Posted by on Nov 30, 2016 in On Writing: Craft and Commiseration, Personally..., The Complete Novels of Jane Austen Now New and Improved | 0 comments

Unicorn because NaNoWriMo = whimsy

Unicorn because NaNoWriMo = whimsy

Here’s what November 2016 looked like in writing…

Yearly Goal
765,239/600,000 words (128%) <- we’ll discuss this at length in a future post

Monthly Goal
My original goal was to pass last year’s count of 117,716 but then I was like, haha, are you DAFT, woman? and just aimed for survival instead.

Total Words Written
102,579 words

Average Words Per Day
3,419 words

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winnerThings completed:

Other Works Actively in Progress this Month:

  • The MG novel nicknamed WOC1
  • A book of tips for getting through a draft of a novel (ie NaNoWriMo)
  • 4th Orange


So, November, huh? If you know me in person, you know that whenever a bunch of really annoying or crappy stuff is happening, I usually joke that it’s OK because at least I’m building lots of character. Let’s just say this month I built a small mountain of character, more than I thought was humanly possible. I am good on character for life, pretty much.

Oh. My. Gracious.

I don’t want to bore you with the long list of things that were putting on the pressure or going wrong this month but the bulk was a lot of packing, rushing around and manual labor trying to get our house ready to stage and sell on a nearly impossible timeline. Add that we were on our own and my poor husband was doing the work of 7 people and I was doing lots of bending and lifting at a time when I wasn’t supposed to be doing either. Then came a host of big picture stresses that complicated everything followed by what I suppose will be hilarious in retrospect but right now are just incredibly infuriating incidents of such wild bad luck that it made us think we’d pissed off an evil spirit at some point and not realized it.

Meanwhile, the toddler is incredibly out of sorts from all this moving chaos (understandably) and this has manifested in her acting nothing like herself during the day and barely sleeping at night which is not ideal for anyone. Then, of course, there was the election. The political turmoil this month and fear of what it means for the future hasn’t been good for anyone’s mental health, let alone conducive to making art.

Oh, yeah. On top of all that stuff above, I was also ML-ing NaNoWriMo, which is itself a nearly full time job’s worth of work, and trying to write my own obligatory 50,000 words. (I wasn’t just doing this to myself to be sadistic. MLs are contractually obligated to hit 50k and I am not one to back out of a prior commitment.)

So it was a month of physical pain (mostly my back, my poor back, which feels like an alien is going to rip it’s way out of my spine at any moment) and complete physical fatigue both from manual work and from my body needing rest and never getting any. On top of that, it was a mentally taxing month, from parenting and house buying/selling highs and lows, the stress of the looming real estate deadlines, the rush to get everything done in time, the literal and figurative pressure on my body because of my current condition and the same fear about the future of our country everyone’s been going through. It was a month where I collapsed in bed every day, way too late, desperate for a break,  but I kept going at the same breathless pace the next day because I had to.

I am a pretty chill person. I can take a lot of pressure before any kind of cracks start to show. But I’ll be the first to admit that everything that has been going on the last few months leading to these 30 days of complete insanity has left me an absolute mess. I’ve had this near constant feeling of what I’ve been calling exhaustion, though that doesn’t seem like the right word for it. It’s a feeling of my entire body, inside and out, being completely over life. It manifested as this constant weight on my chest like a gremlin was sitting there getting fat and heavy off all the anxiety that I couldn’t shake even when I was feeling only a normal amount of whelmed. And I ignored this feeling for weeks and weeks because there was so much work to be done that I had no choice, so I have been living by this weird brute force method for a long time that has at no point felt healthy.

I’m sure this feeling has a proper medical name but I don’t know what it is. I’m not sure I need to. I know it’s bad and I need to get a handle on it, and by extension my life, as soon as everything settles into a more normal speed.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I know I put on a good face, especially during NaNoWriMo with all the pep talks and the growing word count, but I promised these monthly recaps would be a warts and all look at what was really going on and it seemed wrong not to just lay it out there. I am a wreck right now, yo.

If I’m honest with myself, I probably should have taken NaNoWriMo off this year or at least halved my effort. It certainly would have made things a lot easier and was the only thing in my crazy schedule that I could have cut out. But while it would be easy to blame the volume of writing I’ve been doing, I really think that was a minor thing compared to the ridiculous pile of external factors going on this month. Afterall, I’m always writing a ton… it’s all the other crap that was new. I also think, in a lot of ways, the writing was important as it was the only thing keeping me together when I would have otherwise fallen apart.

So that’s the background to the numbers above, nearly every single one of which I wrote during a NaNoWriMo event I was obligated to be at in my role as ML. I end up writing a ton for NaNo these days just by virtue of the fact that I’m expected to be at all these events where I have to write and my region expects me to put up big numbers at the Region vs Region Word Wars we do so I put in maximum effort for each sprint. Because of this, I hit 50k early so I felt obligated to go to 100k because I was being a NaNo rebel (and doubling the goal is my own weird stupid code to justify verifying as a winner when I wasn’t writing a single novel like everyone else).

So what was I actually writing for NaNoWriMo? A lot of random stuff, not all of which was useful.

