Post Mortem (NaNo Wrap-up)

Nano Post Mortem

post•mor•tem
pōstˈmôrdəm/

• An examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death.
• An analysis or discussion of an event held soon after it has occurred, especially in order to determine why it was a failure.

When I was attending college studying theatre, we would always hold a Post Mortem after each production. It was structured where we would ask three questions of ourselves and the department:

1. What worked?
2. What didn’t work?
3. What did I learn?

I think that this can be an excellent exercise for almost any project that you take on- whether you succeed or fail, it is important to be able to identify what things contributed to the outcome and learn from it.

My final word count as of 11/30 was: 60,577. I was a winner of NaNoWriMo, and met my personal goal of 60,000. I have not however, finished my first draft.

So, in this vein I will examine my first experience with NaNoWriMo:

1. What worked?

-Prep and Plotting
I did a lot of Prep (you can read about it in my previous blog posts) before NaNo started. I explored several different methods, and in the end, it paid off. I was able to sit and write without worrying about where my plot was going, or who the characters were. I had enough space to play and develop, but I had a roadmap as well. It also helped slow me down and not skip ahead to the next super exciting plot point. I have a good pace going where things are developing nicely.

-Writing in the morning
I have never been a morning person… but I can say, my best writing happened in the mornings. When I was in my routine and fully focused I could write and write. Not to say that I didn’t write at other times, but I had so many other distractions later in the day.

-NaNoWordSprints/Twitter
I turned to Twitter in the third and fourth week. Wordsprints and timed writing sessions were never about the high word count for me, but rather a focusing tool. I was being held accountable… sure no one would chastise me for not writing, but it was a little push I needed. I also followed a lot of different resources for writers, finding inspiration and great advice.

-Forums for Research
The Nano forums are a dangerous place… it is very easy to lose track of time reading there, but when I used them correctly they were great. Occasionally I would hit a place in my writing where I had a hole in my knowledge, and hadn’t researched. Usually it was something that a quick Google search couldn’t solve, so I would post to the forums and be able to breathe, go back to writing, and get some great responses.

-Writing goals were reasonable
2,000 words a day was a good goal for me. I picked it arbitrarily, but mostly because it was easier to do the math than with the standard 1,667. This goal kept me ahead of par, and I was able to take two days off this month for personal things, without falling behind and feeling guilty. Some days reaching two thousand words felt like scaling a mountain, but others it was so easy that I wrote above and beyond.

2. What didn’t work?

-Vague areas in my outline
I’m not sure how to fix this, but there were some places in my outline where I had ideas, but no actual scenes. I had written things like “Stuff happens here to show the disaster.” Great, but that doesn’t help when writing. I need to pay attention to where the characters are, and what the conflict is in each scene instead of just what it needs to accomplish. I had only some of the pieces and this made some parts extremely difficult.

-Microsoft Word?
I use Word for everything. I’m typing this blog post up in Word right now. I have used it when freelancing in the theatre, and school for forever. I utilized a lot of the cool tools available, and yet, this is the first project I’ve attempted on this scale. It is getting unwieldy, but I’m not sure about switching to Scrivner or some of the other programs out there. I may try the free trial for the planning of my next plot and see how I feel about it.

-Oversharing
I started the month sharing daily updates in several places- Facebook included. However it started to feel like a nuisance and I was worrying more about what people would say, etc than it was worth, so I ditched the overshare, and just kept it to my daily e-mails to my family.

-Procrastination
Procrastination is an ugly beast, and I don’t think it will ever leave me alone. Sometimes it is just hard to sit down, focus and write, even with the best intentions in the world. Does that make me a bad writer? No, I think it only makes me human. I will continue to strive to do better.

3. What did I learn?
First and foremost, I can do this. I can easily write 2,000 words most days and write well.

Even the best plans are not a complete thing. I thought my outline was as good as it was going to get and couldn’t be any more specific, but when I started working it was vague in a lot of areas- This showed me that I can’t plan everything out and it’s okay. Sometimes you have to slow down, and the plot will unfold. Stephen Kings talks about this in his book On Writing as the ‘excavation’ of the story.

I still like to write. I have something to say. This is exciting. I don’t want to throw it all out, or never type another word again.

I work very well with goals/pressure. I always did in theatre and school, and because I have a relatively open schedule nowadays, the daily writing goals were great motivators.

In conclusion…
NaNoWriMo was overwhelming at times. I thought I would breeze right through, and I didn’t. I did meet my goals and persevere however. It was a great jump start to my novel writing and I will be forever grateful.

You will find as many opinions of NaNoWriMo as you will find people on this planet. I won’t bother to list the myriad of articles and blogs that love or hate it. You can procrastinate on google for a good long time doing that (believe me.) I would recommend someone try NaNo if it sounded like a good idea to them, and something motivating rather than crushing, but it depends a lot on your own personal reasons for participating. It isn’t really a competition against other people, so if you want to use the month as motivation to help you write, you shouldn’t really worry about what other people are doing. Is a fanfic writer really going to ruin your literary fiction novel? No. The point is to write. And if you were going to write anyway- great! Other people writing (whether it is quality or not) doesn’t hurt what you do.

Finally, I have upped my personal goal to finish this thing before I arrive on the East Coast for Christmas. That gives me 10 more days. At my current rate I should reach about 80K before edits which is still within the recommended guidelines for my genre (New Adult). Hopefully I will have one final update when that is complete!

How did your NaNo go? What worked/didn’t work for you? What did you learn? Let me know in the comments below!

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3 thoughts on “Post Mortem (NaNo Wrap-up)

  1. Really impressed you’re continuing with the novel straight after — I felt a breather and pat on the back was necessary first for me, and will pause the novel till Jan/Feb.

    I found the first day and the third week hardest. The first day because of a horrible post Halloween hangover, the third – I dunno, I was ahead, then I did a course, and found it so hard to get back into writing — it felt like chipping away at quartz with a Spork for a few days.

    But now I’m done, I am super chuffed, and it’s given me a lot of confidence with further writing. Based on my third week downer, I am doing at least a bit of writing a day to keep the flow going (not the novel right now, but some neglected short stories).

    I think the structure of forcing the word-count, write ins, forums and buddies helped hugely.

    Good luck with the novel!

    Like

    • Thanks so much! I’m totally not writing at the speed I was for Nano now, but I have this great desire to get the story down on paper before the holidays. I will be visiting lots of family and I’m predicting that my days will be much more action packed than they are up here in Alaska.

      I’ve always been a huge fan of structure too, and healthy competition!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Camp NaNoWriMo Prepping Fun! | There's No Place Like Napaskiak

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