Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Progress Report #2 - NaNoWriMo 2009

Well, it’s over. NaNoWriMo, that is. The novel I started at the first of the month is still a work in progress—as of today, I have written at least sixty thousand words and can see the project possibly reaching seventy thousand before I put down the final period. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things.

First, I learned to personalize what each of us has heard before. With work, family and other responsibilities, I worried that I wouldn’t keep up with the necessary pace in order to become a “winner”. However, as John Dufresne so eloquently writes it:

"The First Commandment of writing fiction is, Sit Your Ass in the Chair."

- from The Lie That Tells A Truth

Each day, my goal was to write the minimum. A couple of days I failed to meet the goal; however, most days I did. Either way, I hit the 50K mark prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday by sitting down at the computer each day. To that, I owe my gratitude and appreciation to my wife, Karen, who understood and gave me the support I needed to get the job done. I also give my thanks to WBs Greta, Jane and Michael who encouraged me along the way.

The second thing I learned is that for me preparation has been the key. While I met one author (during a NaNo Write-in) who came with only an idea, I knew from past failures I couldn’t operate that way. As I’ve already posted, I spent weeks in advance thinking about this novel before the first word was written. Everything since can be traced back to those early morning walks.

I also learned to be flexible. Along the way, I’ve discovered one character I thought would make it through to the end apparently won’t. I’ve also discovered that some characters took on a greater role within the story only when they finally had the chance to speak. Starting out, I didn’t think they would utter one word. By the end, I think the story will generally finish the same as I envisioned it; however, I know now that I, and my characters, have no guarantees. One thing is for sure though: the path taken is not the one I originally thought I would take.

On the technical side, I learned that taking notes doesn’t stop when the first word is written. Along the way, I have continued to write things down—who’s who and what was said. This saves plenty of time when seeds previously planted suddenly take root.

Finally, and only to keep this posting short, I’ve learned that writing a novel worth reading takes years. Personally I’ve spent six years just to get to this point. Reading. Studying. Writing short stories to get my feet wet. Can I say that I’ve actually written something worth reading though? Only time will tell. However, if it takes a few more years, with the completion of NaNoWriMo I now know that I am, at the very least, on the right track.


  1. Proud of you, Stephen! And here's a shout out to Karen, too. It isn't easy being married to a writer. I'd say a nice dinner out is in order....

  2. Well you've certainly written things worth reading, so rest your mind at ease. The novel is another creature entirely and major props to you for clearing the NaNo bar with room to spare.

    Your discipline is remarkable.


  3. Congratulations, Stephen. I knew you could and would do it simply by the determination with which you went into the project. I agree, all that prep work was probably the key to success. I did not make it this year. The difference was, this year I did not hit the start date with a good plan of where I wanted to go. You served yourself well taking those long walks and working things out in you mind ahead of time. Have a well earned celebration this weekend. You deserve it!

  4. My thanks to everyone.

    Greta: I agree, and I'll plan a nice dinner out for Karen soon.

    John: My discipline was spurred on by my refusal to let this novel writing thing beat me again.

    Jon: From what I've seen, though, it sounds like you've got a great start on your project. I'm always available if you want to bounce it off someone for feedback.