Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

HANaNoWriMo Word Count Total as of Day 3: 5766.

I’m falling asleep at the computer pathetically early, but so it is.  It’s 10:37pm, and, after writing both ways on the train, at the ChiWriMo South Loop Write-In over lunch, and again at home, I’m falling asleep on the keyboard of my MacBook.

Here’s today’s chart for my NaNoWriMo progress:

Breezeway Blows Town, Day 3:

5766 / 25000 words. 23% done!

One resource for fellow Wrimos that I’m enjoying is the encore presentation of The Nanomonkeys over at The Secret Lair. This is an encore feed of a short daily podcast that ran during the 2006 and 2007 NaNoWriMos, but is essentially as useful today as it was then. Highly recommended.

HANaNoWriMo Word Count for Day 2: 4036

Breezeway Blows Town, Day 2:

4036 / 25000 words. 16% done!

HANaNoWriMo Word Count for Day 1: 2697.

Breezeway Blows Town, progress so far:

2697 / 25000 words. 11% done!

Of course, this is just 11% of the way to my half-assed goal of 25,000 words, not 11% of a finished first draft.  But the prologue is done, and I’ve started on Chapter 1. I feel like I’m getting some momentum, which is a good way to start and a sure sign that I won’t have time to write anything else this week.


I said I wouldn’t do NaNoWriMo this year. I wanted to do it last year, but was burned out from finishing the first draft of Meet the Larssons in October.  This year, I’m too busy at work, and the Siren has been called for grand jury duty in November which will turn everything upside down here at home. But I need a kick start for my writing, and I have what I think is the perfect idea for a NaNoWriMo novel.

So I’m making a half-assed commitment to make a half-assed effort at NaNoWriMo, with a goal of writing 25,000 words (instead of 50,000) of a new novel in the month of November. That would require less than a thousand words a day, but will be a respectable start to the new project.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year and care join me in my half-assed attempt, add me as a writing buddy on the NaNo website. My user name is the same as it is here, Unfocused Me, and my author ID number is 261488. You can also just click here to add me.

Absolutely, Positively, No.

I am not doing NaNoWriMo this year. Too busy, too much going on at work. The fact that I have come up with a terrific idea for a NaNo novel – breezy, fast-paced, completely outlandish storyline – will not sway me. I will simply write consistently. Calmly. Without drama. I will set a daily writing goal for myself, and meet it with aplomb.

My daily writing goal (other than times like RIGHT NOW when I need to finish my treatise chapter)? I’m usually happy with 500 words a day. But perhaps I’ll be a little more ambitious come autumn, and by November, my daily goal will be, oh, I don’t know, perhaps 1,667 words.

That seems like a nice, round number, doesn’t it?


Summer Sunday Stats #7: The Real Last Summer Sunday.

No wonder it’s such a nice day:  it’s still summer.  The autumnal equinox is tomorrow.  D’oh.  (If you didn’t see Summer Sunday Stats #6A or Summer Sunday Stats #6B, then this probably doesn’t mean anything to you; carry on, then.)

Miles run:  8.46 miles in 1:22:48.  Nice and slooooow.  I took the entire week off after the Chicago Half Marathon — I didn’t run a step between last Sunday and today, except to catch the train.  While I never got full out sick after my last post, but I’ve definitely been fighting off a cold, so I took it easy this morning.  I’m glad I went out, though; it’s a beautiful day, warm and sunny but not too hot.

What was playing on my iPod during my run:  absolutely nothing.  I couldn’t find my arm band case for the iPod, so I went without it.  Just as well, as it turns out.

Words of Meet the Larssons written this week:  3,146, for a total of 96,094, which sounds pretty good to me considering the week I had.  Not included in that total is the 600 words of notes I typed out last night and this morning with ideas for revisions when I’m ready for the second draft.  I hit a point this week where I can see the end of the story, and my vague feelings of dissatisfaction with the story arc began to really coalesce.  Last night, I finally realized what was wrong with it, and by this morning, I started to figure out how I needed to change the story to save it.  By the time I left for my run, I had a pretty good idea as to what the revised structure of the novel would be, but I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of rewriting I thought it would require.  I thought I might have to throw out as much as half of what I’ve written — not just edit or revise or even rewrite, but throw 50,000 words completely out the window.

