Two days down, twenty-eight to go. Yesterday was the second day in a row life threatened to get in the way. It was also the second day I buckled down and refused to fall short of my goal, even though it meant staying up when I really wanted to curl up under my blankets with a good book. Final word count for the day: 5104.
Yes, I’m fully aware that’s far more words than the “required” 1667, but over the years, NaNoWriMo has morphed from “prove you can write 1667 words every day in November” to “prove you’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure life can’t screw your goals.” For me, that means writing my ass off on the days I can so I don’t feel bogged down by the days we have too much going on for me to hit my daily word count. Then, on those days, I can wake up before the family, get some writing in, and know both my string of writing days (more important than you might think) and my goal deadline remain intact.
A good friend sent me a link last week to what’s called a “reverse NaNo” where you start off strong, with a lower goal each day, until the last day of November, when you only have to write one word to hit the 50,000 word goal. While this is a great concept, there are two reasons it doesn’t totally work for me. First, there’s no way in hell I could stop writing at 49,999 words. It’s just not happening. Knowing myself, even if I followed the word count to the exact number most of the month, I’d have to finish early. But the other reason, the bigger reason, is that knowing myself and my writing habits, I do better if I set a goal to beat the previous day’s word count, taking into account those days I just can’t. But I figured it was worth mentioning here, because I do think it’s a good basic concept, because one of the biggest reasons people don’t finish NaNo is they start strong, then life builds a wall in front of them.
I also hit a writing stumbling block yesterday. For the better part of a year, I’ve loosely followed an outline (remember, I’m not a planner) that works well for romance writers. The frustration that kept me from learning how to plot out my books before I started sooner was that most craft books about outlining don’t really work for romance. That’s where Romancing the Beat saved me. It became my friend. When I found out there’s a Scrivener template that follows the methods and beats of the book, I wanted to invite RtB out for coffee and declare us besties.
But as I’ve mentioned already, I’m not doing what I’ve always done and expecting different results this time. I’m trying to follow the methods in Story Genius to see if I can locate the missing piece of the puzzle in my story-telling. The good news is, I have. I so have. I feel more confident in what I’m writing because I already know the characters and what’s going to happen with them. Hell, I know how the book is going to end because I’ve spent so much time getting to know Dane, the primary character. Now, I have to figure out how to get the romance method that’s worked fairly well for me and the story method that has me excited about writing again to work well together.
In my haste, I made an error. I assumed I knew what I was supposed to do next using the story method and jumped ahead about four chapters. I spent part of the day frustrated because I couldn’t force the scene cards Story Genius was telling me to create (and that I really love) with the beats laid out in Romancing the Beat. At this point, I was about 300 words shy of the reverse NaNo method, 700 shy of my previous day’s goal, and about 1200 short of my personal goal. And my damn brain decided to lock me out because I was overthinking what needed to be done.
Fast forward to last night, when I sat down with Story Genius, determined to at least hit my previous day’s goal plus one word. I read the first few of those chapters I hadn’t bothered to read earlier in the day and it was like the damn floodgates opened. Not only that, but what one method guided me to do slotted so naturally into the other that the words were flying out of my fingers once again. Today, I’m going to sit down and make a plan that’ll see me through to the end of the day before I start writing.
This year, NaNo for me is all about working smarter. I’ve been writing novels for five years now, but too much of that time has been spent throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. If I could go back to 2012 and tell my newbie writer self one thing, it would be this: Take the time to learn about the writing process. Very few people are natural-born master storytellers. Admit what you don’t know. Figure out how to work on your weaknesses. And never stop learning.
Here’s a snippet from yesterday’s writing. Once again, this is a completely unedited excerpt which may or may not appear in the final story.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but is it really a great place to live for a guy like you?” Shit, there was no other way to take that than offensive.
“What, you mean someone short and cute?” Brook smiled, causing his already high cheekbones to lift even higher. I had friends —acquaintances— in New York who’d kill to get their hands on that face. His eyes sparkled with pending mischief, his jaw soft without being feminine. He was dressed more casually than earlier, and the tank top beneath his open short-sleeved button down drew my eye straight to his collar bones. Simply put, the guy was a walking wet dream. And still, quite possibly too young for me to even be thinking about.
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I meant.” I laughed, bumping my arm against his shoulder.
“Oh, so you must mean the flaming gay thing.” I coughed, taken by surprise by his deadpan delivery. He shrugged again, and I’d be damned if I didn’t lick my lips as I stared at the exposed skin at the base of his neck. He cleared his throat, warning me that I’d been caught. “It may not be the greatest place, but it’s not the worst, either. Beach life is its own breed. People out here are laid back for the most part, don’t give a damn what you do or who you do it with as long as everything’s legal.”
“But what do you do for fun? Where do you go when you want to get laid? It seems like the type of place where everyone knows everyone’s business.” I needed to shut the hell up before Brook told me to fuck myself. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me.”
“Depends on why you were asking.”
“Knowledge is power,” I said, trying to keep the conversation from turning awkward. “If I’m going to be here for a while, it’d be cool to know where to go and where to avoid.”
Brook grinned, squeezing my biceps. He didn’t let go, but I was totally fine with his hand resting on my arm. “Don’t you worry, honey, I’ll show you all the hotspots. And after next weekend, the pickings will be ripe. All that tourist flesh looking for a quick release.”