On participating in "Nano in February"

A group of us on the Goodreads Author Feedback Group decided to do a modified National Novel Writing Month this February.

I've done "actual Nano" four times, in which you write a 50,000 word draft in 30 days, and won it twice. (Of course, "winning" means that you've got 50,000 words on the page; for me it has never generated a complete story arc of a draft.) I've loved the cameraderie of it, the goal-setting and accountability and cheerleading and all that, but i've also accepted that it's not an effective way for me to write a meaningful draft.

The month of November is typically one of the busiest months of the year at work, and the pace of it has resulted in me writing a lot of dreck just to keep up, words which I *know* are being written just to stay on track. And that's been problematic for me, because i've always known that, if i just spent a day or two thinking or researching, i wouldn't be writing useless words.

Point being, NaNoWriMo is great, but for a number of reasons, it's not for me. But i do love the community aspect of it, so when P.D. Workman suggested on the Authors Feedback Group that a bunch of us band together to do "Nano in February," I was on board because in this case, she ran it more like Camp NaNoWriMo, where we set our own goals for the month instead of the predetermined 50,000 words of NaNoWriMo.

I joined because i have been doing a lot of preliminary work on a novel idea that grabbed me a few months back--a work of historical fiction concerning the interpersonal dramas among a circle of artists and musicians in the Latin Quarter of 1850s Paris. I'd gotten a lot of research done and had my basic plot concept and characters, and P.D.'s idea was exactly the boost i needed to stopĀ pinning stuff to a Pinterest moodboard and start writing.

I knew i had a couple of big projects at work coming due and a grant application to write in February, so i set a very modest goal: 500 words a day, or 15,000 words by month's end.

Well, 28 days later, I ended up with a draft-in-progress of 22,058 words, probably a quarter of the story told. I also ended up with an excellent concept of what a meaningful, sustainable drafting pace could be for me even in the midst of a majorly busy (and blizzard-ridden!) month. It's exciting to know that i could sustain this past month's pace and have my first draft ready to revise by mid-May, or i could push myself harder and be revising sooner.

And because i used a progress-tracking spreadsheet which included a "morale" rating, i can see that i sustained a pretty high level of positivity about the project, whereas in a traditional Nano month, i often got discouraged when i inevitably fell behind.

Funny, it's taken me five novels to figure out what works for me. I'd have thought the masters thesis might have done it, but no, it was a serendipitous exercise on Goodreads.

And now, back to that draft. :D

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