LizAnn Carson

Releasing stories into the world

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A little piece of advice, based on recent experience: if you have obsessive/compulsive tendencies, NaNoWriMo can be tricky.

Now, I did it. I ‘won’ NaNo, producing 50,000+ words in fifteen days. As a result, about three-quarters of the next Calter Creek romance (Julie) is written. That’s the plus side.

On the downside, the third week of NaNo I barely crept along, and by the fourth week I’d abandoned the project altogether. Maybe not forever, but I couldn’t face my (lovable) characters another minute. Couldn’t find the words to put in their mouths. I realized I was imagining scene after scene where they were just sort of drooping around and being really acquiescent and nice and … well, utterly lacking in drama, or conflict, or even chemistry. I foresaw the hero saying (with no discernable emotion), “Hey, wanna (fill in the blank)?” and the heroine replying, “Yeah, whatever.”

Plus, a lot of my output was drivel. Serious editing/rewriting on the horizon. But that’s okay. For me, the biggest challenge is getting something, anything, down. After that, I can edit forever.

So I backed off from Julie and Chris and their pals and situations, and that was the best decision I made during NaNo month. I rediscovered life away from my computer. Gosh, there are friends out there, family, activities, autumn, Black Friday (well, no, I skipped that one). I cleaned the house, I played with the cat (who had been letting me know, in her inimitable feline way, that she’s neglected). I went for walks with Hubby and with any luck started to restore muscle tone to my legs.

In my daydreams, I began to sketch the plotlines for a fantasy that’s been tickling the back of my mind. Not sure yet if it will be one book or a trilogy, there’s still lots to figure out, but I have a good picture of my five main characters. Next step is to create outlines, storyboards, mind maps, whatever works, to illustrate how the story arcs interweave.

I guess that for me, while I’m a fast writer, I need plenty of breaks, both in the small scale (fifteen-minute bursts, followed by coffee time or cat time or balancing the chequebook) and in the larger picture. I’ve been writing or editing full time for a year. While part of me doesn’t want to stop, the other part of me (and all advice you’ll ever find on the subject) tells me it’s necessary. After two weeks of not writing, I feel mostly human again. Even my typing has improved.

The more stubborn of us have to experience it to believe it.

With the ‘big push’ almost over, and balance restored, this morning I’ll play in a coloring book (I’ve written about the joy of adult coloring books before), and I’ve already watered the jungle of house plants. The sun’s breaking through. Life is good.

So hooray for NaNo. It drives you forward. And lessons learned, thanks very much. I admit, though, I’m not sorry to see the end.