NaNoWriMo Woes

After last week, I talked about the whole process of writing and winning National Novel Writing Month – or in this case, it’s summer camp incarnation. You have thirty days to write a fifty thousand word novel. To give some clarity, the SFWA defines a novel as being longer than 40k but most adult novels are around 115k or more. The shortest novel I’ve read of late was John Scalzi’s  ’s/he said’ filled Redshirts which I think was about 55k, including the three codas.

I’ve already discussed that NaNoWriMo isn’t about the writing, it’s about the words. You write words and they don’t even have to be good ones, you just need to do 50k in thirty days. I have no problem with this concept, I can easily write that many words within the timeframe. No, my problem is a little more to do with my own concentration span than anything else.

I spent this last week trying to catch up after letting a couple of days lapse without writing. This was essentially a procrastination exercise due to my lack of planning and plot for my fantasy novel. By writing and catching up, I got back on track, writing up to about 21k and then I realised that was it. I couldn’t write another word of The Forgotten Priestess and I felt like a failure. It bugged me, it got to the point where I was losing sleep over this self-imposed deadline and rules I had created.

So I decided to step out, to change the rules.

The problem with me is I’m a bit like Da Vinci. My IQ might only be 112 and I’m certainly no polymath but when I was in school I remember reading about the famed inventor, how he was constantly starting projects and then setting them aside, never to be completed and I remember thinking ‘hey, that’s what I do.’

My normal way of writing is to work on multiple projects; I can’t do them all at the same time but I usually have several on the go. Depending on my Muse, I’ll work on anything from short stories to flash fiction or novels. Most of the time though what I work on falls into specific universes and I have several going strong.

The Carrion Files is my latest one, this is set in a horror-based universe in the near future. However I also have the City of Dragons universe (aka the Cityverse) which is urban fantasy set in my adopted home town of Norwich. The oldest is my Ashterai Chronicles universe, my science fiction-focused magnum opus and that’s what my Muse is driving me towards focusing on.

This yearning has come periodically, to the point where I wrote a novel in the series – The Calling – last summer. Part of me wants to work on revisions to that, another wants me to write a fictional autobiography in the same universe. The loudest shouting comes from Blood and Starstone, an urban scifi novel set in London after First Contact in which an alien priestess has to contend with everything from a genetically engineered plague to old-fashioned murder.

This is what I’ve decided to write for the rest of the month, or at least until my Muse bellows in my ears again. I like juggling projects, I have headspaces for each but it takes me time to break in and out of each universe. At least if I’m working on several stories set in the same headspace, the same universe, it’s easier to jump between them.

The actual writing comes after procrastination. My problem with NaNoWriMo is that it forces me to write and I don’t work well under pressure so I avoid it, leave it as long as possible and then curse my own stupidity. Added to that I have hay fever and it’s actually really hard to write/type/compose when you’re constantly sneezing and your eyes feel like someone has thrown dust at them.

I do all my writing in Scrivener, preferring the full screen mode which gives me a clean space to focus on. I can’t work in silence though so I have playlists set up, audiobooks half-listened to and the repeat button on permanently; I must drive my neighbours mad some days I think. Otherwise I watch a lot of streamed TV and movies, I need things which provide background noise but don’t distract me – basically mundane things like The Great British Sewing Bee, cooking programmes and movies seen so many times that I don’t need to pay attention (Cabin in the Woods, Indiana Jones etc).

But it still sorta feels like cheating, even if I’m going to write fifty thousand words in a month. The rules are relaxed like this for a reason, to make what is a hellish process a little more enjoyable because it’s summer and no one wants to be inside scribbling when they could be basking in the warmer weather. I don’t think it is, after all I know people who have turned NaNoWriMo into National Novella Writing Month or others who have worked on short stories. So there’s nothing wrong with doing things this way, right?

Frankly, I just really want it to be May already!

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