NaNoWriMo Week 4 – Woo-hoo!

After Week 3’s utter disaster of near-non-writing, I had a lot of ground to make up in Week 4 if I wanted it hit my 50,000-word target by November 30. The key issue was a poor plot. I’d written myself into a boring corner and had run out of ideas to escape it.

What got me started again? Ego.

I knew I normally could only handle about 3000 words at a time before my average words per hour dropped into single digits. When I reached the critical calculation that it would take 3500 words/day for a solid week to win NaNoWriMo, I knew I couldn’t delay any longer. My ultra-competitive, Type-A genes kicked in. I was determined to finish this sucker—good, bad, or horrible.

And horrible it was. But it is done.

It’s time for a sports analogy

When I was in high school, my family went on a summer bicycling “vacation.” We weren’t alone. This was the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), which consisted of 10,000 riders making their way from the Missouri River to the Mississippi. Did I bother to train? Nah. I rode around town, maybe did one 17-mile ride. How hard could riding a bike be? You can always coast, right?

Well, RAGBRAI averages about 70 miles per day for 7 days. And there are hills.

By the first day I was sore. By the second day I was in pain. And by the fifth day, I was sick. Couldn’t finish the ride.

I like to think I’ve gained a little wisdom with age.  In my 30s I began running. As many runners do, I found that races kept me motivated to train. I did 5Ks, 10K, 10-milers, even a half marathon. While training for the half-marathon, I did a long run of 18 miles. Holy cow! I thought. If I can do 18 miles, I can do 26.2! But I’d better get a training plan in place to make sure I’m ready.

So I talked to my runner friends who could recommend training regimens, and I started training. I executed my plan and successfully completed my (one and only) marathon: the California International Marathon (CIM).

Despite the fact that I finished, NaNoWriMo felt a lot more like RAGBRAI than CIM.

The obligatory “Lessons Learned”

  • It’s possible to write a novel with a bad plot. The video course on story structure that I mentioned in Week 3’s post helped me create some structure—even with a marginal plot. I made some arbitrary decisions, made some changes that might require significant revisions, and then charged forward.
  • I need to learn more about the writing craft. I’ve been reading for a long time. I know when something is good and I know when something is bad. Sometimes I can even say why. But I haven’t spent time analyzing or studying how to write compelling characters or complex worlds.
  • I can write more than I thought. I wasn’t sure if I could write a novel. Now I know I can. Just think what could happen if I had a decent plot and and developed characters. 🙂

Thanks for all the comments and likes on my NaNoWriMo posts—it helps to know there are supporters (and commiserators) out there. Thanks to my friends who sent me creative thoughts during the month, and especially to my writing buds Linda and Wendy. Last but not least, thanks to my husband for enthusiastic cheerleading (you look great in that skirt, George!).

I’ll see you at the next marathon–oops, I mean NaNoWriMo–with training plan in hand…

8 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Week 4 – Woo-hoo!

  1. Hi Karin, been following your odyssey with interest. Proud of your efforts and have a few scattered comments to offer. First, yes, ego will get you through — and “gut” you through — when nothing else is left. I use it all the time in my real job as a marketing writer, although there the deadlines are not self-imposed, to there is that mother necessity as much as ego. 🙂

    Second, you’re being too hard on yourself. Somebody once said, “Good writing is REwriting,” and when you’re writing this fast, there is no getting around that what you’re left with is a rough draft. So if the plot sucks, fix it. Rewrite it until it doesn’t suck. Then again, if you mess with it for x amount of time and it still sucks, pitch it and start on something else. Of course, that’s easy for me to say — besides the occasional book review or essay, I work almost exclusively in the short form of poetry. Easy for me to say “start over.”

    I’ll end with a brief story about writing. Some years ago, my friend Tim Peeler, the editor of Third Lung Review, wrote (yes, in a letter, that long ago) to ask if I had any short fiction that I could send him. He had published a lot of my poems and was looking for short stories for his next issues. So I wrote back and said, “Tim, I know you like my stuff, but I’m really not much of a fiction writer, just don’t have the knack for it.” So he replied and said hey, your poetry is great, how bad can your fiction be? So I sent him a story. A little while later, an envelope came back, containing the story and Tim’s note saying, “Well, Harry, I hate to say it, but you were right.”

    I don’t think any amount of rewriting could have fixed that story. 🙂

    Anyway, always good to hear about your writing exploits. Keeping my eyes open for reading opportunities but haven’t turned up anything recently. Hope all is well for you and yours over the holidays!


    • Harry – Thanks for the kind and supportive words! Rewriting is definitely in order. I have a feeling there is a nugget of something, but it will require quite a lot of rewrites. I’m going to let it sit for a month or so, then read it fresh. We’ll see where it goes next… 🙂

      Your story made me laugh. I have looked at some of my very first attempts at short stories and thought “What in the world was the point of that?!?” Practice, practice, practice, I guess..

      Great to hear from you…will catch you via email as well.


  2. For would-be writers like me, who did not even join this writing contest, you are a great success and inspiration. I truly appreciate the fact that you took on this effort. It speaks to your determination to learn this craft. You’re great at it, and you will be better for your efforts. Bravo!


  3. Bravo! (I wandered over here after seeing Prof Filreis mention your blog) I scrolled and saw RAGBRAI while scanning, so had to read since I’m a cyclist in IA. I dig your analogy as a former long distance runner, short distance cycler, and a wanna-be writer who has never gone longer than a week on NaNO — as I said before, Bravo!


    • Thanks so much for the comment, Angela! I tried RAGBRAI again in college and made it 5 days–then my boyfriend’s bike got stolen! Maybe I will have to add “Complete RAGBRAI” to my bucket list! 🙂


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