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November 16, 2008

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley

So said my fellow Scotsman, and national poet, Rabbie Burns.  And my best laid schemes have taken a fairly severe knock these past few weeks.  We are at the end of the third weekend of NaNoWriMo.  Past the half-way stage.  My word count should be a minimum of 25,005.  My actual word count is less than half of that.

I can lay the blame for this on so many varied and different problems, but are the pressures of my life really any greater than those of all the other writers taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, who have managed to keep to their word counts?

None of us are professional, paid writers.  All of us do this in our spare time.  I have had two very difficult weeks at work – but who hasn’t had work problems in the past?  Many NaNo winners have tremendously stressful jobs, and still manage.

The global credit crunch has begun to have a direct impact on my own life – but it is a global credit crunch for a reason, all of us in the Western world are affected.

Who amongst us does not have a family life that demands attention, attention that cannot always be given over to writing.  So I am not unique in this regard.

Others manage where this year I have not.  The story is there, I can at times see it replaying in my mind.  But I find myself lacking in the energy or inclination to sit down and get the words out.  I have become a master at the art of procrastination.

Oh well – 15 days left.  Plenty of time I am sure.  Any advice on how to rekindle my enthusiasm and get past this?

  1. November 16, 2008 7:20 pm

    Writing in groups outside of my house really motivates me when nothing else will. The social pressure to not play solitaire and to stay for the two hours I said I was going to stay is a big help. I prefer coffee shops without free internet. And I can’t wander off and vacuum the floors!

  2. November 16, 2008 8:52 pm

    Well, for one, congratulations for keeping on going despite falling behind. I bailed at Day 10 after missing a few days.

    My excuses weren’t unexpected or new. But I failed to concur them and couldn’t keep up.

    Keep at it, I say, though I’m not much of an authority on it.

  3. November 17, 2008 8:56 am


    Your title had me humming that old song all afternoon! I don’t know the correct title, but the words are “na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye.” To that tune, I was going around the house singing “na no no no, na no no no, no no no, no NaNo.”

    You know my opinion on this. I think NaNoWriMo is a great concept, but balk at the artificial imposition of word limits and time constraints.

    You will write when the muse inspires you. If you don’t have the enthusiasm right now, you should give yourself permission to let life intercede and the freedom to write when you feel compelled. It would be different if writing were a professional commitment upon which your livelihood depended. In those circumstances, I find the chorus of my children asking “What’s for dinner, Mom?” has served as ample inspiration over the years. 🙂

    Be well and best wishes for achieving your goals!

  4. November 17, 2008 7:03 pm

    I’ve also been in the muse doldrums and found that taking myself, my son and my favourite fountain pen out of the house, where there were no distractions worked a treat. when my mind isn’t racing at a million miles an hour and my fingers in an attempt to keep up with them … pen and paper work fine. Writing requires more effort and more creativity than merely tapping on keys and the slower pace meant when the words came slowly it wasn’t such a big deal.

    As I’m again in procrastination mode – I think I’ll be reaching for my beautiful fountain pen (thanks Annie!) .. and heading some of Chris Baty’s advice to skim ahead a few chapters (as huge holes are appearing everywhere all of a sudden) and just keep plugging away at the story. After all – there’s 11 other months to fill holes and write missing chapters!

    I started Script Frenzy in April this year (NaNo’s little brother) and I got 17 pages into it – but I didnt’ feel like a failure. I’d had a go at something that I thought was insurmountable with no previous script writing ability.

    Your story wont disappear after NaNo … thankfully! Sometimes life take precedence over fantasy, and if that’s where you have to be right now, it’s obviously the right place for you.

  5. November 18, 2008 12:47 am

    I got stuck for a while – mostly due to work and family – but used Dr Wicked’s Write or Die and got myself quickly on track again. It brought back the purpose of NaNo for me as well – writing without editing.

