Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo, Day 15: Don't Get Ahead of Yourself

A little update on my computer before I go forward: turned out I had a dying hard drive. While my husband could back up all my files, he couldn't fix something that was tangibly damaged (although my Macbook is coming up on its 3-year birthday, my husband pointed out the damage was most likely facilitated by the laptop being shuffled around while the hard drive was processing. I have a nasty habit of never shutting down my computer when traveling. Lesson learned there!). We conceded and went to the Genius Bar after all and paid for them to install a brand new hard drive (plus a nice keyboard/touchpad cleaning since I also have a *cough* nasty habit of eating while in front of my laptop).

Whenever things get tough, my husband reminds me that every setback that happens in our lives happens for a reason, and usually ends up bettering our lives than if the setback had never happened in the first place. This little speed bump, while costing me a day and a half in terms of stress and panic, ended up working for the better as well. The Genius Bar guys upgraded my software from Snow Leopard to Lion for free (an upgrade to Mountain Lion would've cost me, however), and the new hard drive had twice as many gigabytes as my old one. Since I had to redo all my bookmarks anyway, I decided on Chrome over Firefox as my main browser (a very wonderful upgrade in and of itself). I also was able to get MSOffice 2011 (whereas beforehand, I was using a very crappy 2004 bootleg). The best part was that I was able to start over with a clean slate. No unnecessary applications, no files all over the place. My Macbook runs smoother, faster; my desktop is actually organized for once.

The stress from my computer crash actually fits in nicely with this post's theme: don't get ahead of yourself. When I couldn't get my laptop to load, I got far too ahead of myself. What if my files were gone forever? What if I couldn't bounce back from losing 6,000+ words? What if I am never able to write another book again because I had such a disaster with my second novel? What if everything I've been working so hard towards crumbles in front of me like a dried-up cake?

All that did was add fuel to the stress fire, which is a good chunk of the reason as to why I had a panic attack. Another cause for the panic attack was potentially the fact that I had my first demo class ever. As I mentioned before, I might start teaching tai chi. I was giving a demo class at the Manchester Y that Friday, and it was safe to say I was getting ahead of myself there, too. What happens if I get this gig? Can I handle two jobs? What if this means that I'll eventually shift careers into fitness training instead? Am I ready to be a tai chi instructor? Does this mean I should focus on the trainings required to be a yoga instructor as well? Am I done being an early childhood educator?

Nothing good comes from getting ahead of yourself. It busies your brain at best and causes panic attacks at worst. The same goes for writing: around Day 4, I had already written out every scenario that had been simmering in the back of my mind pre-NaNoWriMo. This meant that I had to start making up what happens in my book on the spot. This is a daunting task: what should the next scene be? Does it add to the book? Does it add to the character or the plot? Is it absolute garbage?

The only way I could move forward was with the understanding that I only needed to figure out what would happen during the next 1000 words. I had another day to figure out the next 1000, and so on. And a funny thing would happen: I'd struggle with the first hundred words, only to downright stumble upon a great plot device or piece of dialogue, and, before I knew it, I was 1500 words down (I know I said I'd be more strict about pacing myself, but all that went out the window when I received the grey load-up screen of death).

I used to think I preferred the outline style of creating a novel (I wrote outlines for the last half of my first novel and essentially used it as a checklist when I'd finish each chapter), but, for this book, I'm better off winging it a thousand words at a time. Granted, I'm keeping a keen eye on the overall story arc, but knowing the direction my story is heading is completely different than knowing what will happen in every chapter.

If you are a hardcore outline enthusiast, my advice still stays the same: don't get ahead of yourself. You might have a full outline set up, ready to reach that full 50,000-word goal, but remember: unless you're Stephen King or John Grisham, you will not reach that 50,000 words by the end of week one. Take it one day at a time. See what you can get written today, not what you can get written while worrying about the rest of the month.

Before you know it, you're at Day 15. I'm roughly at 26,000 words total, 19,000 of which were written during NaNoWriMo alone. This means I've almost quadrupled my word count in a simple 15 days. I recognize that, with Thanksgiving and my brother-in-law's wedding coming up, I'm not out of the woods just yet. But, hey -- I survived a potential loss of all my NaNoWriMo's progress. What's a little bit of family time?

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