NaNoWriMo 2012 is over for me. Last night, I typed the period that marked the end of my effort for this year; 55, 538 words and I managed to do it with nine days left until the end of the month. It was a like trying to run the Marine Corps Marathon wearing a 40-pound pack – barefoot. This was my first time trying this challenge; writing 50,000 words in 30 days, and not stopping every few chapters to do a bit of editing. I have a healthy respect for those who've done this year after year. NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart.
For my first effort, I set myself a monumental challenge. I decided to do the next episode in my long-running Al Pennyback mystery series; a book I’d been planning for several weeks in late October to get started on, but had been delayed because of some other freelance writing assignments that were on my calendar. A week into November, I decided, what the heck, might as well give it a shot. Problem was, for this one, I’d decided to do two plot lines; totally unrelated in the beginning, but coming together in the end.
This is difficult to do without the added stress of writing to a deadline, and, now the real work starts.
Now that it’s done in a really, really rough draft; and if you check the excerpt at my NaNoWriMo dashboard you’ll get an idea of just how challenging it is. My task for the next week or so is to go back over every word and strive to make the whole thing hang together. The objective is to give the few faithful readers I have another Al Pennyback story they’ll enjoy reading as much as they have enjoyed the 13 that preceded it. I’ll have to make sure the characters who've appeared previously are consistent, and those introduced in this story fit the story line. The plot twists that I've introduced have to be unsnarled satisfactorily at the end of the story; and, one little change in my main character’s history has to be explained in a credible fashion.
This has been an interesting experience, but a stressful one. Even for me; as a recent retiree my time constraints aren't the same as I imagine they are for many who enter this project. I don’t have to get up in the morning and go off to work; I just trundle down to my basement office and apply butt to seat and fingers to keyboard and write until my fingers are as numb as my brain. Some days were easier than others. On a real good day, I managed more than 4,000 words. My desk and the floor around me are littered with notes, maps, timelines, and character sketches. The litter will stay in place until I've polished, re-polished, and buffed Dead Men Don’t Answer until it shines. Then, I’ll send my baby out into the world to make his own way.
Thankfully, this only happens once a year. If I had to do this month after month, I think I’d go crazy. Actually, I think I've already crossed that line, because I think I just might do this again next year. My advice to others who are engaged in this mammoth project: Take today off and enjoy Thanksgiving. Stuff yourself with turkey and all the trimmings, take a nap this afternoon to recharge your batteries, and hit the keys again tonight. You can do it. Happy Thanksgiving!