Surviving the Crash and Burn: NaNoWriMo Wrapup.

And that's it. The end of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for 2016. The aim: to write fifty thousand words in 31 days - a short novel from start to finish. For more information on NaNoWriMo click HERE.  Those who 'win' gain glory and prizes - including discounts for writing software and editing, free eBook creation, and a free masterclass by James Patterson. Mostly it's for the glory - the satisfaction of finishing the first draft of a novel. This year my project was the third journal in Viola Stewart's adventures - The Illusioneer & Other Tales.

Did I win? No. I managed just over 17,200 words. Technically I crashed and burned on day sixteen. november Did I fail? No. "But you only managed half the word count goal?", you say. "So what," say I. And here's why:

There is more than one way to win in NaNo. Just participating - getting off my butt, putting pen to paper, cajoling my brain into production and not giving into procrastination is a huge win.

The week before NaNo, I had given into anxiety (What if I haven't got another book in me? What if it's crap?) and devoured chocolate in an effort to feel better. NaNo loomed. Two days to go and I wasn't ready! Out came the notebooks. I dove into the internet, researching nineteen century illusionists, Victorian beach holidays and the Loch Ness monster (amongst other things).

November started with promise. I had a goal. I had a deadline. I was going to make it! Then real life happened. Doubts crept in. By day sixteen I was exhausted. The migraines started and I still had Supanova (convention) to content with. I tried to push through. I got frustrated, annoyed, anxious.

Then I remembered writing is like an iceberg. The reader glimpses but a fraction, the final product. There's a lot more to a novel than just the final words on paper. The foundation is the important thing.

Once I gave myself permission to 'fail' at NaNo, I managed to relax. My migraine faded. The anxiety abated. I could think more clearly. My health improved. I wrote notes. Lots of notes. Clues required later in the story; plot threads to be gathered and finalised. I drew a map, vital to follow the action and make my life easier when I returned to work on the first draft.

If I hadn't had those NaNoWriMo statistics staring back at me,  I may have continued to wallow. I didn't moan that I had a block  or I was going to fail. Instead, I asked myself: what else can I do to help achieve my final goal?

NaNo was just one of many tools in my writing box. A way to get closer to my final goal. By the end of the month, I had completed more than one-third of my final goal - the third installment to Viola's adventures. In turn, this encouraged me to start looking at the final book cover. I even got out of my chair and got some gardening done (yeah for exercise and endorphins).

So, how did I really do for NaNoWriMo? If you only look at the numbers on my dashboard then, yes, technically I did crash and burn. But in my heart, I beat this bout of anxiety. In my heart, I won.

And that's what really matters.

Decisions, Decisions.

I've been mucking around for the past two months. Lots of crocheting to get Octoarm scarves ready for sale for upcoming events. A bit of writing here, a bit of writing there. Most of the writing has been on blog posts - with time spent on research, rewrites, photos.

Today I realised I have been using blog writing to procrastinate on my story writing. I have only managed one short story (and jotted down some ideas for two others) since August. This is significantly down on previous efforts. Frankly, I am out of practice and in a rut. The main victim has been my novel manuscript. Time spent blogging and social networking has taken its toll. This is not a good thing, given I am trying to make a career out of writing. Even my costume making has suffered.

It's time to take stock. Do I want to get my book completed? And what do I need to facilitate this? The answers were: Hell yeah and spend more time working on my manuscripts. If I want to make my deadlines for The Department of Curiosities and the next set of The Adventures of Viola Stewart, decisions had to be made: less time writing personal blogs and only scheduled time on social media.

November NaNoWriMo is looming  - the perfect opportunity to get a big chunk of writing done and the perfect time to start my new regime: From November I will be only blogging once per week. On Sundays (Australian time) I am all yours, blogging here as usual. I hope you stick around and keep reading while I continue to work on my next books, so you read them early next year.

Not Just Soggy Around the Middle

First read through and rough rewrites on The Department of Curiosities is progressing. I have a long list of notes for the next rewrite, more research of facts and scenes to change or exorcise. Rewriting the beginning is, in a weird way, fun. I can revisit the excitement of a new adventure. Help my characters grow and add more va-voom.

soggy middle notes

But the middle? Argh!

Why do I keep stalling? It's not just the trudging through the myre of the soggy middle. It's first draft is done and discussed in Of the Muddle of the Middle and Other Inconveniences. I thought it would be easier attacking rewrites for this section. During my procrastination-research stage, I read many blogs and articles specifically on writing the middle (act 2) of a story. It seems I am not the only writer to say it: Rewriting the middle is drudgery.

I need to kill my darlings. In every sense of the phrase. Let me just talk about rewrites (or spoilers!) I need more action. I need to consolidate the twists and plots. I need to tighten the belt around that soggy middle.

I'm off to another writing class next month: Power up your writing.  Perfect timing. I need to start my next rewrite with a new eye, new skills and gumption.

But that is not my only hurdle.

I can't believe I wrote Of the Muddle of the Middle and Other Inconveniences over a year ago. To be fair, I have written and published three short stories and a novella, Doctor Jack, while I procrastinated my way around a specific scene. One I am now facing once more.

I thought the middle was a muddle for my head. Act three is just as wracking. Remember the darlings I mentioned. I don't want to part from my characters. They have been with me for over a year of writing and floating in my imagination for twice that. When I finish that last scene, they will have changed. That part of their story is ended. Some will return for another. Some may not.

So it's not just a soggy middle I am wallowing in. There is reluctance to give up my darlings and move on. Time to hitch up my belt, set my sights on the end and exercise those writing muscles.

I can do this.