Okay you guys, I'm going to start off the top with this:
I GOT ENGAGED!
October 28th was mine and Deanna's seven-year anniversary, and we celebrated by taking the trip to Walt Disney World that we had been talking about taking for the last two years. Because Deanna is a lifelong Acolyte of the House of Mouse, the setup was perfect. We arrived at Magic Kingdom just after dawn, when the sun was only high enough that the stars couldn't be seen. I was insistent that we get a picture in front of Cinderella's Castle before the crowds show up.
The photographer on site snapped a few photos, and immediately after, with my heart threatening to burst out of my chest, I took the ring box from my pocket, got down on one knee, and asked Deanna to marry me.
There were lots of tears of joy. I still get giddy recounting it. If you really want, there are photos on mine and Deanna's various social media, and even a video Deanna posted to Facebook that was taken by a lovely stranger, who then emailed it to us.
I know you all didn't click on this to hear me gush about that. You're here because of NaNoWriMo. It's December 1st, by my watch, and boy do I have a lot to talk about.
For the uninitiated: NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual even that takes place every November, wherein participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of a single fiction piece in thirty days.
I've mentioned on numerous occasions and in various interviews that The Summerlark Elf was a NaNo book. One, I should add, that I was successful in completing in the allotted time frame. That was three years ago, and between then and now, a lot has changed for me. A lot.
In 2014 and 2015, I forewent taking part in NaNo for a number of reasons. The most prominent of these reasons was that, following that first NaNo, I started working full-time consistently. As I spent the bulk of 2014 working on The Missing Thane's War, I found that the days when I was able to write 1500+ words (the daily NaNo goal is 1667) were fewer and fewer, and as any author will tell you, nothing cuts into your writing time quite like life.
Besides, by the time November 2014 came around I was getting ready to release Thane, and figured I'd have plenty of time to write The Council of Tymenthia, so why try to stress myself out more than I needed to?
2015 came and went in a whirlwind. My brother got engaged, Realmwalker happened, people were starting to take notice of my work. I spent nearly a year working diligently on Council, and I believe that it is the best thing I've written and published so far. I had a second draft out to my beta readers by that October, and was getting ready to work on Collapse of Kingdoms, the final book in the saga.
After a year of work, I had less than 40,000 words to show for it.
For any number of reasons, my work on Collapse was glacial, and by the end of the summer it was finally starting to irk me that it was taking so long. I was better than the person who was satisfied pecking out maybe 500 words and calling it a day. I lit a fire under myself in October, trying to get back into the habit of writing 1000 words per day. It's a good number, and when you maintain it you feel the progress.
Halfway through the month, I committed to doing NaNoWriMo 2016, if only for my own good. As of time of writing, December 1st, I wrote 33,000 words in the month of November.
I didn't win. I wasn't able to beat the challenge.
It wasn't for lack of trying, and if we're being perfectly honest, about 40 to 45 percent of the whole first draft for Collapse was written this month. I wrote an average of 1100 words per day (nearly 4000 of which were, admittedly, written in the last 24 hours). I'm proud of what I accomplished, even if it wasn't enough to get the job done 100%.
Among other things, NaNo 2016 was a fantastic opportunity to reflect on who I was when I wrote Summerlark vs. who I am now. So, I figured I'd list off some of the major then/now differences I've come across over the last 30 days:
- I am so much busier!
I think this is just part and parcel with myself and my siblings all being of the age where great life changes are happening. As I mentioned above, my younger brother got engaged in 2015, and was married this past June, shortly before my sister got engaged, which was just a few months before I got engaged. Weddings and the like can really affect your average day-to-day, you guys. Add this to my aforementioned full-time job, and you find that the finite number of hours you have in a given day begin to feel a lot more finite than you're used to.
- Beginnings are easy. Endings, on the other hand...
Summerlark was my first book, and the first in a series. I'm notoriously what a lot of writers like to refer to as a "pantser", or someone who tends not to outline a book before writing it. This works great for a first book, when you can write completely off-the-cuff. Collapse, however? This is the last one. I'm playing for all the beans, and story threads that I wantonly flung about three years ago need to come together. Like it or not, the further into a series you get, the more planning each new book requires, and that takes time, time that could be spent writing. This, however, also ties into my next point...
- I have become much pickier about my own work.
This is something that I feel I can take pride in. One of the key components in any writer's evolution is moving past the point when you can't tell if what you're writing is any good, to recognizing that what you are writing is not terrible, this sort of self-criticism state of nirvana, where you can both recognize your flaws without being crippled by them, and recognize your strengths without being blinded by them. The development of such self-arbitration, however, comes with the price of maybe being a bit more cautious with the keys in some circumstances.
Now, aside from the comparative realizations I've come across this past month, there were some discoveries I made that, in many ways, I needed NaNo 2016 to show me. The most pointed of these is also the reason I am probably most thankful I gave NaNo a whirl again this year:
I have the ability to write 1700, 2000, even 3700 words in a day, but it's okay if occasionally I don't.
More than anything else, I needed NaNo this year to get me back into good writing habits. I hate to admit it, but I spent a lot of this past year telling myself that I was too tired to write today, or that the words just weren't coming. Writing can be like rolling a boulder down a series of hills and valleys. Getting started can be an obscene amount of work, sometimes for a bit longer than you'd like, but unless you keep pushing, that boulder will never move.
Oh, and by the way, I should have the first draft of Collapse finished in the next couple of weeks now.