Monday, November 10, 2008

Me As a Writer

I decided to do NaNo because, aside from wanting to write another novel and partake in the insanity, I wanted to learn a little more about myself as a writer. Until this month I haven't written with concrete deadlines, with someone to answer to if I don't meet my goals - at least not since college...

One of the things I told Ibis I hope to accomplish is see how much I can write in a given day, consistently. We've all had those times when the stars aligned and we knocked out an unbelievable word count, but could I do it every day? While writing The Other Side, a good day was 800 words. I occasionally broke 1000, but anything over 500 was acceptable. Now the minimum is 1667, but of course I can't settle for the minimum and have challenged myself to write 2000 per day. So far I've done pretty well and as of last night I was 5000 words ahead of schedule.

But can I keep it up? We're not quite to the halfway mark and since my goal is 60K, I'm one third of the way done. I think this story will actually be much longer, but for now I'll settle for the industry minimum.

Another thing I hoped to learn about myself is HOW I write best. Through trial and error over the past ten days, I've discovered I can write over 3000 words daily as long as I break up my writing sessions. I seem to be able to crank out 1000 words pretty easily, but then my attention wanes. The past few days, as soon as I catch myself drifting, I backup my work, step away from the computer and read a little. (Currently reading Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress - very good so far.) After a chapter or two, I go back to my wip and try for another 1000 words. These breaks are sometimes a little longer, but as long as I stay focused, it's been working.

In the past week I've also started doing a workout video that my friend brought last month, so that's been my second writing break. Nothing is better for me than to burn off steam and get my muscles energized. I can sit back down refreshed, as if I hadn't already written 2000 words earlier in the day.

So what I've learned is this: I can write much more than I thought, but I need to be realistic and do it in sessions. My outline has carried me through when I start to get stuck, so part of my writing time has been devoted to developing what comes next. Spending that extra half hour allows my creativity to flow unrestricted.

Ibis had Saturday off - his first day off in almost three weeks - so I didn't do any writing and we spent the afternoon at a small island near Ixtapa. That, too, helped rejuvenate my mind.

Thanks to everyone for your comments about your attachments to your characters. I'm thinking about making an iTunes soundtrack for my teenage lovebirds to keep me in the mood. ;)

18 comments:

Pink Ink said...

I'll have to try your ideas for breaks.

Keep up the good work!

colbymarshall said...

Go you! That's amazing. I've been a slacker lately...must get on whatever train you're riding!

WendyCinNYC said...

Wow, good for you! I just started writing again on something new, but I'm not nearly as ambitious about my daily word count.

Jen said...

It's nice when it keeps flowing like that, isn't it?

And the break thing works well for me, too. Typing for long periods of time is hard on the wrists and the tushie. :D

Good for you on the progress! You're kicking butt!

spyscribbler said...

For me, it's like a muscle. Once I shove myself to a minimum, I can maintain it, but getting there is hard. I used to write 5,000 words a day, but I have no clue how, now, LOL! Now I'm more often at 100!

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Pink! The book I'm reading has been especially helpful because a lot of it applies to my story.

Melanie Avila said...

Colby, it's the no-job train. I don't know if I'd recommend it.

Melanie Avila said...

Wendy, I set that goal for myself early on but was afraid to say it out loud until I saw I could meet the daily goals.

Melanie Avila said...

Jen, I have to laugh at the "kicking butt" because the workout video I've been doing has a part where she tells us to "literally kick yourself in the butt!" Perhaps that's what's keeping me going...

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, exactly. I've gotten better about turning off the internet (of course then I have to turn it back on for the dictionary & thesaurus sites) and just concentrating.

turkey lurkey said...

Way to go Mel! I think you are doing a fantastic job with Nano. It is great that you found just the right balance between the writer and the woman. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Turkey, well said. :)

Robin said...

Yay! I'm writing vicariously through you! (Maybe that's why all of your characters have shrunk and are telling stupid jokes.)

Can't you write the amount you need for NaNo during Nov, and then continue the book after, if the story is longer? (Oh no! Was that a dumb question?)

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, lol. No dumb questions! But if there were, I might send that one to the back of the classroom. ;) Yes, you can keep writing.

Robin said...

I heard NaNo cuts off your thumbs if you're caught continuing your wip once NaNo ends. Be careful.

Melanie Avila said...

Bah, I only use my thumbs for the spacebar. I can adapt!

Janet said...

Last time I did NaNo, I discovered that the writing I did afterwards was much better. Having to revise my NaNo production was sometimes really depressing.

So I thought this time, I'd go in with a detailed outline, because I always write much better when I know where I'm going. Well, it didn't happen. I only had a broad outline, which was certainly better than nothing.

So now I'm discovering that if I push too hard when I don't know where I'm going, I demotivate myself. Badly. I think I'll just have to go do some more outlining or something, because writing is going nowhere.

Melanie Avila said...

Oh Janet, stick with it. My outline is carrying me through. It's not very detailed but I've filled it in as I've progressed. I'm approaching the end of where my outline makes sense - very soon it's just a ramble of notes.

I'm really hoping that this whole process makes me improve as a writer.