I could spin this blog post so many ways, but they would all come down to late month perils. I know they exist because I’ve suffered them all. They have anything to do with life events like becoming extremely sick (I did that one, too, in 2016). This tale, if a blog post can be thought of as such, is about the NaNos that bookend 2016.
This is also both a cautionary tale and a tale of reassurance. These problems happen to all of us.
The perils of running out of ideas
This one is easy for me to remember. First NaNo. 2014. The one that began on a whim at the last minute. Even so, I had some ideas I wanted to explore and, best of all, I had the first couple of chapters in my mind. That combination, plus passionate enthusiasm and determination (plus adding to an evolving outline each night) powered me to the middle of the month.
Then? Oh, and then…
My lack-of-vision caught up with me. There were flimsy chapters. I lurched from one good idea to another, writing filler in-between. It was my first encounter with the Mid Month Slump. By the last week I knew I’d win NaNo so all I cared about was ending the novel. That win, regardless, was cherished.
The perils of holding too tight to your outline
Another NaNo in 2015, another not-so-great novel. It was my second NaNo, but it was rife with firsts, like my first NaNo about my fantasy world. My process was still clunky, but I did some planning.
Over planned. Well, sort of. I plan more now than I did then. The biggest problem was I was determined to stick with the plan after the disaster of lacking one the year before.
The worst part was, I recognized the problem, but didn’t know what to do. If you plan, you follow it. Right?
My turning point was 2016. I was more flexible during Camp NaNo (Riparia’s Bk1) and again for NaNo (Riparia’s Bk2), but became ill. Even so, that year taught me so much about my inefficiencies and need for flexibility. I realized what was needed, and what wasn’t needed.
The perils of underestimating your novel
This became the theme for 2017. I did it during Camp NaNo that spring when my heroine, at the midpoint, kicked my outline to the curb. She informed me she intended to grow more than I’d planned. So, I revised my plan and revised it and revised it.
Torment Surfacing ended up a far better novel than planned.
NaNo that year followed a similar pattern while drafting Exhuming Truths. The difference was I’d been through it before and was better prepared, and less stressed. My process was coming together and in the aftermath I made a lot of changes, one of which was better utilizing Scrivener.
The perils of overconfidence
This could also be the perils of under-preparing. I wrote Riparia’s Bk3 in 2018 and let the story get away from me. I’d done an excellent job to that point of constricting my novels.
Then, Bk3 happened.
The thing is, it’s a terrific novel, but my ego had grown too big and so I let all the threads in Bk2 run amuck. That’s why the 5-book series has become dormant. I’ve been trying to figure-out how to reign it in. After two years I know, but then Talma Loyal and my computer problems happened so I haven’t edited Bk3 yet.
Imagine my dismay at mid month while putting up record setting daily numbers (for me) to discover my efforts were going to be insufficient to finish the novel by the end of the month. I simultaneously upped my daily word count and began trimming as I went along. It’s why the ending is rushed.
It went wrong because I ignored the warning signs. Too many POVs. Too many threads. Too many characters traveling (my greatest weakness). What I love about Riparia’s novels is that they’re epic without being epic length—until the 3rd, when I revived an old flaw.
That realization, though, led to the great corrections that were 2019 and 2020 when I’ve created flexible plans and limited the scope of the novels. The result is reasonable length fantasy novels written in minimal time. Last year, I wrote Protecting the Pneuma Key and a novella sequel all in November. Currently, I’ve already passed the 3rd Plot Point in Case of the Deadly Stroll.
The joys of learning from your mistakes.
The perils of fatigue
This applies to every year. Writing an entire novel in 30 days or less is no small feat. It’s a lot of hours in the chair, or wherever you write. It’s a lot of isolation (thank you lockdown, for making that easier). It can mean aches in your back, shoulders, neck, wrists, and a host of other places. That I’ve minimized those this year I accredit to having taken up yoga last May.
I mentioned the Mid Month Slump because it’s my archenemy. People talk about their plan falling apart at the end of Wk1 or dropping out during Wk2. My problem has always been weariness between the 10th to the 20th.
Combating that has required, not one magic pill, but a handful. There’s been frequent breaks and yoga. There’s also been refining my process, which makes everything easier. Easy equals sustained enthusiasm. Sustained enthusiasm means moving so fast through the draft that I’m finished before fatigue sets in.
Last year and this year support my position, at least in regards to me. Yet again I’m referring to the importance of finding your process. I’ve found mine for planning (I’m still eating those meals I froze in late September). I’ve also learned to plan, but be flexible, and to not lose sleep over minor problems.
That’s quite an accomplishment for someone who suffers from anxiety.
It’s also carried over to all aspects of my writing. By next week at this time I’ll be launching into a different project to finish out the month. Too, my Christmas gift to myself is Short Story December, which can include novellas. It’s my casual version of NaNo. Last year I wrote over 75K and had a lot of fun. It also applies to revising. Yes, I now love to revise.
Thank you for sharing this, Christina. I have been facing a combination of done of the problems you have discussed here, and then some. I have been agitated, irritated, distracted by so many people, events and of course, loud, loud music – all day and all night. I’ve lost sleep occasionally, been out of ideas and crunched for time, but I have been very, very persistent this year. And though I am far short of the 50k mark, but I have hit my highest-ever NaNo words, and am still going strong. So that’s a win-win for me
Oh, it’s great to hear about your persistence and the gains you’ve made this year. As you’ve seen from my post, I continually refer to the-year-this-happened or the-year-that-happened. You’re having those, too. This will be the year you navigated all the distractions and had your best NaNo. Going forward you’ll build on that. Congratulations!
Thank you, Christina. Yes, in fact, I did notice that and I am looking forward to be able to do the same. This year, despite being utterly horrible, has been a test of my persistent attitude; and I hope I will be able to improve upon that in the years to come
They very fact that you’ve tried, that you’ve made an effort, and that you’ve persevered says quite a lot. Many writers, some even relatively successful, shut down this year in the face of all that’s been terrible about it. A few, though, have turned disadvantage into advantage. They’ve seen how, even in the midst of chaos, they can still grow. You’ve grown.