Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 Post-Mortem

nanowrimo qualityFor this year’s NaNoWriMo, I decided to go a different route. Instead of continuing Steam Palace, I decided to use a concept that I had been toying with for years. I wanted to focus on the story of this brilliant detective who’s completely incapacitated, but it turned into something more akin to my first couple NaNo stories, the 30 Days series. More action than mystery, more plot than characters.
First, the facts:
Final Title:
Dead Air: An Archie Magnuson Mystery
56,937 words, my lowest output in 4 NaNo’s, but still a “winner.”
Actual days writing: 25
2,200 words/day, compared to something like 3,200 words/day last year
47 “Scenes”

My goal was lower this year. I was aiming for 60K, so I timed my book accordingly. My 80K first draft last year swelled to 120K by the time I finished 3 revisions. So using the same math, my 56K book may wind up around 84K, not a bad size.
But overall, I’m just not satisfied. I think I know some of the main issues that I fought against this year: Note that most of this stuff I was aware of while I was writing, but I just turned off that damned inner editor and went with it.
  • Not enough time spent planning/plotting. By the time I hit Act IV (of five), I was really lost. Usually this is the most fun part of the book to write, but for me it was a death march. I just plodded forward, forcing events instead of letting them happen.
  • Not taking it seriously. Last year I knew I was writing a novel to publish. This year I was “experimenting” with a new genre. I don’t really think I loved writing Mystery. It’s a lot of work, a lot of detail, and pantsing this kind of thing just doesn’t work. I think I can make this work, but not under these constraints.
  • Falling in love with my characters. I have a tendency to fall in love with certain types of characters (mostly female) and then they start to take over the story because I just want to write about them and give them larger roles than they probably deserve.
  • Lack of Villainy. This problem plagues me. My villains just aren’t bad enough. Yeah he’s a bastard but he doesn’t really do that much bad stuff. I want to create someone the reader wants to throttle, not just be annoyed with.
  • Distractions. Going to a 3-day con in the middle of NaNo was a bad idea (for NaNo…made a few industry contacts for Steam Palace, might post about it). Also, you know what really sucks? Getting sick. I picked up some kind of crud at the con and I’ve been sick ever since. It’s incredibly hard to write when you just want to go back to bed.
  • Why? That’s really basic. I never really answered this. Why did anyone do anything they did aside from me wanting them to? What were their motivations? Backstories? And why should the reader care about any of it?
  • Telling. Well, I’d been in full edit mode for a year, so switching back is hard. It took almost 3 days to just drop the editorial voice inside my head and just write. The problem with this is that so much crap comes out that it’s almost not worth it. Out of all the issues listed above, this is the one that really kills me. This is why if I do a revision, it will be a complete rewrite, just like I did with Steam Palace. Not a single line will remain. And it will take me longer than 25 days.
I’m not sure going forward that NaNoWriMo is the best way to draft a novel. Especially this year when I couldn’t devote as much time as I’d like to plotting and even writing it. But I guess so far I’ve only highlighted the negatives, so here are some positive things:
  • I won! ‘Nuff said. Gimme my damn badge!
  • I have a full draft of a new novel in a new genre.
  • I took a risk. I’m not sure it will pay off in this case, but it’s something.
  • Many good characters/potentially good characters.
  • A couple interesting plot twists
  • Potentially compelling conflicts.
  • Lots of series potential. It only takes one book to sell a series.
So I guess I’m giving myself a mixed grade this year. So what will I do from here? Probably shelve it. I could also do a quick 1-2 week edit and throw it up on some sites to get feedback. But right now I really need to work on selling Steam Palace. I also have a few deadlines for conference submissions.
I hope everyone had a good NaNoWriMo, see you next year!


  1. Congrats on the win and the finish! I'm only half way to 2/3rds through mine, so I'll have to keep chugging along to finish this draft. Now that I've hit 50K though I can take it slower.

    I think I have the same problem with my villains. We'll both have to work on that. As for the telling, I see how that's a problem. I noticed I wrote slower this year because I tried to keep showing so I don't have to re-write as much later.

    Telling is definitely faster though. There are spots I had to just tell to keep the ideas flowing, but when I could I tried to make sure I didn't just tell.

  2. Congrats! I learned the same lesson with SteamCon, and Harry Potter premier the same weekend, and visiting friends, and Thanksgiving the next week. I took a two week break now I need to finish five chapters by the end of the month! (tomorrow.)

    My favorite bullet point of your is the "lack of villainy". Got to have those evil baddies. A lot of the time I like them as much or better than the main character. They just add so much to a story, such depth!

  3. Kudos on your Nano stick-to-it-ness and the win...good for you!

    Your complaints actually hit home for me and I didn't even participate in Nano. The lack of villainy...why are diabolical plans so hard to concoct? Am I too sane?

    Glad that the Steam Con thing went well. Networking is a definite plus.

    Good job.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  4. Don't hate it yet! It may be a brilliant piece. Let it rest if you want to kill it, maybe put it through a quick beta (send it my way I'll look through it), but don't delete ad hoc, don't delete angry.

    Congrats on getting some writing done. You make a great point that my deserve a blog post of its own and it's this: Moving from EDIT to WRITE mode.

    You said you had a hard time making that transition, and ain't that the truth. It's hard to do both at once. Maybe that's the finer point to my post today about writing forward -- turning off your inner editor so you can just WRITE.

    - Eric

  5. See, you're already back into edit mode. And you have a completed first draft - or outline if you prefer to call it that. You already know what you need to work on.

    Not editing during the writing phase was probably the most difficult part of the development. But you did it, finished it. Give yourself a break Andrew. And give your novel a break too. I like all the Kudos you gave yourself :) Well deserved.

    I hope you feel better soon. Good luck with the upcoming conferences.


  6. Great post. Very honest. I sort of felt the same way when I completed my first draft of my first novel - I just wrote and wrote and wrote (based on time and word count) but then the rewriting took years! Now I don't participate in NaNoWriMo, because for me I've learned that going slower at first actually gives me better time overall (writing a novel is like a marathan- you know) Congrats for finishing though!

  7. @Charity: Keep going! Congrats on the 50k! They say the hero is only as good as the hero he faces, so that's something I need to work on.

    @Vickie: Ditto. Maybe I should write a story based around a villain. I actually have one in the works called "The Immortals" where the main villain is an all-powerful deity-like evil person.

    @Raquel: Thanks!

    @Eric: I wouldn't want to torture you like that :)
    I didn't really turn off the inner editor, I just ignored it for a while in the effort to get words on the page.

    @Donna: Editor never left ;). Will put it down for a while. I'm already working on a new idea.

    @Diana: I will be writing draft outside of NaNo the "right" way, but I think NaNo does have it's place.

  8. Congrats! Finishing is always awesome and walking away with so much usable stuff is great.


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