Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pens Down ... Now!

Ah, December 1st - the last month of the year, the beginning of summer Down Under, and the end of NaNoWriMo 2010!

I’m feeling a little shell-shocked today, I must say. Very glad that I've got a whole heap of new words to add to my manuscript, for sure, but writing like a fiend for a solid four weeks very much lost its appeal by week three; and keeping up the writing once I’d hit the 50K mark early was especially hard. I think the other gals at ATWOP experienced much the same reaction, which really is only to be expected - writing at sprint-pace is far too exhausting and draining to keep up for too long (unless you’re our incomparable Kristen, whose modus operandi is to pump out words at NaNo-rate anyway!)

So, what do we do now all the crazy writing is over?

First, pat yourself on the back for all that writing you achieved, regardless of whether you reached the 50K or not. Dedicating any substantial amount of extra time to your writing is always to be congratulated.

And then? Well, if you’re anything like me, first on the list will be the neglected housework. I didn’t live like a total slob for the month of November, but my already low standards slipped considerably and there’s a mountain of dusting and vacuuming and laundry and general putting away of crap to be tackled. After that, I’ll be dragging my butt back into my daily exercise routine. I tell you, it was very nice to have those gym free days every week, but the newly snug fit of my clothes tells me I loved those days just a little too much.

But there’s also the fun stuff to catch up on ... like reading. I haven’t had a good cup-of-tea-on-the-couch-with-a-book session all month, and I’m in desperate need of one. Reading is one of the most pleasurable things to do in life, not least for the fact that reading other people’s finely crafted words fires up my own desire to write … and I will be in need of a boost in that department because even though NaNo is done, I plan to keep a few of my NaNo habits in place.

I used to write nearly every day pre-NaNo; now, I will make sure I DO write every day, come hell or high water. Why? A few reasons.

Firstly, I want this draft done by December 31st and I’ll need to write every day if I’m to do that. But more importantly, the NaNo-enforced writing every day has been quite a revelation for me. I now see how much better grip I keep on my plot and my characters if I’m delving into their world every single day. And how the words - the right words - come so much more easily when I’m not trying desperately to pick up from where I left off after days of neglect.

Another NaNo habit I’ll be keeping is the setting of a daily word count goal. I'm not nuts enough to think I can continue the NaNo level of daily wordage, but I think between eight hundred to a thousand words a day should be achievable. But by far the best habit I'm going to keep is the firm enforcement of the "no editing allowed" rule. I think it's the main reason I managed to pump out 65K that I did because it prevented me from falling back into my very bad habit of procrastinating-by-editing, which in the past has often stopped my writing dead in its tracks.

So after the cleaning, the exercising and the reading, I'll be giving my new habits a healthy work out; but only after I've had a break. And I suggest that if you've just come down from NaNo, you do the same, even if you're simply dying to get back and revise all those shiny bright words. Just stop. Switch off the computer. Walk away from the words.

And if your NaNo words are for a completely new project, then do not look at them, not even a paragraph, for at least a month. Longer, if you can stand it. Time and distance are your friends at this stage of the game, and you will need them in plenty if you, the creator, are to be as unbiased as you can when it comes time to revise your NaNo draft. If you wait, by the time you get back to you work you will have fallen out of love with it just enough to give you the objectivity to see the all the pimples and warts ... to see that the scene you laboured over for days, the one that you love and adore, actually drags the pace of your story to a screeching halt; to see that there is no way your heroine would do what you have her doing on page thirty-nine; that the subplots you thought were flashes of inspired brilliance are just not pulling their weight.

And on the flip side, time and distance may make you view something you immediately think of as rubbish, a little more fairly.

It’s just a fact of the writing life that objective judgment calls can only be made once the dust has settled, when you’re ready to be ruthless, and coming off the NaNo writing high is simply not the time to do it.

And if, like me, your NaNo words were for an existing draft, you still need space before you judge the results. You might allow yourself a shorter break between finishing and starting revisions, just to keep the momentum up, but still, take that time away from the work, if only to recover your sanity after the shock and awe that was NaNoWriMo 2010!

So, they're my post-Nano plans. What are yours?

1 comment:

  1. Er, coming back to this - is it okay if I *still* have neglected housework?
    Post NaNo plan in short - finish the dang draft!