Monday, December 2, 2019

Monday Musings: December 2

I know my intention was to publish this segment weekly, but joining NaNoWriMo meant that all my free time went towards writing, not blogging. This was in addition to editing, Thanksgiving, and other family obligations.

Writing Updates
I have an entirely different reflection about the NaNoWriMo experience. However, I did manage to complete the first draft of one book and nearly finish the second. (I finished it Sunday morning.) For this particular series, I have a target word count per chapter. In Book 1, I have edited many of the chapters to reach that goal; only two or three are still short. In Book 2, all fifteen chapters fall short.
I haven't forgotten about my other projects. My writers meeting has been critiquing my camp story every other week. I've also had some great ideas for Boarding School Blues that I have been sure to write down for when I do go back to working on that project.

About a week into NaNoWriMo, I outlined the entire series (which for now I will refer to as "X") and figured out what will make it unique. It also will have a finite ending: twelve books. Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I will continue working on this series. I think I might try to get all twelve books done (at least the rough draft) before switching back to my other projects.

Work In Progress Wonders
Despite NaNoWriMo, I have completed a number of editing projects this month. I have a new client with whom I will be doing several projects. This is my first repeat client and I am so thrilled to have found this long-term relationship. I have also been editing journal articles this month, a process I enjoy even though it can be tedious at times.

Thanksgiving & Other Family Stuff
Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family. Our family planned on visiting a specific children's museum on our way to visit family. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, however, we purchased a new (to us) family vehicle, a twelve passenger van. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we're driving home from church when my son starts screaming that it was raining inside the van. Long story short, one of the sealed windows (ie: it cannot open) was leaking. When we pulled off one of the rear panels, we discovered it was actually a pretty bad leak. The vehicle was still covered under the manufacture's warranty, but it still took two days for the repair to be completed. Thus, we were unable to visit the museum. We went to a different museum on the way home, but I'm hoping to visit the first one soon.

Next Goals
Now that NaNoWriMo is over, what are my goals for this week? Well, I'm hoping to start Book 3 of the X series. I also will be having my writing group critique another chapter of the camp story this week. I have at least one editing project to complete, but I'm hoping for a few more journal articles this week. And, above all, I'm hoping to post a new musing next week.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

NaNoWriMo: A Reflection

I am not exactly sure when I first became aware that November was National Novel Writer's Month. I am going to guess it was last year, but it may have been a few years ago. I had many reasons not to join.

  1. I have a young family. I spend a lot of time shuttling children back and forth to gymnastics, swimming lessons, dance, karate, and three different scout troops.
  2. I am a homeschooling Mommy. My mornings are spent teaching my four children. Some days are more challenging than others and we don't always finish before the afternoon activities mentioned above.
  3. I am a freelance editor. On afternoons that we do finish our schoolwork before afternoon activities, I am usually editing documents. Lately, I have been doing this on my phone during some of those activities.
  4. Would I even be able to write an entire novel in a single month? My young adult novels are about 80 thousand words. That's about 2,667 words every day.
  5. November is a short month. Sure, it's not as short as February, but is still only 30 days. Plus, we have a birthday at the beginning of the month and Thanksgiving at the end. Add to that Christmas shopping and making Christmas cards, and there is about a week gone right there. What would that do to my daily word count?

So, with all these reasons not to join NaNoWriMo, why did I? It all started with a dream.


The night before Halloween, I had a dream that my father found something (I'm not going to give away my story just yet) and was extremely excited. Throughout the dream, both my parents repeatedly asked me to tell his story. Now, before anyone starts getting all other worldy on me, please be aware both my parents are still very much alive. It was just a dream.

However, it did make a great story. So, I wrote it down. As I got the ideas out, I realized it would make a great middle grade book, something my kids would like to read. They're not old enough for my YA books, but they would love this story. Even my early reader would probably love me reading it to  her.

I did a little research and discovered Middle Grade books are typically 20K - 60K. So, I figured I'd aim for about 40K. I thought back to the novellas I had written and realized I had done those in about a week or two. All my writing friends on Twitter were going on about NaNoWriMo. Since it was the day before the competition started, I figured maybe I should sign up, too. I had two goals:

  1. Write a Middle Grade novel in a month.
  2. Have that novel be about 40,000 words.

When I registered, I learned that there is a set 50K for the competition. You can't change that amount. That's when I decided I would write my 40K book and then start the sequel and count that towards the competition as well. I already knew this would be a series. I could not wait for November 1st.