When I couldn’t find my iPod case, I just grabbed my keys and left.  I thought I could use the time to think through the changes I’d need to make.  Instead, in the course of an 80-minute run, I figured out that most of what I thought I’d have to pitch could actually be salvaged, that the biggest problem with the story so far isn’t what I’ve written, but the order in which I’ve written it.  The same events — hell, even the same dialogue in several scenes — which are just vignettes the way I’ve written them in the first draft, which add nothing to the plot or just serve to make the characters jump through particular hoops on their way to a predetermined end, would make perfect sense and build the dramatic tension if only they appeared in a different order.  Instead of shitcanning 50,000 words, I would need to cut maybe 10,000 words completely, and revise or rewrite another 10,000 while changing the order in which those scenes appear.  Then I’ve got ideas for probably another 10,000 to 20,000 words of new scenes on top of that, to tie the new structure together. None of this excuses me from finishing the first draft, but I feel a lot better knowing where the revisions are going to go.

It does, however, tell me that NaNoWriMo is not an option this year.  I’m going to finish the first draft of MTL in the next three weeks or so, certainly by Halloween, but I think probably before then.  Then I’m going to take a few weeks away from it and work on getting one or two more short stories finished, cleaned up, and submitted.  By mid-November or so, I’d like to get cracking on making these revisions.  If at all possible, I’d like to have the revised draft done by the end of January (I’d really like to have it done by the end of the year, but I can’t see how that’s realistic).  That’s not the submission draft, but by the end of it I should have fixed any big problems with the book.

What about the marathon?  The jury’s still out on that, but I’m skeptical about my ability to take that much time off of work.

Gotta go – it’s official homework time for the kids, and the weekend is the only time I get to help.

Summer Sunday Stats #5: Marathon or NaNo?

Summer Sunday Stats for today — only one more weekend to go before I’m doing Fall Sunday Stats.  Depressing thought.

Miles run:  12.19 in 1:37:11.  It was the same run as last weekend, but oh, so much better.  The training is starting to pay off, I got more sleep on Saturday night, and I had time to eat breakfast before my run.  My left hamstring started to ache at about mile 8, and my right hip bothered me a bit starting around mile 9, but they slowed me down much less than I would have expected, and the ice bath I take after these long runs goes a long way to dealing with the little aches and pains.  Yes, I said ice bath.  Try it, you’ll stop screaming eventually.

Only one more week until the Chicago Half Marathon, and I’m feeling like maybe it won’t be a complete disaster.  Even if I don’t finish with a better time than I did last year, if it feels less like a death march, I’ll be happy.

Weather:  beautiful, sunny, not too warm.  Can’t beat Chicago in September.

What I was listening to on my iPod:  Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing #59 (Clarion Graudates), and Phedippidations #151 (Starting a Beatless Heart).  I only started listening to AISFP in the last few weeks, and so far, I like what I hear.  Shawn and Sam get some great interviews with well-known writers as well as up-and-comers, like the graduates of this summer’s Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop.  I always wanted to do Clarion when I was writing science fiction in high school and college.  Obviously, I’m not in a position now to drop everything and go to San Diego for six weeks; I’d do better to find a local critique group of people I enjoy working with.  I attended one meeting of a crit group a few months ago, but I’ve been traveling so much I haven’t been able to go back.  I’m not sure that group is for me, anyway; it just didn’t click.  I should probably look for another one.  I might do better with an online crit group, too; I’m not really excited about another thing that gets me home late and causes me to miss the kids’ bedtime.

Happily, Steve Runner, the host of Phedippidations, has decided to go back to a weekly schedule after several months of only podcasting once every three weeks or so.  Fdip was the first podcast I ever subscribed to, and Steve has been a great running buddy, even though we’ve never met.  I’m glad he’s back at it on a regular schedule.

Words written of Meet the Larssons:  1402.  Certainly an improvement over last week, but here’s the problem:  while I wrote 1402 words of MTL, I wrote 3902 words of “Secretary-General,” the short story I started 10 days ago.  I need to be better disciplined about this.  I’ve decided I have to — have to — finish the first draft of the novel by Halloween, for any number of reasons, from needing to end it so I can put it down for a while and come back to the revision process fresh, to the fact that I’m starting to lose track of the plot because I’ve been working on it for so long, to wanting to possibly do NaNo this year (more on that in a moment).  If I’m going to get MTL put to bed in seven weeks, I need to put other writing projects away and not create any new ones.  Any bright, shiny ideas that come to me in the next seven weeks will get put into a box labeled “Do Not Open Until November 1.”  They can come out to play then.  SG is temptingly close to finished, but it isn’t coming out the way I wanted it, anyway, so I’m going to put it aside until after Nov. 1 (after Nov. 30, if I end up doing NaNo).  A few days ago, my daughter and I realized that she was reading five books at the same time (four novels, one math book); I told her she could do what she liked, but she might get more out of them if she finished a couple before she added any new ones to the mix.  She finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban this afternoon, and has been making good progress on a couple of the others without starting anything new, so I guess she took my advice.  I should do the same with what I’m writing.

