Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day Four: Pacing Yourself

Fast and furious, or slow and steady -- how do you pace yourself during NaNoWriMo? It depends on the individual, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. But sometimes, what has worked for us in the past, suddenly doesn't work for us any more.

As in the past, all of the anticipation that had been building up during October, manifested as creative overdrive when the virtual starting gun fired at 12:01 a.m., on day one, November 1. I hit the ground running, ideas fresh in my mind, energy flowing, couldn't get the words out fast enough. I felt like I could sustain this pace forever, and was annoyed when non-NaNo necessities, such as eating, paying bills, and catching a couple of hours sleep, threatened to slow me down.

On day two, that pesky internal editor/critic showed up trying to distract me by critiquing what I'd written the day before. I reminded it, and myself, that the purpose of NaNo is writing -- the editing and critiquing come after the clock runs out on November 30. Founder Chris Baty had warned of the temptation to second guess yourself in "A Guide to the Novelling Month Ahead." For November 2, he wrote: "Stop writing. Wonder if you should start over. Keep going. Feel better." So, I muzzled the internal editor/critic and pressed on. The words didn't flow quite as quickly because I had to veer off the "write" road onto a side path to do a little research on locations, culture at the time in which the story is set, and a few other details. That taken care of, I continued setting the stage for the "meat" of the story.

On day three, things were still going well. The characters were becoming more real, the setting more developed, and all the elements were coming together. I ended the day in high spirits, still ahead of the three-day word count goal.

Then, when I woke up to go to my physical therapy appointment Tuesday afternoon (have been in p.t. since injuring my hand in mid-July), I realized that my hand was the ONLY thing that wasn't bothering me! After three days of flat-out writing, my eyes were burning, my brain was fogging, my body felt like it had been hit by a truck, and I was completely exhausted. The realization began to dawn that I can no longer pull consecutive all-nighters as I did when I was younger--not without unpleasant consequences. Wisdom dictated that I take last night off, give myself and my characters a rest, and start fresh tonight. Being ahead in the word count helped, as did the fact that my writing for yesterday had been completed the night before.

So, where does that leave me today? Right on track, and with the added bonus of nine and a half hours of sleep under my belt. Hopefully, my characters also had a good night's rest so they can better deal with the things that are going to happen to them.

If you're feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and thinking of quitting, stop and take a break. Some participants write less during the week, then catch up on the weekends. If you're starting to fall behind in the word count, don't beat yourself up over it. Get up, walk around, talk to a friend or your writing buddy, watch your favorite show, read a book, pat the dog, get some sleep, and start fresh the next day. After all, what's the worst that can happen? Even if you don't hit 50,000 words by the end of the month, you will still have written more than you would have if you hadn't tried in the first place.

So, after last night's brief hiatus, and feeling refreshed, it's back to the keyboard!

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