Like any other writing experiences, I had good days and bad days. At the beginning of the challenge, I joined a local writing community, but their events were only during the weekend and I had other commitments. (Not that I would have been able to join during the week, either.) I did join two write-ins remotely, closing myself in my room for a couple of hours each of those days. One of those write-ins turned into me plotting the story more than writing it. The other one may have been more productive.

The local group uses a communication platform I had never heard of before, but I downloaded it onto my computer. During write-ins, they would hold writing sprints. I found these to be fun, but they didn't do them very often. Occasionally, someone would hold a sprint during the week, but never at a time convenient for me.

Near the end of the competition, I learned that there were other communities that used this platform and I found a very active one, which I joined. Since this community is international, there is usually someone willing to sprint with me. I know I could have run them on my own, but it's no fun if you're not competing against someone. The spike in productivity at the end of the graph is the result of some of these sprints.

I also found that writing on my phone, while a little slower, was better than no writing at all. I downloaded the app onto my phone and have been sprinting from my phone ever since. It's just so much fun. Plus, the people in the community are helpful as well. They helped me come up with a few ideas for the series when I hit a block.

Part of my story planning involved me trying to figure out how long to make each chapter. I did a lot of research and there is no clear consensus on what a good chapter length is for Middle Grade readers. I though about my two fourth graders. One of them struggles to read, but will read for hours when she finds a good book. She could probably handle a longer chapter length. One of them can read well above grade level (he was reading at a sixth grade level when he was four), but cannot read for long periods of time, especially if there are no illustrations. I also considered how long it was taking me to tell the story and some of my scenes were very short. I decided an ideal goal would be about 1500 words per chapter.

With that in mind, I started writing my book. (This was several days into the project.) About three weeks into the challenge, I finished the first book. (It may have been a few days shy of that. Unfortunately, I didn't keep track.) I started going back and rereading it, trying to fatten up some of the chapters.

But, I was itching to work on the sequel. I had ideas running through my head. After several days of editing X1, I decided to give up and just start working on X2. I gave up trying to meet a specific word count per chapter. I just wanted to get the story down. The second draft would be all about hitting my word count. I joined the second writing community as I was starting X2. I sprinted at night after the kids were all in bed. I pushed through and, though I was behind, I thought I had a shot of catching up on my word count. Then, the holidays hit.

Thanksgiving starts on Tuesday. There are pies to be made, clothes to pack, and a house to clean. Finally, we were on the road on our way to visit family for Thanksgiving. I tried to write during the three hour drive (surprisingly, we hit very little traffic), but I ended up having drive nearly half the way. I got a little writing done before turning in for the night.

On Thursday, I managed to get some sprinting in before, during, and after the meal, but I still was still shy of my total word count. I kept hitting writers block at the end of chapters. I wrote a few chapters out of order and that helped the blockage. But, there was enough going on that I was not as productive as I would have hoped.

The day after Thanksgiving, we went on a family trip with my niece and nephew. It was a lot of fun, but it wasn't a lot of writing. On the way home, I had to do some online Black Friday shopping instead of writing. (The good news: 90% of the Christmas shopping is done.) Since the kids fell asleep in the car, I stayed up to write when we finally arrived home. A few sprints later, I was still about 14K short of winning NaNoWriMo.


November 30th came way too soon. I was never actually able to get on track and fell steadily behind. I made a little bit of progress near the end, but I was still very short of hitting my 50K goal. Suddenly, it was November 30th, I was still about 12K shy of my goal, and I needed to spend the day doing errands and spending time with my family. I was able to get in a little writing in the morning, but by the time I was home for the evening, I decided there was no way I wanted to write 10K in four hours. So, I officially gave up on NaNoWriMo.

The following morning, December 1st, I finished writing X2 and I looked at my final word counts. X1 was 25,491 words. X2 (as of November 30th) was 13,675. (The final count for the first draft is actually 14,795).

I thought back to my original NaNoWriMo goals.
  1. Write a Middle Grade novel in a month. I completed one novel and was 92% through the second novel when the competition ended.
  2. Have that novel be about 40,000 words. I didn't have a single 40K novel, but my combined word count for both books was 39,166. I have a feeling that if my goal were 40K, not 50K, I would have pushed through and finished X2 on that final night, which would have put me over 40K words for the project.
I really wanted to complete NaNoWriMo and collect all the fancy online badges. However, I met my original goals. I know there are more competitions throughout the year (Camps in April and July) and I may join those.

Overall, I was really pleased with my NaNoWriMo experience and I'm no longer scared of it. Now that I have experienced it, I am determined to win it next year.