By MBPDLPayday Loans

Tagged: Academic Writing

Nov 30


Around 2pm today, I got to see this pop onto my computer screen.

Screen shot 2010-11-30 at 2.37.10 PM

Pretty cool, right?

Yes, I think so, too.

National Novel Writing Month was very, very different from the experience I thought I was getting myself into. Agree or disagree with what I have to say, I just want to disclaimer my experience before I give you guys the rundown as to why I’ve been so lax in all my other writing lately. This was just my personal experience with the program– independent of everything except my humble thoughts and half-coherent ability to sort of string words together. See?

Here’s the conversation I plan to have with my mother, as soon as I call her, in like three hours, after I’ve showered and napped. {Hi, Mom.} I’ll let it serve as the general guideline for my analysis, since Mom is good at getting right down to the heart of the matter and not missing any little detail.

So when can I read this book? Not yet. In fact, it’s not even a complete story, yet. Yet. 50,000 words is a lot of words, but it’s not necessarily an entire novel. In this case, it’s really not an entire novel. The story is there in the sense that I’ve anchored all the major plot stakes and have characters that are funny enough to make me wish I could ask them to dinner. It’s incomplete in the sense that all the mesh holding the stakes upright isn’t in place yet. The transitions aren’t all smooth. It’s missing all its recipes {which are all compiled, they’re just not dropped into the text yet, because I didn’t want to jeopardize my word count with a scandal over how many times I used the word butter}.

It’s not done yet. I’m still working on it. It won’t be done until, probably, the end of January, after James’ Christmas present is all made and delivered and I’ve had a month to double my tea intake and stare crazily at the pieces that just don’t feel like they fit yet.

But you wrote 50,000 words? Yep. I submitted with 50,835, if we’re going to be exact. I used several thousand index cards, and four times as many post-its, and bought three separate notebooks to keep my notes all organized.

Organized? You were… organized? Mo-om… stop embarrassing me on the internets. Truth be told, this month was very much about figuring out how to translate my neurotic OCD tendencies to color code things within an inch of their lives. It was about plopping the pieces into the same puzzle, instead of– halway through the project– getting distracted by the plot growth and finding myself either frustrated or writing a whole other story.

So, what worked? I found a diagram of a rubric J.K. Rowling used, thanks to my friend Jen, who also did NaNoWriMo with me. It was my big breakthrough moment. The outlines that I was using were too vague, and then too detailed, and too fluid, which let all my notes flow into one another. It was a mess. Right up until around the 19th, it was a total, horrific mess. And it made me not want to write anymore.

Finding the right way to outline the story, so that I could still see what was happening in each different sub-plot, so I could see where the holes were, made the world I created for Madelynne O’Reilly and her friends a place where even I’d like to live. It was the key to getting the ball rolling and keeping it in motion.

Wait. You wanted to stop writing? Uh, yes. Hell-to-the-yes. … Did you? No. Yes. No. Sort of? 50K in one month was overwhelming, and there were days when all I wanted was to not worry about it any more. But I knew it would feel that way, and I knew that, in putting my willingness to pursue writing as a career, I’d either push through it or wuss out.

I pushed through. And truth be told, the writing was both the easy part and, sometimes, the boring part of putting this story together. Boring?! Boring. And I’ll tell you why. I was writing a story that is very close to the plotline of my life. When I got into a writing crunch, I’d find a necessary plot point and hammer it out, especially toward the end when the word count was more important than getting the story to flow.

The research was so fun, and I reached out to so many amazing, strong, creative women who dropped what they were doing to answer my questions about everything– even things as trivial as Brown Bread recipes. {I’m looking at you, Amy and Margaret. I’m also saying thank you.}

There were days when I didn’t write. But I planned for them. Some of them. I knew Maxine and I were going to head Upstate to visit my folks, and I knew James and I were going to go away for our anniversary. I knew with the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d be spending a lot of time worrying about my pumpkin pie being unsatisfactory. I planned to have several days wherein my brain was just totally out of commission.

So you planned not to write? Yes. Sometimes. Was I right?

Well, yes and no. Here’s the fancy graph from the fancy Excel sheet that I made to keep track of where I was, so I wouldn’t compulsively compile the document from Scrivener, and so I’d have a sense of accomplishment when it came time for me to give myself a little pep talk. The blue line is what I predicted I’d write: 2,500 on all my full-days of writing, 1,250 on days when I’d only commit to half-days of concentration.

The red is what I actually produced. You can see that, for the most part, my predictions were nowhere even close. What that taught me is that, to a degree, I am very likely always going to have to write when the inclination hits me, and research and outline vigorously when it leaves. No use in trying to fight my natural process, right? I learned it’s better just to look at the pattern, understand why it is the way it is, and roll with it.

Screen shot 2010-11-30 at 3.09.42 PM

I realized being able to write on cue was not as important as being able to write well. I’m going to worry about developing the latter and let the former figure itself out in the process.

So you’re not done? Nope, not with the novel, and not with writing as a living. My next steps are going to be editing a writing sample and putting my graduate school applications together. Moreover, it made me realize that, as much as I love me some fiction, I miss writing academically, too.

Now, if only I could figure out a way to get more smart into my life… ;)

What would you have done differently? Honestly– not much. I watched several seasons of several crime-drama shows, several dozen movies and Elephant napping for a handful of hours. It didn’t necessarily help my creativity, but it didn’t detract from it, either. The only thing I wish I had done that I didn’t was attend one of the NYC-based write-ins. I was fortunate enough to have my own little community of people with whom I could Tweet, text, e-mail, call and smoke-signal about the grand drama that can be formulating a first novel.

But I spend most of my time now alone, locked in my design studio, foaming at the mouth and cackling manically to myself over the challenges I put into the lives of my characters.

So you’ll do it again? Hell, yes!

And you’re going to finish this story? Hell, yes again!

But we can’t read it yet? Ohhhh, lordy, no!


Thank you, everyone, again, for all the support and love and cheering. I wouldn’t have done it without you– and I’m at the point now where I’m comfortable admitting that I can write, I just probably wouldn’t. Which, yeah, is a whole other whirlwind of issues.

But I’m off that track and onto a different one– one that will hopefully have my studying on a campus again within the calendar year. :)

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I need a shower.