My goals this month were loose and I managed to end the month feeling simultaneously like I did a pretty good job hitting them considering the circumstances and that I failed them completely and should go live in a dark hole. Let’s talk the fails first. I really wanted to finish two of the non-fiction books I had outlined, both of which I’d started already. These were the Self Publishing a Stage Play book and a book about doing Prep for NaNoWriMo which I hoped to have out next Fall. Unfortunately, because both of these involved actual thinking and also some editing (because portions were written already), I found them near impossible to work on because of all the chaos going on in the rest of life. I just did not have the brainpower to be coherent enough to get them done and that makes me kind of sad because it would have been really great to have finished drafts of those done by the end of this month. Oh well.

But in the win department, in October, I’d outlined another NaNo book of lesser importance at the last minute which I did finish this month. That was nice. I don’t yet know what, if anything, I’m going to do with this book, mind you, but it’s always good to have something else up your sleeve.

Now my biggest goal for the month was to try to get unstuck in my MG novel by writing some flashbacks and backstory stuff to try to plug some plot holes. While there’s still some research to do and the outline isn’t quite there yet for the rewrite, I actually did manage to get a lot done with this, to the point where stuff that has always been muddy is finally clear to me and makes sense. It’s not as much progress as being able to start a new draft tomorrow with a perfect plot, but considering everything going on, it feels like a win. But it also convinced me that the issue with getting this book done this year wasn’t me and my writing ability, it was overwhelmingly all the insane personal pressure and mental exhaustion pulling at me from all sides so I couldn’t concentrate on anything, let alone the intricacies of a book. I have no idea what the future will hold or when I’ll next get a chance to work on this book, but it feels good to know it’s a bit more together than it was before when I do finally get back to it.

Another win, which I hadn’t even set as a goal, was that I also figured out a final lingering issue in 4th Orange. This one I actually could start a new draft tomorrow (except that I will be taking a break for the foreseeable future, see chest gremlin of doom discussed above) which is really great because a) it gives me something concrete to work on which b) will in turn give me a new full length play to shop around and get produced if I take a break next year. Having a new full length to promote would be a great way to stay in the game even if I don’t have time to write so I’m eager to see where that goes.

Somewhere in there I did final edits on The Complete Novels of Jane Austen: Now New and Improved which is now available for sale!

Lastly, the rest of my words in November were spent on journalling. So much journalling. Cute toddler stories, yes, but also long introspective rambles about my life, my writing process and career and everything else stressing me from the election, move and beyond. I have mixed feelings about this huge stack of works that is basically just me talking to myself.

From a money and career standpoint, it would have been much more useful to have finished one of those non-fiction books. But from a mental health standpoint, it was literally all I had the brainpower to write. I needed something I could write for NaNo events and sprints once I finished working out plot issues and the NF book anyway and I was honestly losing all of my shit and on the verge of a total nervous breakdown so it was nice to have someone to talk to… even if that someone was just me. As to whether any of the writing will be useful in the long term? Honestly, you never know. I learned some things about me and my writing process which will help in the future. And having a snapshot of my mental state right now might come in handy if I try to write about any of this chaos later. But, most of all, it kept my pen moving and kept me writing regularly when the stress was so much that I would have otherwise quit and I think that’s the biggest thing.

So while I didn’t finish this NaNoWriMo on the word high of years past and I’m actually much gladder to see the month go than I usually am, I still feel better about this year’s writing than I did in 2012, which was a similar year of stress and chaos on a slightly lower level but where I ended the month feeling like it was all a complete waste of time. Whatever this year’s NaNoWriMo was, it was not a waste of time. So whatever else I’ve got to show for it, I’ve got that.

Up Next

Remember how optimistic I was in October’s update? About how I wanted to just slow down and putter around and work on whatever I felt like for a while, maybe learn how to fall in love with writing again? Yeah, I clearly never got to do that in this month of insanity so that’s on the schedule for December. I fully expect to work on nothing but some tinkering on my word count spreadsheets (since November ends my writing year) and making pretty graphs of my writing progress since my weird brain finds that calming.

Of course, history has shown that I am very bad at taking breaks so when I eventually do sit down to write again, I imagine that finishing up 4th Orange with the epiphanies of this month will be first on the list. That’ll be a big project, since it’ll mean going back to trim everything I’ve written so far for that play by half which will be no small feat, but it would be awesome to get done at some point before the new year so it would be well worth the effort.

It’s also probably inevitable that I’ll work on the MG novel again before the year is out. The good thing about the book being about Christmas is that the Christmas season itself is very inspiring and ideas come to me instead of my seeking them out. One of many things that sucks about moving is that we can’t decorate for Christmas this year (I know. And with a three year old who’s the perfect age for this stuff? It sucks extra.) so I’m not seeing holiday stuff day to day like I usually am but I hope to take more Christmas-y outings with my little buddy once life calms down a bit. That project is always top of my priority list and I really hope to have a draft for betas as soon as humanly possible but I also need to balance that with my need to slow the hell down for health and sanity.

Yes, I will be very glad to see the back of November. I hope to aggressively do as much nothing as I can in December, reading and playing video games and trying to find an oasis of peace for myself in the middle of all the life stuff going on. This was a very hard month to cap a very hard year, but I achieved more than I ever thought was possible and blew my goals out of the water so it’s hard not to walk away without some feeling of satisfaction. I’ll be back in a few days with a big picture look at my 2016 writing year overall but, for now, I’m signing off on this pile of words tired but pleased with what I accomplished.