Wow. NaNo can be hard. :)

I’ve won NaNoWriMo two or three times in the past (to “win” means that you completed it, finishing more than 50,000 words by the rules of the contest). I have a full-time job each time, but at no time was it a high-demand job. In the past, my NaNoWriMo pattern went like this:

I set my novel goal at 100,000 words. I tore it up for the first three-quarters of the month, hitting my daily goal pretty much every day (or making it up the next day if I didn’t). Then, around Thanksgiving, I’d take the day off to spend time with family. About that same time, I’d flame out, but at that point, I’d be in the 70k word range. I wouldn’t go back to writing the book in November, or for the rest of the year for that matter, because I’d have enough material to feed my Writers’ Group well into January.

Other writers would watch my progress and send me death threats.

There are two main things different about this NaNo.

1) This time I’m writing a comedy. Comedy is much more difficult to write than Drama/Action. Once I’ve outlined a dramatic work, I know pretty much how every scene looks. Things change as I write them, of course: no battle plan survives contact with the enemy and no novel outline survives contact with the word count, but a drama actually benefits from NaNo here. When you have a great idea while you’re writing, your ability to execute it well is aided by having less time to forget it between having the inspiration and having the opportunity to execute it. There are exceptions, of course, but I’d say I forget far more great ideas than I have great ideas become more spectacular by germinating over time. The idea can still germinate over time after you write it into a book…that’s what second drafts are for. A forgotten idea is often forgotten forever.

But comedy. If I know what I’m writing, I write a thousand words in about forty minutes. So if I’m trying to hit two thousand words in a day because it’s NaNo and I want to be a little ahead, that’s less than an hour and half of writing. Round up once you add in pulling things up, getting the outline ready, firing up iTunes, getting my drink and the like.

Comedy on the other hand, usually takes at least twice as long. Often longer. There’s a joke, I think in book two, where I say, “There was enough blood to fill Wembley Stadium with pudding.” That joke took me an hour to research. First I had to come up with the idea of the joke, which probably took me five or ten minutes. When I hit on the idea of making a blood pudding joke, I decided that I needed to come up with an analogy for blood pudding. After a bit of noodling, I decided that it needed to be a sports analogy and it should be hyperbole about volume. I went through every sports arena I could find in Scotland looking for one that a US reader would recognize by name, and finally decided that there probably were none, and while I don’t explain my jokes in DbC (unless explaining them is the joke itself), they have to have some chance of landing. Then I expanded my search and found Wembly stadium, which has broad, international name recognition. Finally, I researched the penetration of blood pudding to determine that while it’s a Scottish dish, it is certainly still eaten in England, at least enough that I felt good making the joke. When Howard Tayler, professional humorist, complimented the joke and I told him it took me an hour to research, he just said, “Welcome to my world.”

NaNo is about writing fast. But this is my job. DbC 6 cannot suck because I wrote it during NaNo. I wrote one of my favorite trunk novels during NaNo. (It’s at Baen right now, made it past the slush pile, and had been under consideration for a couple years). I don’t slack on quality just because it’s November.

2) I have a much more demanding job now. The first day of NaNo, I had a dental emergency. While the work itself wasn’t too traumatic, when you aren’t scheduled, you spend a lot longer in the chair because they work on you between the other patients. This time, it amounted to two and a half hours. I have a bad back, and this crippled me. If you know me, you know that I can’t completely survive without pain pills, but I’ve come a long way. There have been times when I’ve needed to take six a day. I’d gotten to the point where I was taking them maybe one or two a week and I’ve gone two or three weeks taking none at all. After that dental visit I’m back to two or three a day, and likely will be for a month, until I recover.

Days two and three came in the first days of a big rollout at work, and I’m the point of the spear. The first of those I worked ten hours. The second I worked nine. So I can’t just clock my eight hours and leave anymore. I have big boy responsibilities these days.

Still, I managed more than 5k words the first week, so I’m happy. You can see my joy on the widget on my website. You can also track my progress there, and compare my progress against your own.

Lets see what week 2 holds!

The next installment awaits...
Slouching Towards Amazon: NaNoWriMo Week 2