Usually I don't have a real excuse for posting so little, but this time I do: it's National Novel Writing Month. Last year, NaNoWriMo got me back into writing novels after a five-year break, so the entire experience was exhilarating and I finished in 15 days. This year, I've had a much harder time. Part of it was that I wasn't as well prepared. Part of it was that the story I chose was unexpectedly difficult . . . or, perhaps, expectedly difficult. Main characters who are aliens are hard enough to write about. It's doubly hard when your heroine has a voice in her head which is another character. It's just . . . complicated. And the plot . . . oh, the plot. I get stuck every chapter.
The normal way to do NaNo is to start with a completely blank document and write as much as you can without stopping. It doesn't matter if it's junk and will ultimately get deleted. It's a DRAFT, we are reminded. Don't go back and read what you wrote, ever. Don't edit anything. Don't stop to pick the exact right word, just write and write and write. And when you're done, you will have 50,000 words which are a) not very good, and b) not really enough to be a finished adult novel.
I'm realizing that this approach is the opposite of the one that has worked well for me in the past. While I do very much like to get into the zone and really plow ahead on a novel, over the course of a couple of months, I am not much of a drafter. In school I always wrote the final draft first, and then went back to make a fake rough draft to satisfy the teacher. In writing, a "second draft" always winds up being either a complete rewrite with a totally different plot, or else a good draft which has been perfected by daily editing over what I wrote the previous day, followed by pass after pass of editing afterward. There is no cruddy first draft because it's just really really hard to add good words if your words weren't good the first time.
Of course this is a me thing, not an everyone thing. A lot of people do draft after draft. Other people are just starting out noveling so they really just want to make themselves go the distance in a way they never have before.
The way I got around it this time was to "cheat" -- that is, I wrote 21k before November even started, so that by the time November was over I would actually have the novel done. And that worked well for me, except for the constant stalling over plot problems. If I were to do it again, I'd do more outlining before I started, and go back to daily editing of the previous day's work, which always gets me back in the right frame of mind.
I love, love, love the community of NaNoWriMo. I have a facebook group I love, where we rant about the difficulties of writing and challenge each other to word sprints (which I do badly at, but it's nice to know your friends are writing at the same time). I like to track my word count, to a point. That is, I like watching it go up, but I sometimes get too focused on it. Sometimes making your word count go down by a thousand words is much better progress than writing a thousand more.
So will I do it next year? Maybe. Depends on what I'm working on and how ready I am. I think it's important to dive in when you're ready, plotted out, and inspired, rather than when the calendar says you should. And that's why I'm planning, when the alien story is done, to start right back in with another novel: plotting first, then some test writing (writing scenes in different POVs to see what works--that was very helpful for the current novel), and then starting in as I'm ready. Probably not 1667 words per day, like I've been doing, but a little at a time, when I actually have something to write and know where I'm going.
So what am I up to now? I'm basically in the final showdown and I don't know what to do. I've won NaNo (50k words in November -- I have 58k at this point) and my total wordcount is almost 80k, which was what I wanted. But I have to beat the bad guys! Plus, there was supposed to be kissing! We'll . . . we'll see. I just want to get it done, and then maybe see as it's as awful as I secretly suspect.