December 1, 2011

After the War

It's December 1. That apparently simple statement has a world of significance behind it; it means that you NaNoers have survived one whole month of frenzied writing, and that I have survived one whole month of not participating in said frenzied writing. Whatever your wordcount may be, I hope you had a fun time.

The war is over. What now? You've got 50,000 words, maybe more, of a story that may or may not be worthwhile. I know the feeling of getting to December only to look back over those words and think, "Uuuuuugh. I wrote that?" or, if your story isn't complete: "I wrote that much, and I still have this much plot left? You're kidding, right?" Come NaNo's end in both 2009 and 2010, I was terribly burned out; both times, however, I tried to keep going. Bad idea. When the wordcount closed and December rolled around, I was tired and all my inspiration was toasted, while in the back of my mind lurked the knowledge that those 50,000 words would have to be seriously revised. December and January produced a whole lot of groans and whines, and maybe some tears and sweat (no blood), but not many words.

Probably the best thing to do when you reach the end is to take a break, at least from that particular story. Give yourself time to recharge. You might go back and look at the story you were working on before NaNo; if it is completed you can work on editing it, or if it isn't you can return to writing it. Time away might bring to light new inspiration or reveal things you want to tweak. In December 2010 I worked on editing Wordcrafter, getting my mind off the big problem that was The White Sail's Shaking, and didn't spend a whole lot of brain power on straight "writing". This isn't laziness. Editing and marketing are just as important as writing itself is; manuscripts once completed shouldn't just be discarded. So don't feel bad if you need to take a break and spend time on another story.

When I had gone through the initial edit of Wordcrafter, I returned with more vigor to the writing of The White Sail's Shaking. It's now too long ago (a whole year - dear me!) for me to recall exactly what my sensations were, but they were not pleasant. The rubbish that was the first 50,000 words tortured me until at last I gave in and started editing much of what I had written in November. Filling in holes, straightening out characters, and fixing botched details helped get me back in the feel of the novel, and when I had finished with the first few chapters, I was ready to return to actually writing again.

But what if you wrote your story just for fun and don't intend for it to go anywhere? I know some people approach NaNo as a time to just let the rules fly out the window and allow themselves to write whatever occurs to them, not worrying about whether or not the result is any good. I tried this in 2008 and it went splat at about 17,000 words, but hey, it works for some writers. Even if this is your perspective on NaNoWriMo, you can still glean things from those 50,000 words. Let the story sit for a while, then return to it, read over it, and make your assessment. If you find that it's actually not that bad, you might want to spin it out and make a proper novel out of it after all. If you decide that the plot is just as nonsensical as you thought at the end of November, then perhaps you can focus on picking out those bits of your writing that you still like - a description or a turn of phrase, a scrap of dialogue, a character. You may be surprised how many diamonds you find.

what was your wordcount this year? do you hope to make something of the story?


  1. Lovely thoughts, as usual Abigail. I am taking a break from Puddleby Lane and focusing on the Scarlet-Gypsy song. Some things are just better left to cure for awhile and be rediscovered some time later. :) Oh, by the way, I tagged you with the First Impressions tag on my blog! :)

  2. Very excelent advice, and some I am definitely taking to heart.

    I actually finished my book this year, and finished with 50,219...all in two and a half weeks. (Just in time for our trip)
    I don't think this book turned out as well as the first one I did, but, then, I didn't have as much pre-thought out plot as the first book. Still, I think it's one of those you mentioned that, with some work, could turn out well. There are definitely things that need to be chopped out, and places that could be expanded upon. I could even end up adding more into some places later.
    No matter what, I don't think Naji's Story will turn out as long as Hwinny's Story , but I think it could be a good follow up book, none the less.

    But now my mind keeps wandering into the next book I want to work on (not part of my Faerie series), so hopefully I'll start working on that a bit before I venture into reworking Naji . ;-)

  3. 5,649, and barely into the top of the second inning. Yikes.

    There are reasons, of course, but the main thing is this one is just a lot harder than last year's (you'd think stream-of-consciousness would be easy, but no...) and I just didn't have the tenacity to grind it out. I do intend to keep working on it, though, slowly, if only because I need to explore these central themes for my own sake.

