25 November 2015 - 6:06 pm

A slow start

My underwhelming statistics to date.

My underwhelming statistics to date.

Usually, when the 1st November hits, it’s pedal to the metal, all system go, sprinting off the start line like a startled rabbit being chased by an eager puppy. As an ML, I’m part of the cheer squad, encouraging everyone to write write write. It’s all about high energy and enthusiasm.

This year hasn’t been like that for me. Oh, I’m doing my best as ML, encouraging people, cheering them on, providing stickers and applause and candy. I’m not feeling the high energy this year but I’m at least faking it fairly well for others.

The ML side of things feels like the only part I’m getting right. When it comes to my own writing, it has been a struggle.

2015 has been something of a low year for me, mostly in terms of health and energy levels, with a whole heap of work-related stress and complications. Taking a hiatus has helped and given me the breathing room I needed to get on top of things, but my writing largely stalled in the process.

So, sitting down to a blank page at midnight on 1st November was daunting. I knew roughly what I wanted to write but not exactly, and that’s usually enough for me (more planning than that is usually too much and takes the fun and impetus out of it). But it was a struggle to get started. Since then, it has continued to be a struggle to put words on the page.

I had planned to make Starwalker Book 5 my project this year, with dreams of burning through 50,000 words of the web serial and getting a nice, fat buffer for myself. I laid out the rough outline of where the story was going, re-read the last section of Book 4 to remind myself of where all my characters were and what state the ship was in, so I knew where I was picking everything up and where I was going with it. I was ready. Good to go. Right?

Getting back into the voice and flow of Starwalker has proven to be hard. Very hard. Currently, I’m over 35,000 words into NaNo, and have written only a handful of Starwalker posts. They are only ever 3,000 words each at most, so you can see how it’s not all I’m writing. I would say that, at this point, it’s less than half of what I’ve written.

Right now, I’m fighting a battle between stubbornness, discipline, fostering creativity, and not forcing writing.

I had to push to get those few posts done, far harder than I like. I’m used to pushing myself to sit down and write – through feeling tired and distracted, through wanting to goof off for a while and play games – and I know that self-discipline is really important for me to be productive (this is part of why deadlines work for me: they make me sit down and get things done). But there’s a line where forcing myself to sit down and write becomes counterproductive: the writing becomes noticeably forced and, put simply, bad.

Finding that line is not easy. To stop myself going over it, I’ve had to recognise when the words I’m putting down are not my best work and are probably going to hurt me in the long run (this is where wasteful tangents come from, and stories diving into dead ends). I’ve had to be honest with myself when it’s just not working and I’m splurging crap onto the page in the name of upping my word count. While NaNoWriMo encourages this to an extent, I generally try not to do it, mostly because it makes the editing afterwards much harder and the impetus of the story can get swamped in the random shit, making it harder to write it in the first place.

But this is NaNo (words, words!), and I’m also trying to get back into the swing of writing regularly again, and that means that I don’t want to just stop when it starts getting shitty. (I’m also, as I mentioned, really stubborn, which means I don’t give up easily.) So, I’ve tried to build momentum by switching to other projects temporarily, and returning to Starwalker for a fresh go.

On the first little diversion, I managed to finish off the second part of that naughty little project I’ve been playing with lately. It still needs a lot of editing and polish, but the first draft is done! If nothing else, I have achieved that so far.

As so often happens when I delve into a project, I have started getting ideas and inspiration for other projects. It’s like flicking a creativity switch in my brain: there is lots of light, it flickers pretty randomly, and it falls on everything, not just the thing I’m supposed to be focussing on. It’s a floodlight rather than a focussed beam. This is why I came up with the Starwalker idea when I was 2 months into a 12-month project (The Apocalypse Blog) and wound up having to delay it for nearly a year. That part of my brain is fairly indiscriminate when it is active.

This time around, the project that decided to be illuminated is Splinter Soul. I’ve got a heap of ideas for the main plot now, and a handful of elements that I know I can play with. The main character’s voice is firming up and it’s entirely possible that she’s one of the least-heroic characters I’ve ever written (which makes her a stark contrast to Starry, who is one of the most heroic-natured characters I’ve created).

So I’ve written a bunch of stuff around the start of that story and the main plot is starting to take shape. It’s currently sitting around 11,000 words, which is not a bad chunk to start off a novel. I need to start folding in the rest of the main cast soon, which means I need to work out who they all are, but I like the way it’s going. It’s a start.

Add it to the list of all the projects I have that I want to progress. Oh wait, it’s already on there! Oops.

What else have I been working on? I’ve also been tinkering away at a super-hero-themed short story, which I wound up rewriting entirely because I wanted to change the point of view and sharpen it up. That one is currently just over 8,000 words, and about halfway through the story I want to tell. It’s only supposed to be 10,000 words in total, so I’m going to have to edit it pretty ruthlessly. That’s okay, that’s the next stage. I should probably try to push it through to the end before I worry about editing it down.

But I’m determined that Starwalker is still going to be my focus this NaNoWriMo. So I’ve been going back and determinedly working through a few posts at a time. The first part of Book 5 is starting to take shape. Slowly, gradually, one step at a time.

My word count graph shows how much I’m struggling this year. For the first time in a long time, I’ve fallen below the daily target. I’ve caught up, then fallen behind again. My second attempt to catch up was brave but didn’t quite make it: that was during the overnight write-in, which happened last weekend. It was a fantastic weekend and I think it went well (more on this soon), but I struggled to focus enough to write. It took a lot more out of me than I was expecting, and I was pretty much useless for two days afterwards. On the second day, I went upstairs to write, and wound up sprawled on the bed attempting to nap instead (for those who don’t know: I don’t nap, ever. It never works for me. If I try, it’s because my body is giving me no other choice and it’s usually a sign that I’m really sick or run down.)

Today, I’m feeling much better. Rested. And excited to get writing again. I need to write about 5,000 words to catch up to target. That’s totally doable over the next few hours, if I’m lucky and can maintain some momentum.

So yes, this year’s NaNoWriMo has been more of a struggle than I was anticipating. But I still love writing. I still love meeting all those wonderful people who are sharing in this journey. I still love the ideas and the stories that spill out of it. There will be more, so much more.

And like I said, I’m stubborn. I’ll get to 50,000 words yet. Just watch me.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)


  1. Alexander leaking pen hollins says:


    Interesting article on seed bombs. Thought you might like to read.

    November 29th, 2015 at 3:58 am

  2. Mel says:

    That’s wonderful, thank you, Alexander! Interesting idea. I really need to get back to that story. More idea seeds, excellent. 😀

    November 29th, 2015 at 8:39 pm