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Post NaNoWriMo Blues

I wanted to post about my NaNoWriMo experience right after it ended, but then two things happened:

  1. Fatigue hit me, which I expected. If anyone tells you NaNoWriMo is a breeze, don’t believe them! Some may be more productive then others, but when you come to the end of those 30 days, you have little energy to spend. I always feel drained. This year I also had to juggle a few other commitments, I missed five days (which is nearly a week!) of writing and, even if I never panicked (because those 12 previous NaNos I did have taught me something) my energies were stretched thin, especially at the end.
    I won NaNoWriMo, by the way. On the last day with just a few hundred words to spear.
  2. Work went crazy again. Again I was required to work overtime for quite a few days a week. Luckily, this happened the first week of December. Had it happened the last week of November – and I dreaded it! – I wouldn’t have been able to finish.

But hey! I crossed that finish line and it never felt that good. Yes, yes, I say this every year – because it’s true!

Now, ‘finish’ is probably not the right word to use here, because I didn’t finish the novel. I’m even later than I hoped I’d be, because I still need to write the new part in the middle, but on the whole, I’m quite happy with the work I’ve done. The story is coming together, I’m touching on all the themes I wanted and I’m getting to know the characters a lot better.

Revise, revise, revise and revise some more

There are authors who can write a very clean first draft, so that they have very little work to do once the first draft is done.
I’m not that kind of author. My first drafts are so messy that I doubt anyone would understand anything should they read it (not that anyone will. I’m going to show my first drafts exactly to NOBODY!!). I hear so many authors who need to trim down their first drafts because they put in lots of unnecessary stuff while they chased after the story. I’m the other way around. I normally need to beef up the story, because my first drafts just try to pin down the main events in the plot. It’s only in the subsequent revisions that themes emerge, characters start to shine, ideas connect and the tapestry starts to show its picture. Whereas with the first draft I just dump down what I have inside me, with every revision, the picture gets clearer, details come into focus, ‘telling’ turns into ‘showing’. That’s why I need to add rather than to take out.

It happened the same things with this revision. I added a few new characters – Elsie became a strong counterpart to Ingeborg’s thread, when she previously was only an extra. I defined the background of the story better, with the setting becoming more grounded in the historical moment. I added an entire new episode in the middle of the novel, to better mark Ingeborg’s passage from one stage of the story to another and in the end I realised I need more space at the beginning to give more breath to her reasons and connection to the world around her. Same needs to be done for Elsie.

This sadly means that I’ll need more work on the story than I anticipated. I had hoped to send The Frozen Maze out to beta readers after this revision, but now I see I’ll need at least another round before this is ready to go.

Instagram Story to celebrate

Nonetheless, to celebrate what I have achieved, I created a Story for Instagram and here it is.

How do you feel about it?

Sea Phantom

On another matter, I just got news last week that Sea Phantom didn’t make the cut to the dieselpunk anthology. But that didn’t put me down. I was expecting it. The story was longer than the guidelines required by a good 1000 words (which is not a spiff on a story 6000 words long), and still it made it to the short list. This is what really counts to me.

The curator wrote me:

At this point in the process of putting together an anthology my task is no longer about choosing the best stories out of submissions, it’s about picking which ones go best together and making sure I don’t go over my maximum word count for the anthology. Unfortunately, though I really enjoyed this story, I just ran out of space in the anthology and couldn’t fit it in. I am confident, however, that you’ll be able to find it a home elsewhere.

Not a failure, in my book.

Besides, I have plans for this little story and you guys will be the first to learn about it when the time comes.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this song which became popular here in Italy just when I was writing Sea Phantom. I feel there is a connection between the song and the story, although I’m not able to say what that connection is. But every time I heard it, I think about Sea Phantom.

So, I’d say I’m in a in-between moment, but I know where I have to head. That’s something, right?

Stay tuned!

6 Comments

  • Nick Wilford
    Posted December 17, 2018 at 14:42

    Congrats on NaNo! Yes, I’m the same sort of author – I only know the shape of the story and what all the characters do once I’ve got through the first draft. Hope the revisions go well.

    Also, that’s the best kind of rejection to get. I’m sure you’ll place that story somewhere!

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted December 18, 2018 at 09:12

      Thanks Nick.
      December has been hard on my revision, but it helped me deciding about a different way to orginise my time. I need to be more efficient or I’ll never get anything done.

      True, eh? The first draft (but the first thing I right is often so scketchy and and messy that I even esitate to call it that) just put down the basis for the story. Like you, my ideas of the story are alwasy vague, even if I use templates to organise the story, before I write the first draft. Only with revision, the story starts to make sense.

  • Roland R Clarke
    Posted December 17, 2018 at 21:29

    Congratulations on the NaNo win. I’m like you, Sarah, I write my first draft so that it needs beefing up. The first draft builds on my outline but still leaves room for revisions and rewrites. That video is interesting and I wish that I understood what sound like emotional lyrics.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted December 18, 2018 at 09:17

      Thanks Roland. You did a great job at NaNo as far as I’m concerned 😉

      I don’t really use the snowflake method, but practically what I do (which is very much like what you do) is very similar. The story starts short and essential and continuously builds up with every new revision.

      You have a good ear. The lyrics of the song are indeed very emotional.
      I love that video. It’s very dreamy and elegant. I watched it a lot later than I initially heard the song, but I discovered that the video is even more connected to my story than the song itself is.

  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 03:30

    I give you a lot of credit, Sarah, for finishing NaNo. Little wonder you’re fatigued, though; it takes it out of a person to be on that sort of schedule.

    And about revising? I’m in the process of doing that now with a story I’m writing. I have to remind myself that writing is always a work in progress.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted December 26, 2018 at 09:32

      Yes, NaNoWriMo is a hell of a schedule, but it is only one month and we can do a lot of work in that month if we stick to the schedule, which is one of the reasons I love NaNo. But I wouldn’t be abel to keep that pace the entire year.

      Wow! You’re working to a new novel? What is it about?

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