02 December 2010

NaNoWriMo Victory 2010—with qualifiers

Hey look, it’s my National Novel Writing Month badge! Third year in a row picking up one of those, although the circumstances were a bit different this time. And honestly, not as fulfilling.

My grand total for this year is 63,728 words (or thereabouts), which is under my total for the last two years, although I reaches the 50,000 word barrier right about on schedule.

However, as I’ve discussed before, I didn’t write a novel this year, but short stories. I completed seven stories and got halfway through a seventh during the last two days. (And that last one was almost an afterthought, and I’m going to start re-writing it from scratch.) The pieces range in length from a 3,400-word short to a 20,000-word novella. Some came out very well—indeed, one of them is already revised and at market—and others . . . well, I’ll see how I feel about them later and if they warrant further work.

I learned a few things from this NaNoWriMo “rebel” experience.

First, I discovered I need to plan my short stories as thoroughly as I plan my novels before writing them. Charging into a short story without a solid outline of the events and a determined ending tends to make me write rambling work that loses my interest. I don’t slavishly stick to my outlines, and frequently come up with different endings, but having one in front of me keeps me moving and gives me an “assignment” each day. Because I crammed the stories together closely for NaNoWriMo, a few ended up not getting enough planning or time to kick around in my head. A few days spacing them out, working on ideas, trying some practice exercises—that seems to be how I operate best with short stories.

Second, I really missed writing a novel during November. I love writing novels; I love the immersion. Short stories can be a thrill, but they provide only a small period of immersion, and writing them in a row doesn’t provide the all-encompassing feeling of a novel. I missed writing a novel so much that I’ve decided I’m going to hold my own personal National Novel Writing Month in February (dangerous, since it’s the shortest month, requiring 1,786 words per day instead of 1,667) and pen a novel idea that came to me during November . . . something I originally wanted to write as one of the shorts, but after a discussion with some other writers at LOSCON, I recognized that the story wished to be a full-blooded book. So I have a two months to work on planning and research, and then I’ll throw myself into the fray again.

In the meantime, I have a heap of revising to do on about ten different stories from the past few months that need to be taken to their final versions. I also have notes for a few new stories to write this month—appropriately outlined, of course.

Cheers to everyone who won NaNoWriMo 2010, and to everyone who tried NaNoWriMo 2010. My one piece of advice for those who finished: don’t start revising yet. Wait until at least January. Write something else, like short stories or a travelogue or sketches for a new novel. Keep busy. But let that new novel simmer a bit.