The Fourth NaNo 2018 Progress Report (Pulling Victory from the Ashes with Short Excerpts)

Lifetime NaNo Stats Up to 2018Last week, I clung to the delusion of possibility like a raft in a vast ocean. This week, with four days remaining, I have conceded the battle. Even with the almost 7,500 words of my journal, I’m nowhere near the 50,000 words necessary to complete NaNo. Even worse, 7,500 is about what NaNo lists as how many words I need to write per day to pull out a miracle.

This is a harsh reality for me. The image to the left is from my NaNo author profile (note: the wordiest day is validation, not completed on that day). I have won every year since 2003 sometimes with a huge margin and sometimes cursing as I scrambled to add more words when the validator stripped some compared to Scrivener and dropped me below the mark. It’s been getting harder, and writing as a whole has been difficult this year, but I’d counted on the energy of NaNo to fill me up and make it happen.

It didn’t.

On the other hand, I achieved something I have quite likely never done in any previous NaNo and certainly haven’t during the rest of the year.

I have written every day this month so far and plan to write for the last four days (including today). Considering the obstacles thrown in my path (nothing as grand as the California Camp Fire, but similar in scope on a personal level), that’s an amazing achievement and one I’m proud of.

However, I failed to maintain my journal, even knowing I needed it to pull out a win. The last entry is dated the 22nd. This is, however, not surprising. I’ve rarely kept up with a journal. I much prefer to lose myself in fantastical tales than catalog events. This does make it a little harder to learn from what happened this year, but then I’m not sure the lessons are ones I can affect.

Some thoughts on the rewriting though.

I chose this path in the hopes it would be easier. I think that was a poor assumption. The changes are so subtle, and yet significant.

To move forward, I had to understand and absorb the original, wait for the connections to fall into place, then write something similar to but completely different than the reference text. Instead of raw draft, I was creating a second or third draft…with raw issues still to clean up. I might have done better to write something new just because of the freedom of a true raw draft.

Live and learn. If I feel the siren call of NaNo next year, I think I’ll jump on one of my ideas still waiting for their first run. I have enough of them to choose from.

Of course, at this rate, I’ll still be working on Destiny’s Path. Beyond keeping progress going, rediscovering The Flyers series is definitely a victory. My parents (among the few to have read the earlier version) have been pressing me to return to it, and now I understand why. Not that I ever forgot the story, but there’s a rhythm to the world that matches well with my own.

And so I don’t leave you on a down note, I did mention I’d do another “before and after” snippet comparison. I almost reneged, thinking it would be a spoiler, but the best part tells you only enough to leave you wanting… A cruel act, perhaps, but it’s also a perfect illustration of the kinds of changes the text required. This might even give you an idea or two for strengthening your own text.

Here is an excerpt from the original scene of Sara undergoing the testing. This is a ceremony where children become adults and are assigned the role they will have for the rest of their lives (after completing an apprenticeship):

Each time the rock pulled at a child, Sara’s mind stirred slightly, breaking through the trance. She did not awaken, but rather became aware of her surroundings in a way she’d never been before. Her body ached from the long time squatting and her bare feet stung against pebbles in the dirt. She longed to shift, but found her mind could not control her body.

Instead, to distract herself, she focused on what happened to the other children. She watched as one after another stared into the rock and slowly drained of energy even as the rock remained unchanged. The resonance rising from each of them in the one moment they connected to the stone startled her. It disappeared as soon as the rockminder severed the contact.

Almost as if it knew she’d broken through the trance, the beat of the drum became louder, pulling at her attention until the outside world faded once more. It seemed only seconds later when the yellow glow caught her eyes and drew her in.

This is the new version. The biggest change is going from abstract to personal. (You will have met Timonl by this point, though he is a minor character.) Do remember this is now raw rough draft, please:

Sara’s mind stirred every time the rock pulled at one of the other children, breaking through the trance maintained with the drumbeat. She did not awaken and felt no need to move. Instead, her consciousness stretched out to make Sara aware of her surroundings in a way she’d never been before.

Her body ached from the long time squatting, and the pebbles in the dirt stung the soles of her feet through her sandals. Any other time, she would have shifted to relieve these sensations. Now, she understood them from a distance, and when she tried to move after all, her mind could not control her body.

The realization should have terrified her, but the trance held her calm even if it no longer held her captive.

Unable to react to what she experienced, Sara turned her attention to the force that pulled her from the trance itself. She gave in to the pull until she sat as an invisible flea in Timonl’s hair.

He stared into the power stone, for what else could the glowing rock be, and slowly drained of energy even as the rock remained unchanged. She felt him tremble, she felt him sway, but most shocking of all, she felt within him a resonance, the echo only flyers held.

The rockminder severed his connection, and Sara snapped back into her own body, disoriented and confused. Timonl had not changed the stone. She’d been there with him and the color glowed a steady yellow. He should not have hummed with the resonance of a flyer. He would never number among them.

Almost as if the drum knew she’d broken through the trance, its beat became louder, dragging at her attention until the outside world faded once more, and she barely noticed the next test or the one after. It seemed only seconds had passed when the rockminder stood before her and the yellow glow caught her gaze.

Here are the stats up to yesterday. Amusingly, while still not enough to be a NaNo day, my productivity has been up since I decided to accept the inevitable. I am running 22,261 words behind now (adding the journal is somewhat pointless), further behind than I have written. While I’d love to reach 25,000 and halfway, I’m not counting on it. To give you some concept of how long this rewrite is likely to take, the original draft is around 120,000 words, so I’m just over 1/6th of the way through (actually less because the rewrite is longer).

Day New Words Running Total
1 356 356
2 1,379 1,735
3 1,538 3,273
4 435 3,708
5 204 3,912
6 2,247 6,159
7 5 6,164
8 1,547 7,711
9 442 8,153
10 2,049 10,202
11 981 11,183
12 2,255 13,438
13 47 13,485
14 809 14,294
15 186 14,480
16 270 14,750
17 505 15,255
18 221 15,476
19 1,338 16,814
20 397 17,211
21 1,171 18,382
22 200 18,582
23 142 18,724
24 369 19,093
25 943 20,036
26 1,045 21,081
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