How a Mermaid got Entangled and Lived to Tell the Tale

The Savvy Authors Entangled NaNoWriMo Smackdown is winding down, and I am one of the lucky writers who participated.  I had an entire month to achieve a book, just for the Entangled Line!  How exciting is that?

Entangled Smackdown

I confess, I didn’t take this challenge seriously until I had an email telling me (surprise!) that my badge was waiting to be claimed.  Once I understood, I spend a couple of days being just plain scared.  I even ordered a workbook, Susan Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer Workbook (worth every penny, imho).  I splurged and went to Staples for a new paper notebook.

Then I got to work.  Then a hurricane came and took away my power for four days.  But I kept working, charging up (and showering) at a friend’s house, and working some more.  In fact, I worked even harder.  I was determined not to let a measly power outage stop me from writing!  I also knew a terrible truth:   These days off were my only chance to write full time! I also knew I have a tendency to panic.  Perfection, procrastination, panic, paralysis. 

Yes, spending a month with the NaNo challenge for Entangled was exciting.  Until I realized I have a habit of doing those four P’s mentioned above, and probably wouldn’t make my personal goal.  So I had to start getting a grip on some home truths, and the month wasn’t all about writing 50,000 words any more.

Friends, I did not make 50,000 words.  My personal goal was just to finish the story.  At forty thousand words.  Okay, maybe thirty thousand.

My final tally, as of 10:00 p.m., November 28?  18,260 words.  That’s right.  I didn’t even break 20,000 words. 

And it really sucks that I couldn’t keep up the pace with all those other fabulously prolific writers (Hi, Pin! *waves*).  There.  I feel better just saying it.  I am not prolific.  Still, it’s valuable  to look back at the mistakes I made, celebrate what I did accomplish, and acknowledge the reality of my life and commitments. Admit some truths about myself.  About my writing.  About my own temperament and tolerance for pressure.  And maybe, possibly, someone out there will see some reason in my ramblings about this past month.  Maybe there’s someone just as crazy as I am.

The most important lesson is one I have resisted for years.  But, let it be said, now and forever, once and for all.  It’s hard to say, and I have hated learning this:

I AM NOT A PANTSER.

There.  I’ve said it.  I can’t write by the seat of my pants.  Somehow, I was behind the door when that gift was being handed out. 

I am more intimately acquainted with my writing personality than ever before.   With Act One of my work planned (thank you again, Martha Alderson), I achieved a thousand words a day. Sometimes I made the full 1667 word the Entangled gods were asking for. When I tried to double that output in response to a promise of double points, though, I burned out.

Worse,  not having planned Act Two brought my output to a measly three to five hundred words a day.  Or none.  I needed two weeks to finally see the center of the story.  One evening last week, it finally clicked while I was eating sushi at a new restaurant in town (note to self: sushi is an effective writing tool).  I rushed home and blocked out the action for the rest of the book that evening.

So, now I can tell the truth.  If I have a clear idea of my story and what needs to be written, I can spit out five hundred words a day.  If there’s more time and I’m more motivated, a thousand.  I don’t want to do NaNo again.  I like taking my notebook with me when I go out to dinner with my sweetie, and calling it a “business dinner.”  I like online chat with other authors.  And I really, really like Martha Alderson’s books.

Not a bad set of lessons to learn in a month, huh?