December, 2018 update

NaNoWriMo is over for 2018 and like the last four times I’d attempted it, I was up to the challenge!  Here’s the graph of my progress:

I found this year much tougher going than in previous attempts, and I think it had to do with the story.  I thought that I would coast through, because I already had established characters, I had picked out familiar surroundings for the action to occur (although I’d need to adjust for the time period), and I was excited because I hadn’t attempted the challenge in three years.  I even scheduled some vacation time during the month to give me a buffer of time to write.

What I hadn’t counted on was that I would feel the need to do more research on location, because my initial readers would have the same familiarity and I didn’t want to have any obvious gaffes.  I also found it much harder to focus on writing in the evenings, my current commute being more arduous than during previous attempts.

But I think the biggest problem I had was the story.  By nature, I’m not a plotter but a pantser.  I typically don’t plan very much ahead, if anything only one or two scenes.  In past years, I’ve described my writing process as watching a movie in my head and typing it out as it unspooled.  The Barnstormers story is an homage to the Saturday-afternoon serials of the ’30s and ’40s, in which each weekly chapter ended with a cliffhanger, and theatergoers would return the next week to see the resolution of the cliffhanger.  That framework meant that I was constantly watching my chapter word count, and forcing myself to come up with some danger that one or both of my protagonists would find themselves in.  I found that very easy when I was working on the earlier chapters of the story, before NaNoWriMo, but back then I was writing roughly a chapter every three weeks or so.  The constant watching for the upcoming end of the chapter placed added stress on my writing process that I really didn’t need.

In the end, I completed the challenge, but I don’t have a sense of closure because the story is far from finished.  I had hoped to chronicle my characters’ adventures in the Chicago area, then move to St. Louis, to have them wind up in Texas (I hadn’t decided on what city yet) but at just over 50K words, I’ve only got as far as establishing them in St. Louis.  It’s a sense of accomplishment to have written so much in one month, but I have so much more to go, I just feel burned out.  I think I just need to take a few days to recover, then continue on.


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