Camp NaNoWriMo — July Comes Too Soon

Image courtesy of iosphere /
Image courtesy of iosphere /
OMG, what do you mean that it’s almost July?

It seems like every time NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo rolls around, I’m not ready. I didn’t even bother trying in April. Nonetheless, I’m on for July.

My intent is to revise last July’s novel, working title Leticia. To my own surprise, I may be ready with background notes, character summaries, a (gasp) timeline, and a scene-level outline. Please, don’t faint or guffaw. I have everything but the scene-level outline, and that’s in process. There just may be time in the remaining 13 days of June to get it done.

I’ve set myself the ambitious goal of 100K words for July — but I’m hoping that most of my words from last year will make it through to this year’s draft. I’m not going to beat myself with the “not a winner” stick if I don’t make my goal — I will declare myself a winner if I either a) get the revision finished or, b) get 50K new words written. I’m hoping for a lot more than 1600 words per day, though.

I’m a different writer from the one who sat down last year to a blank screen with no prep. I’ve learned a lot about productivity, writing, and myself. Last year, I didn’t have an outstanding process engineer (Hubby!) on my team. I didn’t know about GTD. I was emotionally, if not intellectually, in denial about the realities of being ADHD with respect to being a writer. And while I knew what was supposed to happen in revision, I had no clue as to where to start.

Now, I have a process. I have a plan. I have a skilled production engineer to coach me and help me refine my process. The process is not written in stone — I revised my weekly schedule yesterday to more closely match the realities of the productivity patterns I’ve noticed over the last month. And since January I’ve gone through one attempt to structure the story according to one author’s suggested process, gotten hopelessly bogged down, and restarted with a different author as guide.

It’s all OK. After 40 years of being a poor employee and a worse boss, I’m learning to be a decent employee and a decent boss — to myself. I never cared enough either engineering or any employer to make more than a half-hearted attempt at this. But I care enough writing and being a writer to keep at it — and make progress.

Leticia and the No Right Answer Monster

I just realized that I’ve been blathering on about doing revision, and I’ve never said exactly what I’m revising. Other than it’s a novel, but then, you knew that.

It’s my Camp NaNoWriMo draft from July, code-named “Leticia.” It’s a political thriller, and very hard sci-fi. I wrote a little about my main character in this post from July. Having stopped floundering, I’m now creating a scene chart as suggested in Cathy Yardley’s Rock Your Revisions. It’s slow going, in part because Leticia is first-person, and Ms. Yardley’s outline allows for switching point of view. There are no POV switches in a first-person novel… and I’m using that as my current excuse.

Partly though, I’m daunted by the amount of work left to do. I’ll need some serious research–the state of the art has changed since I worked as a rocket scientist in the Dark Ages. And there are whole sections of plot and characters that are just, well, given a quick drive-by blast in my draft.

One scene at a time, Sandra… I need to focus on creating a scene chart of what I’ve got. Then I can see where I need more scenes–and I will need more scenes. I suspect I’m not going to get out of this for fewer than 100K words before cuts. Then I can revisit my characters’ motivations. Then I can realize my Martian setting more fully. And then….

Well, you get the picture, I’m sure. It’s a slog. I know some authors find this to be the most exciting phase of writing. Maybe later I’ll agree. For now, not so much.

All I can say is that I am far more impressed by published authors than I was before I started this journey. This stuff is not easy. Doing a structural analysis of a rocket engine part–that’s easy. Writing automatic exam software to accompany a textbook–that’s easy. This is hard, because there is no “right” answer. There are no written customer specifications other than what I glean from my own reading and the advice of other writers. I fight my terror of “no right answer” every step of the way.