    And, since I have a big cup of coffee and will probably be awake for some time, I'm going to head back to it now.

  4. My word count was 50,080. It's kind of sad, but mine doesn't have a title. Of course, I'd rather that than slap some ill-fitting title on it. I hope to fix it up and make it a proper novel, if possible.

    My novels always seem to barely scrape 50,000. Oh well, perhaps I will just be a writer of shorter novels. =)

  5. Rachel - Ooh, I'll have to do that! Thanks for thinking of me. And by the way, I was very intrigued by The Scarlet-Gypsy Song; I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.

    Londongirl - Glad you thought so!

    Rhoswen - I'm glad you were able to complete the challenge - and in two and a half weeks! Talk about speed-writing. I hope the rewriting process goes well. I've never attempted a sequel (or a prequel) so far, although I wouldn't mind returning to the characters of Wordcrafter some day; I think it would be difficult to make both books comparable to each other, though.

    Chewie - But you've been working long hours, haven't you? Not exactly conducive to NaNo. I know what stream-of-consciousness is, but I haven't researched it in great depth; what's the difference between that and writing in first-person?

    Carrie - Hurrah for victory! Hopefully a title will toddle along and attach itself to the story later. And maybe if you take some time off from it you can come back and find ways to flesh it out, if you want it to be longer.

  6. No, conditions in general did not favor this November, but it's getting better. I'll get there.

    Whereas traditional first person perspective is typically presented as a narration, with the narrator speaking or writing to an audience, stream-of-consciousness is basically an unfiltered look into the narrator's thoughts. So you have this person's thoughts as they are both thinking and reacting because you have this internal monologue and you think about your thoughts but there is all this other stuff happening in the world that you have to at least superficially acknowledge so that is in there to and sentences aren't necessarily punctuated with quotations and whatnot because that's not how we think even though it's how we write - when we think we often start a new thought in the middle of an old one because that's how our minds go - but still everything gets recorded so on the one hand it's easy to write because you just keep writing as the words come but on the other hand you are still structuring a story and you have to match the rhythm of the outside events with the cadence of the thought and choose when to reveal what information and when not because we seldom go through lengthy expositions in our head so you have to give details one step at a time and hope the reader can keep up and not get lost in your sentences that are longer than most used car contracts and so when you asked, what is stream-of-consciousness this is kind of what it is maybe to use this one thing as an example. Or something like that.

    Faulkner used the technique often, particularly in The Sound and the Fury, and Joyce employs it in Ulysses (which I'm still plodding though), so I'm kind of riffing pretty heavily on them.

  7. Well! Now I know. No wonder you didn't get very far in NaNo. I think writing in that style would be even harder than writing a formal narrative, despite the natural flow of thoughts. It seems like it would read disjointedly. I know my thoughts would read disjointedly...

  8. My wordcount was 50,004. I'm exhausted! :P I actually split it between stories, the first, The Devil's Workshop may or may not go somewhere, it was more of an experiment. The second, Machiavellian, is the third novel in my sci-fi series and I'll be working on it more after a break. :D

    For now I'm focusing on revising my first Firmament novel.

  9. Wow, two novels in one month? My poor brain spins at the idea. I applaud you, though, and I hope The Devil's Workshop will end up "being" something. Also, I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned this, but your titles are splendid.

  10. I reached my goal of 45,000 words (not top-notch quality, certainly). However, forcing myself to write consistently during a busy month made me realize that my excuses for not writing were a little...well, lame. So far, I've kept up consistently writing 1,500 words a day, even though we're in December already. I'll eventually run out of plot (and then just scrap the whole thing and rewrite it entirely), but at the moment it seems like the practice of writing at all is what I need.

    Just my two cents :)

  11. Welcome to Scribbles, Sienna! You're right, it is amazing how much spare time you can discover when you set your mind to it. Even though I consider my first try at NaNo to have been a failure, I do think it helped me realize what I could do - that writing 1,700 words a day isn't as terrifying a goal as it sounds. Just having a goal to aim at is beneficial, really.

  12. Writing is never a failure! Even if the work itself stinks, just writing is a learning experience and at the very least some exercise for our tired fingers ;) And you're right--having a goal is extremely important. Aim for the stars!


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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