    Good luck with your words 🙂

  6. November 18, 2008 7:10 am

    I am currently 8000 or so words behind. Which is an improvement, as several days ago I was about 13000 words behind. I have all the usual excuses, plus I was acting in a play early in the month (I wrote the play, too, so it was added stress and nervousness!) and I simply fell behind.

    I’ve found a number of things that have helped me kick start this and write nearly 9000 words in the last three days despite work, the kids’ events and a couple of parties. First, I stopped trying to slog through a chapter that was boring the heck out of me. I gave the chapter a somewhat trite and concocted ending and called it good enough, then jumped into a new chapter, full of intrigue, excitement, broken bones, chase scenes and mud. 4000 words, 2 hours.

    Next, I asked my characters what they wanted to do. I mean, literally… “What do you want to do?” asked MC1. “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” replied MC2. I picked something somewhat random but totally feasible in my world and it worked. I ended up doing the big “no-no” for nano and deleted the two sentences I just typed above, but that was alright as I didn’t need them anymore.

    Finally, what has helped me out too is competing with someone. I picked someone who was consistently above my word count and decided to catch him. I happen to know this guy from in the forums and it turns out that he had made it a goal to stay ahead of me, including a word war widget on his blog showing his and my word counts. Anyway, when I started doing this, I was 11,000 words behind him. As of last night, I was 850 words behind him.

    The final thing I’ve done (in the past, though not yet this year) is I have made my characters write a diary entry or a blog entry or something, anything, to get them to put out their thoughts on an event or a situation they were facing. It helped me to get to know the character and start to like the character, and it was an easy way to move the story to the next event.

    Not sure if any of this helps you or not, but i hope it does. Good luck!

  7. November 19, 2008 4:38 am

    I’m not sure if you’re looking for encouragement or commiseration, nor if things have changed since you posted. But anyway, I still had a word count of zero on day four. By day 12 I was languishing around the 10K mark, and currently I’m hoping to double that, but that is still way short of any milestone.

    Personally I am still “going for it”. My personal view is that writing is damn hard work. NaNo has re-enforced that view, hard. It may be an exhausting marathon with a sprint finish, but I like to imagine I am still in the running. I could not be further from Janie’s point of view; to me writing is hard work, but if you imagine gifted writers have it easy I beg to differ. And if you have any aspirations in that direction at all then publishers of any sort will give you deadlines and suchlike. Nano is no different. So wait for the muse by all means – but it marks you out as an amateur doing it for pleasure, in my view.

    Things that helped me in various ways:-

    Do not think you need pen or paper or desk to be busy, you might be doing hoursework or anything but you can muse and mull the plot and let your characters live their lives even then in your mind – have converstions with them! Tell them to make their minds up if the plot is sticking.

    Those apparently dead early days were actually fertile for me. I had no plot outline (call me a nano purist, I did zero prep.) nor character names/backgrounds/settings I had zilch. the sort of thinking I describe furnished main characters and a plot outline for some 20 odd “chapters”.

    Once you are underway be realistic and mionitor yourself – that way you will know how long a PRODUCTIVE session can last and what your word rate can be in that time. The most I can make is around two hours and it is exceptional if I top 2k words in that.

    From this you can calculate some stats. Sessions/day, words/day, and they need to be set HARD to allow for real life interrupts.

    If they are too much – well hey at least you know now rather than get to 30th and be 5k short (I’d hate that!).

    Keep us posted if you continue – the racing pacing thing is a top tip – I was sort of hoping to catch Rob some time, but he’s likely to outstrip me every time.

    One last thing – you write, yeah? You have flash fictions or other works? Well in a pinch there is ALWAYS a way with fiction to interweave them and cheat up your word count, so to speak. I had a childrens story and incorporated it as narrated by my main character, that was nearly 4k words in an instant hit and something like that may balance the books and make you motivated to carry on. There’s other ways in extremis – no idea if it breaks rulesm but quotes can go in… You can even have other people write bits to help out if you’re personally cool with it.

    Keep us posted.

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