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…