NaNo 2012: A View from the Top

Winner badge 180x180

That’s me! As of Monday, around eleven-ish. I promised myself if I finished by midnight I would buy myself a winner’s shirt so Merry Christmas to me! I wrote ten thousand, thirteen words in a single day. A personal best, without a doubt.

Now I can clean up my house and give up soda and take up exercise to make up for abusing myself and my surroundings for the past month in the name of fiction. But first!

At the beginning of this month, a fellow WriMo asked me if it was harder to write my first novel or its sequel. I couldn’t really answer that question at the time, but I feel qualified to tackle it now.

Thoughts, Lessons, and Other Stuff from NaNo 2012

1. I finished writing several days earlier this year than I did last year. One might say I had become a better writer or that writing a sequel was easier, however my husband was able to point out from his relatively impartial perspective that I had all year to think about Starsand and plot it out in my head, while Grove was started in a seat-of-the-pants moment late on October 31st (or early Nov. 1st if you want to get technical). All year to sort out plots and playlists and ponder my characters and their motivations.

2. My actual writing was slower with Grove, because I was not particularly practiced and questioned my choices on everything from tense to specific words. Starsand was easier because those choices had been made, and I had a template of tone and world to follow.

3. On the other hand, I spent a lot more time staring at the screen with Starsand, debating with myself over how things would happen given my characters and world. How they would see things. How they would say things. I had parameters and history to contend with, I couldn’t just start fabricating things when the writing got rough without considering how it fit into what I already had.

4. I like Starsand now a lot more than I liked Grove when I finished it. That felt like the seed of something good, this feels like…something good. I am excited about it. I kind of love it. It isn’t quite finished, but it’s close.

5.  With Grove, I skimmed over events that I didn’t know how to write well…or ones whose place in the narrative felt uncertain to me. Sometimes it felt like writing scene-to-scene-to-scene. I wrote Starsand in a much more linear fashion, it flowed like telling a story out loud. I only skipped around when I got good and truly stuck.

6.  Writing Starsand was what I needed to do in order to be ready to edit Grove. It needs some fairly major surgery, but that seed of goodness remains. I just have a much clearer picture of what it’s supposed to grow into, now. I understand what it’s about. I understand all my plots and how they should relate. I am no longer terribly concerned that it will hurt anyone’s feelings or offend anyone or cause Conservative Christians to build book-burning bonfires (it might, I’m just not worried about it).

7. Last year’s NaNo was more exciting, more fun even (maybe), because I didn’t know if I could do it. I had that thrill of daring myself to do something ambitious. This year I started knowing I could, with my work clearly cut out for me. It was a different kind of challenge, and one that often felt like the work it was. A challenge of refinement, rather than one of creating something compelling from whole cloth.

8. I’m thinking I may try to become an ML next year because our region’s turnout has just been sad. I was completely alone at the last write-in!

9. I still do not have a firm grasp on how to punctuate dialogue.

10. I like writing dialogue and setting more than almost anything. Describing physical expressions/postures/actions and emotional states, not so much. A tendency toward the cliché.

Since I am sitting here listening to my Starsand playlist, enjoying how appropriate it ended up being despite the late-night addition of one seriously questionable song by Grizzly Bear,  that’s what I’m going to leave you with. If you don’t have Spotify, you should get it because it’s free and it’s one of the best things.

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2 responses to “NaNo 2012: A View from the Top

  1. Huge congrats on the NaNo win! Sounds like you learned a lot, and I enjoyed reading about your insights.
    For me, NaNo has a way of turning best laid noveling plans to waste. I have a lot of words, but will need to do a LOT of editing!
    I learned about Spotify last year. I love it too. 🙂

  2. I think I don’t do NaNo the way that it is intended because I delete things and spend a lot of time thinking instead of writing, but I figure if I hit 50k by the end what difference does it make? The goal keeps me from getting permanently stuck in my mental loopholes and quandaries.

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