the baggage so it’s a nice mental break after the chaos of November. Here’s hoping the year ahead is a better one on every level!
NaNoWriMo or not, how did your November in writing go?