Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Reflections on a 30-Day Writing Habit (In the Category of Want What You Have…or in this case…Had.) #52Weeks

It’s Wednesday, December 4. This is the first chance I have given myself to write since (unbelievably) completing the #NaNoWriMo challenge. I did it: 50,000 words in 30 days, word count verified, and tee shirt order placed. It took me until 10:30 pm on November 30, but I did it. I wrote an entire novel in 30 days. (My first novel took three years.) While some were growing mustaches for Movember, I bullied myself into a serious daily writing habit.

So, naturally, as soon as I achieved success, I decided I deserved a break. Plus I had a major backlog of things that I had put aside during the time I frantically wrote 11,145 words in four days while simultaneously helping my husband navigate through the painful process of hip replacement surgery, hospitalization, the return home, and all the things we both had to learn about life with a walker. Laundry, for example, had reached a crisis point. So I have spent the last three days washing clothes, helping my husband get back on his feet, literally, and getting myself back into my morning workout routine. (In November, I still got up early, but I wrote instead of exercised – in case you wondered, this is not great for one’s ass.)

In these past three days, I have missed the novel – not badly enough to go back and begin proofing yet. My editor is currently hopped up on painkillers (the result of that recent successful hip replacement). We agreed that it would be best to wait for him to return to lucidity before attempting to proofread the novel, so I have some time. But I have missed writing a novel.

I have another project, a one-act play, which I have been working on for most of this calendar year. I had planned to finish by mid-January, and I hoped that by ignoring it for a month I could break through the stuck part. It hasn’t worked...yet…or maybe it has. I haven’t really turned back to the one-act since traipsing through the far corners of the galaxy in the Anna-Rae on an intergalactic quest for the Words of Power (thanks @LynnHuber…your suggestion became a great weapon for me to work with).

Without the novel, I feel bereft. I admit that this has caught me off guard.

At least I still have a few more weeks of the #52Weeks blog posts to write. (Only eight or nine – can you believe it?) It’s funny to me how much less challenging this is now, after November’s word orgy. Before November, I fretted, weekly, about whether or not I could kick the #52Week challenge’s ass. Today, I am not overly concerned. (It will be fun to see if I end up eating those words, but I won’t delete them – it’s good to stare one’s own hubris in the eye.) After #52Weeks, I plan to do #12Contests for 2014, and yes, the novel, Unspoken, will be one of the year’s submissions. It needs to be edited first. Seriously edited. For example, the ending is all wrong and not how I intended it to go exactly.

You see, I hit 50,000 words before I properly reached the end of the story. I could have stopped at the required word count, verified 50,000 words at 9:00pm, and walked away. But I know me, and I knew that if I didn’t at least give the novel a crappy ending, Unspoken would go unfinished. So I spent another 90 minutes, logged another 1,115 words, and finished the novel, poorly. It’s wordy anyway. And I suspect when I go back for a re-read, I’ll discover entire scenes that need to be added in order to connect the scenes already there. This should counter-balance all the unnecessary words I need to cut.

One does not re-read the novel that one is writing during #NaNoWriMo. Re-reading leads to editing which, done correctly, leads to a reduced word count. Reducing the word count is counter-productive. In hindsight, re-reading is the reason my first novel took three years to finish instead of thirty days.

When I do re-read the latest novel, I will need to rework all the passive voice too…for the same reason. I walked sounds so much better than I was walking. But from the vantage point of a #NaNoWriMo challenge, proper writing has merely cost the author a word. Attempting to write a novel in 30 days encourages verbosity. So much for the five-figure tuition I spent for an M.A. in English that taught me the frugality of language -- you can’t meet a 1,667/day word count by writing well or carefully. I’ve spent a lifetime believing that quality mattered more than quantity, a notion thoroughly unsupported by the 30-day novel writing challenge. I’m rethinking everything now. What else did I get wrong?

(Fun fact: in the course of writing this post, while allowing myself to proofread, I corrected multiple pronouns to the actual name of the thing, and my excessive use of contractions is now a thing of the past. Why? Because #NaNoWriMo. Pronouns and contractions shorten one’s word count.)

Until now, I did not write an Acknowledgment for my novel, which, on reflection would have helped to fatten up the word count. If I had, though,  I would have written this:

On October 30, when I decided to do #NaNoWriMo, I needed a plot and an outline fast, so I tweeted, “Let’s play a game." You stepped up, so I want to acknowledge:

.@dbw780: Thank you for saying “science fiction” and not “westerns” when I asked you to name your favorite genre. I could have made it work, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.

@thinkinunicorns When I asked you, “please tell me your favorite color,” you were getting to choose a defining characteristic of the “sidekick.” Green was good.

.@PhilthePill You got to choose the hero’s name. You chose your own. But this is not your story. You were right though. Santiago makes a good character name.

.@LynnHuber: I asked you to please tell me your preferred weapon. I liked your answer.

.@Vidocq_CC: I asked you to please tell me your favorite place to vacation. We went there...sort of.

.@Lauren88 I agree, that is disgusting. So it’s the villain’s bad habit.

.@Hokie_Lisa You got to pick the secret weapon. It was easier to make silver earrings work than I thought initially.

.@hokielove That’s my favorite flavor, too. So it’s the source of the villain’s power.

I’ll send you all a copy of the e-book as soon as it’s available. Thanks for playing.

KHN Dec. 2013

The NNoWriMo winner's Screen.



  1. Oh, dear. I feel like I should have acknowledged the coy nature of the question you asked me merited further thought than my initial gut reaction. I hope I didn't derail too much by proclaiming I liked my own name. I would never want someone else's character to be named after me, though.

    This post makes me really happy and I hope you regularly keep updating on the experience of writing in your own voice. I'm also in great anticipation for Unspoken and am very proud and impressed that you stuck to that goal. You're one of my inspirations for knowing accomplishing goals can be possible.

    Looking forward to sharing a drink in a few weeks. My best to Greg and the cats,


  2. Kim,

    You really are an inspiration. Reading your weekly posts has been a highlight of the year and I second Phil's anticipation of Unspoken, which I imagine will be a taut, sexy sci-fi thriller.

    I'd love to see you and Greg before the holidays, maybe for a quiet meal or milk and cookies or something like that.