This NaNo was a near thing, or rather, my participation was this year. I haven’t missed a single year since I started, but it’s been getting rough. I failed to complete my 50k for the first time two years ago, my sixteenth run.
Then last year, I ensured victory by throwing away the NaNo traditional rules and running a rebel campaign. While that worked, it did not move me forward as much as I’d hoped and encouraged my scattered state. To be honest, I made progress on a variety of projects that otherwise would have remained a single note.
The problem is, it’s progress I won’t see the advantage of until I start those titles.
I had glimmerings of a problem this year and planned to do a complete outline of something, anything, to avoid it. Then suddenly it was November, and I had nothing. That’s when any reasonable person should have walked away, but who ever used the word “reasonable” in the same sentence as me…at least without a strong negative modifier?
Already behind before I started, I made a copy of last year’s rebellion, and marked off my finish point so I would only count new words. Then I created new sections for the non-fiction (marked with 2020) and off I went…at a crawl. But at least I was crawling.
I am keeping a writing diary as well, something I’ll talk about more in December. The beginning entries are full of whining about how it is too difficult, too much of a muddle, with a lot of heartfelt sighs to go with. Still, I’m too stubborn to give up, and soon the entries started to be filled with, “enough whining. It’s time to write.” After that, little bits of planning started creeping in, first just where I wanted to be tomorrow, then complete maps of the Seeds Among the Stars series.
The diary is, for the most part, a letter to myself. I discuss what’s holding me back and figure out ways around or through it. I now encourage myself instead of accepting excuses, and point out places where I discover things either again or for the first time. It’s proved quite interesting…to me at least.
Back to the actual writing, what I’ve written this month might not be the best ever, though there are some stellar moments, but it’s words. Words can be edited when their time comes. A blank page is just that: blank.
But in the title, I mentioned a breakthrough. Improvement and progress are definitely to be celebrated, but a breakthrough implies something more.
I wrote the following on the morning of the twenty-second.
I woke up with less than five hours of sleep. One of the “advantages” to fighting chronic pain is I’ve reached the point where sleep is not only possible, it’s unavoidable. My body shuts down when my treatments fail to manage the pain, and out I go. After years of too little sleep because the pain woke me up, I now get too much. I know, never satisfied.
In this case, I could tell I wasn’t done yet. Like something in the microwave, it was time to turn me over and go a second round.
Only I had a glimpse. A fragment of a scene belonging to the next book (which I know because I laid out the order yesterday) in Seeds Among the Stars. It may be the beginning scene, or close to it, but since I have nothing but scattered notes, I don’t know.
What I do know is this glimpse is the first true inspiration I’ve had this November. I’ve been writing, and sometimes it clicks more than just covering the bases laid out in my scene blurbs…okay more than sometimes. But that’s not the same thing as standing in the corner and watching a moment in my characters’ lives unfold.
I considered going to my computer (still on from yesterday), but I was so tired and it would require only a few sentences to capture. The glimpse was an assignment officer asking Deluth a tough question. I keep my phone handy for just this reason, and One Note helps make sure the information is accessible from any of my machines.
Not the most comfortable, or easiest, device, but a sentence or two and then I could be back in dreamland to counter my pounding headache.
At least I was smart enough to perch on the edge of the bed rather than leaning on one of my shoulders. My posture wasn’t great, but the position was better than it could have been. And a few sentences…what harm could it do?
Then I had to set the scene (note the use of “had”)…and the assignment officer appeared.
Tibari is a fascinating character with a personal touch, the ability to read nonverbal cues, and an eye for the bigger picture rather than just the next assignment. He’s also dark as a shadow with a shock of white blond hair surrounding his head, quite likely an affectation to contrast with people’s surprise at his skin color. He didn’t tell me. Flamboyant comes naturally to him, but he’s far from all show. Tibari genuinely cares about making the right decision for the spacers who come looking for their next assignment, even when they might not see things as he does.
I can see him in my mind’s eye, but even better, I can sense how he wants to handle things. There was no way he’d let me jot a few summary sentences and crash. He knew all too well the power of his scene needed to happen in the now. If not, when I finally got to it, it’d be just as lukewarm as the other scenes I’ve been writing. Not bad, just not as vibrant as Tibari needs to be.
You probably guessed it, but I spent the next hour and a half hunched over my phone. Okay, not hunched, but using both thumbs to type the entire scene as I started to ache, then burn. An artist suffering for the craft. The only regret I have is snarling at my husband when he tried to say something to me (I still don’t know what).
I wrote the last line and crashed back to sleep. I didn’t even go back to fix the continuity error I’d introduced (and luckily remembered when it came time to transfer the almost 1,100 words into my Scrivener file).
So there you go. It took almost twenty-two days and a lot of self-pressure, especially when my progress landed in the less than 500 words category (including the day of one word). Still, I had a moment.
You might be able to tell from the tone of this update how it’s bestowing as much energy as it drains from the consequences. I needed to feel the wonder of inspiration again, and though I doubt I can sustain at these levels for much longer, NaNo is now within reach. Even better, I may just get to keep writing this time instead of letting my body steal that from me.
NaNo was easy when I first started some eighteen years ago. But without that start, I’d never been in the position now where NaNo has shown me a path forward. If you’re still thinking about joining in next year, let my example help you decide. Whether it’s NaNo or just committing to your creativity in whatever form, you might have to start slow, but your moment can come when you least expect it.
It’s now the twenty-fourth, and my counts have stayed high. Still a random scatter between projects, and nothing more on Deluth’s book, but progress that might just be enough to push me over the finish line. Oh, and my son suggests while Tibari is an incidental character, who shows up once, if I like him so much, maybe he deserves a side story. I’ll have to think on that one.
How about you? Has this year offered any breakthroughs in progress or understanding? If not, there’s still time.
And stats which are looking much better, though it’s still a push: