Featured Reflection Writing

National Novel Writing Month 2022 recap

I didn’t quite make it to the midpoint of my book this month — three more scenes left! — nor did I hit 50k as I originally planned. I could have pushed through the holiday weekend and squeezed in another 5k, but since I plan to keep this pace up for the next month, I decided not to risk burning myself out — just as I decided not to push through without an outline last week. Nevertheless, I am extremely happy with how November’s writing went; I wrote 44k (mostly useful) words of my book, staying on target word count, without burning myself out.


NaNoWriMo 2022 Day 30

Today’s first scene suffered from a shitty outline — I didn’t go into deep enough detail and it makes the writing much slower, because I’m having to choreograph as I’m writing. I finally wrapped that scene after three agonizing work blocks.

This evening I came back for another writing session, hoping to hit 45k, but realized I might want to switch POV characters for the next scene. I spent half an hour cleaning things up and thinking through word count. I’m working in mostly 1600 word blocks (two to a chapter, either combined as one 3200 word scene or two individual scenes, sometimes one from each character and sometimes from the same POV) so when I hit that word count it’s often about time to move into a new scene. I made a decision about what would happen in each of the next scenes and adjusted my loose outline, then spent another half an hour writing a detailed outline for the next scene.


NaNoWriMo 2022 Day 25

I’ve devoted this week to prep, which puts me at least four days behind on word count. I have to decide how much I care about hitting 50k, because it’ll take a hard push to get there — and I still want to do other things that will take mental energy, like attending an IndieWebCamp popup this weekend, and finishing a small freelance gig I picked up this week.

Part of me wants to say fuck it on purpose because I’m pissed at the unsustainable approach NaNo promotes. It’s vital that I do not burn myself out because I plan to keep up the pace during December, with the hope of finishing the first draft by the end of the year (OK let’s be honest it’ll be January).

I have now outlined the next four chapters, so that should produce about 8-10k of words that shouldn’t be too hard to write — but I need 17k more words to hit 50k. I’ve been stumped on how to accomplish my midpoint action, and I’m butting up against that. Hopefully over the next few days I’ll have a brilliant realization about how to get them from point A to point B. I’ve set it up so it can be glossed over in a few exposition paragraphs, but I still need some explanation. I’m probably over-thinking it and worst case will resort to “and they escaped through the sewers” πŸ˜‚

Every time I hit a wall, it’s because I don’t know something. Brainstorming or outlining — taking a step back and breaking it into smaller, tangible pieces — makes a huge difference. So even though spending the last five days outlining might put me behind on the official NaNo word count, it’ll still have been worth it from a storytelling standpoint to write words that move the story forward and have emotional richness, and to not bash my head against trying to invent all this stuff *while* I’m writing.

Reflection Writing

NaNoWriMo 2022 Day 21

I devoted a couple hours this morning to planning, now that I’m about 30,000 words in and know the characters a little better. I’m coming up on a branch point in my outline, so I wanted to be sure I knew which way I wanted to go. I plugged in the plot for the rest of the book into my Excel ‘loose’ beat sheet. Things look much more spread out, but that’s OK — it will keep a quick pace to drive through on beats.

I also revisited my heroine’s character arc, which is definitely secondary to the hero’s, to make sure that she will get an emotionally satisfying arc too. While the plot is focused around him, the actions also feed into her character growth nicely. I may wind up needing a little bit more for her at the climax, but since I’m only about a third of the way through, I’ll have a better feel when I get closer.

In my third mid-day work block, I wrote the next scene. It wrapped at only 900 words, and I am shooting for closer to 1500. I let it simmer for the rest of the afternoon, then hopped back on at five for another hour. I realized that it would be a great spot for some emotional backstory sharing. Working that into the scene brought it to 1600 — sweet.

My next scene is dependent on my revision of the first book — will she see her sister or not? I’ll need to decide one way or another whether to include her sister in the scene so I can write a draft. Nooo, I’m terrible at decisions! πŸ˜‚


NaNoWriMo 2022 Day 17

Took today as another planning / prep day.

I started off with an hour in the afternoon filling out my chapter worksheet and scene worksheet for two chapters. These are really helpful, especially with some revisions I made recently, for planning the characters’ emotional reactions and honing in on what the heart of the scene is. I regret not following through on doing these for the earlier chapters between the opening and now, but I can commit to doing them now.

It goes so much easier when I outline at a beat level, so this evening I invested two pomodoros in thinking through the two chapters in closer detail. I started with a 200 word outline of kind of blocking, and once I wrote through theΒ  The characters are having an important conversation that shifts the dynamic between them, and triggers an emotional reaction, so I needed to get it right.

I have a little bit of bridging outline to finish up for the second scene (I outlined the first chunk and second chunk, but didn’t quite figure out the transition). Then I’ll be set to write both chapters, which hopefully I can keep to 2k words each.

Reflection Writing

NaNoWriMo 2022 Days 11 & 12

Yesterday I got through the scene I was working on and did a splash of scene level outlining for the next scene. Today, instead of writing more prose, I checked in on my chapter level outline, which apparently I never ported from my notebook to the computer. There was one thing I’d forgotten that could have been helpful earlier, but I think it also makes sense to add in a few scenes later. I started bringing some of my loose chapter outline over into my Scrivener file, and elaborating on my brief notes to add some key emotional points and specify known beats of action. I’ll still need to flesh out those outlines when it comes time to write them, but it was helpful to think through the midpoint of the book in emotional beats. There are some plot issues that are going to take a little bit of finessing — some important plot beats that are not big enough yet (pinch point and midpoint) — so hopefully now that I’ve started to lay the groundwork for them my subconscious can get to work chewing through them.

Romance Writing

NaNoWriMo 2022 Days 8, 9 & 10

Today, I woke up lethargic and achy from some yard work yesterday. I’ve been practicing listening to my body, so I took a slow morning of reading. Intake and rest are important but oft-ignored ingredients for making creative work. One of NaNoWriMo’s problems is encouraging people to throw out everything in their life besides fiction writing, but I am more interested in a sustainable writing practice that complements, not dominates, my life.

I felt better after lunch, but decided to let my brain dig down a rabbit hole of excitement to finish a blog post that’s been sitting in my drafts folder for several months. As I’m reminded of the flaws in NaNoWriMo, I wanted to explore a meta element of writing that I believe NaNo and the writing community as a whole tends to ignore: deciding which projects are worth investing your time in.

Met up again with my friend on Discord and put in a bit under two hours of writing to hit 20k. I’m happy with an average of 2k a day, even though that puts me on track for 60k rather than 70.

I wrote off the edge of my map on Monday, so Tuesday and Wednesday this week ought to have involved outlining, but instead I followed where the writing was going and dove on in to several more scenes that I am delighted with. I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d maneuver the pair together but their chemistry sparked immediately and I realized there was Only! One! Bed! on this spaceship, so I got to write the beloved romance trope. There’s been accidental touching and lusting so far, and I am almost onto the next escalation of their physical connection, which I have been planning in the back of my head for months. Excited to write it tomorrow! Huh, this write what you’re excited about thing is going well so far πŸ˜‚

Reflection Writing

NaNoWriMo 2022 Day 7

I’m falling into a rhythm of two blocks of writing a day, one in the morning / mid-day, the other after dinner. Today I did my usual 3-hour Cave, writing for two and a half hours and outlining for another half hour. Then in the evening I hopped on Discord with a friend and after shooting the shit for an hour and a half, we got to writing. I put in three more pomodoros, though the pace was a bit slower than previous days and by eleven I was definitely fading.

I’ve stretched this scene twice as long as it needs to be already, and am not quite done yet 😭 Hopefully another five hundred words will get me there tomorrow.

I know I haven’t done a good enough job conveying the female MC’s misbelief, so I could either try adding it in tomorrow while I’m finishing the scene, or could make myself a note and save it for revision. That’s probably the smarter approach, especially since this scene’s gotten a bit rambly and will need to be pared down. I tend to write long πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ And then want to add in revision πŸ˜†

I’m at the point where I’ve caught up with my outline, so I need to either alternate back and forth between outlining and writing prose or commit to some no-prose days to get down a bunch of outline. There is some benefit to doing it right before I write it — then it’s fresh in my mind — but I am finding that I’m getting a bit too buried in the prose and perhaps having a little more outline would steer me towards the finish line a little faster. For the next chapter, I’m going to try preparing the entire outline first, before writing any prose. Between that, finishing the chapter worksheet, and wrapping up this first scene, I probably won’t have time to actually write prose for chapter two tomorrow.

To some extent this is the easy stuff I’m writing now, since I’ve already had it in my mind for some time. I have an Excel level outline (one or two sentences) for the coming chapters, but haven’t put as much time into imagining those scenes yet, so they’ll need more prep work than these two.

Reflection Writing

NaNoWriMo 2022 Day 6

I started the day with a three-block Cave, but after the first work block I finished writing the flashback scene I was working on, and now am on to *gulp* real scenes!!!! I also hit ten thousand words today, so that’s probably a nice amount of pre-writing to get into the headspace of my MCs before writing something pivotal.

I spent the next couple blocks updating my chapter planning worksheet with questions and prompts from writing books I’ve read over the last few months (The Last Draft, The Emotional Craft of Fiction, Structuring Your Novel Workbook). Then I started filling it out for the first two chapters, as well as planning the setting and sensory details to include. (I particularly like the 5-4-3-2-1 sensory planning approach from C.L. Polk.) I like doing planning chapters in advance both as a way to think through what’s going to happen, but also to remind myself of the purpose, stakes, and goal of the scene so I can keep that front of mind as I draft prose.

I broke till after dinner, then came back for another pomodoro of planning, and finally a pomodoro of outlining. I’ve been thinking about this scene for months — which is the meet-cute (as such as it is in a space opera between enemies) — and really want to do it justice. I have just a few pivotal moments in the scene planned out, but needed to think through how she’d get from point A to point B.

Reflection Writing

NaNoWriMo 2022 Days 4 & 5

A tough couple days. Wrote about 45 minutes yesterday and quit with a headache, then our power went out until 2 today. My headache finally went away after dinner tonight, but I wanted to finish watching the movie I started last night that got cut off by the power outage πŸ˜‚ I finally dragged myself to the computer around 10pm, and once I was there cranked out three pomodoros pretty easily.

I used to be big on pomodoros but have been more focused on longer work blocks recently, since Cave Day hosts 45-50ish minute sessions. They worked really well for me today so I’m going to try them out more when I need to write on my own. Instead of an online timer, I used a Time Timer, which I am liking for everything I try it for. I used to use an hourglass but I think I like the timer style better.

Still chugging my way through my heroine’s second misbelief scene: essentially a way for me to put her misbelief in her own mouth and see how it’s shaping her decisions. Really coming together today — and helping me see where I haven’t pushed her problems far enough. Somewhat silly problem: I don’t like the playlist I put together for my heroine πŸ˜‚ I created a new one and I’m copying the tracks I like for her — and that I like listening to — into it.