Bad writer. No Scotch for you.


I publicly (my first mistake) announced a lofty ambition last month, declaring January as JaNoWriMo, my own version of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

Every November, haggard writers attack their keyboards with the goal of writing 50,000 words, a respectable first draft—by the end of the month. I had a Dec. 1 deadline on one book and a Dec. 15 deadline on revisions to another, so November was no time for me to be fooling around with something new. But January, after a nice holiday break, seemed perfect. Because I’d already written 20,000 words toward Book 5, I thought 70,000 seemed like a reasonable goal.

It took almost no time at all for that to fall apart. When working on a first draft, I aim for 1,000 words a day. That’s worked fine for four published (or to-be-published) novels, and a couple that, please God, will never see the light of day. JaNoWriMo would push my daily goal close to 2,000 words.

Turns out, that was easily enough achieved. I just wrote really, really fast, zooming toward the moment when the Scrivener Dominatrix let me know I’d hit my goal. But the faster I wrote, the farther away from me the story seemed to get. I made all sorts of notes—”Go back and delete this.” “Go back and change that to conform with what I’m writing now”—but at some point, I felt as though I was making more notes to myself about needed revisions than actually writing. I’m a big fan of plowing through a first draft without fussing over details, but these were more than details. They were key plot points, character development, etc.

So I stopped. Deleted my word target from the Scrivener Dominatrix. Went back and shored things up so that when I proceeded, it was with a firm foundation. Now I have a new goal—to have a first draft in hand by May, when I’ll spend a month at the Willapa Bay Artist in Residence program on the Washington coast.

The up side of blowing JaNoWriMo? I learned that my own process works pretty well. That’s reassuring.

But there’s a deep, deep down side: I’d promised myself a bottle of Lagavulin if I met my goal. No Scotch for this girl. Maybe in May!


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