Marathon or NaNoWriMo?  That is the question.  I had no plans to run a marathon this year; instead, I started the New Year planning to enter NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — in November, after having worked on my writing chops by starting this blog and writing a couple of short stories.  Instead,  I’ve written two short stories and gotten nearly 90,000 words into a novel, which I will finish before NaNo starts on November 1.

At the same time, I’ve been running better than I expected this year.  I managed to keep my long runs going — not perfectly consistently, but well enough — through the spring and summer, and now I’m heading into the fall with a pretty good base.  I would still just be thinking about the Chicago Half Marathon next weekend and the World Wide Half Marathon in October, since there’s no way I’d be ready for an October marathon (Chicago or Milwaukee), but then I found out about the new marathon in the beach town where we spend our summer vacation.  It isn’t until the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and instead of the craziness of the Chicago Marathon, this would be a small, friendly race; Mrs. Unfocused and the kids would be able to see me at different points of the race without having to wonder if they missed me in the crowd, and I’d be able to see them.  I’ve never traveled for a race before, but the whole family could go, and we’d have a place to stay.

But, but, but.  It would mean missing several days of work just for travel, and having to decide whether to rush home to be in the office for Thanksgiving week or just blowing it off and staying at the beach for some or all of the week.  Even if I could swing it, I’m just not sure I should.

And finally, I think the two things are mutually exclusive.  If I decide to do the marathon, November will be almost all taper, so it isn’t that the running would interfere so much with the writing.  Instead, it would be the travel and the associated stress. I don’t think I could possibly crank out 1700 words a day for the month if I’ve got an out-of-town marathon scheduled.

Plus, I know what I’m like in the weeks before a marathon — I’m a paranoid, hypochondriacal wreck, obsessing about every bruise, bump, sniffle, or twinge.  The weeks before a marathon are not a fun time to be Mrs. Unfocused.  From what I’ve read about other people’s experiences with NaNo, there are certain similarities — the NaNo participant becomes obsessive about the writing, muttering about the novel, failing to provide any domestic assistance, sleeping only fitfully, etc., etc.  Again, not a fun time to be Mrs. Unfocused.  I have no desire to be kicked out of the house and forced to move into the YMCA for being a self-absorbed, germophobic, hypochondriac chained to my laptop who never sleeps and constantly talks about people who don’t exist; that’s not a bad description of me now, and if it got worse, she’d be well within her rights to change the locks.

I’ve finished four Chicago Marathons (started a fifth, but had to drop out due to injury).  I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but the point of NaNo is to get you off your butt and make you write; I’m writing now.

So, marathon or NaNo?  I haven’t decided yet; I think I still have a few weeks.  But it isn’t going to be easy.

Gotta Speed It Up.

I ran a nice little four-mile race last Saturday at the beach – under 300 finishers, which is a big change from just about any race in or near Chicago. I came in sixth for my age group, at what was for me a respectable but not great pace.

The guy who came in third, though, was only 43 seconds faster than me — less than 11 seconds per mile.

I’m registered for two more races in the same series in August, and I am virtually certain I can knock 11 seconds per mile off my pace by August. I want an age-group medal, damn it, even if it’s for third place.

Except for one year warming the bench on my seventh grade soccer team, I never participated in organized sports as a kid, so I admit to some unfulfilled trophy lust. I have some hope of improving my chances for age group medals as I get older; I didn’t start running until my mid-twenties, so my knees should stay functional longer than some of these fast guys who’ve been running since their days on the high school track team.

That’s probably just a fantasy, though. I spent several years running — including training for and completing three Chicago Marathons — while 50 pounds heavier than I am now, which may have caused a little extra wear and tear on the joints. My knees certainly don’t feel particularly fresh, that’s for sure.

On another topic, I did not, in fact, get any writing done while traveling last week. The work part of the trip sucked up most of my time, leaving me essentially the weekend to spend time on the beach with the Mrs. and kids and visit with our friends. Tuesday and Wednesday were simply crazy at work — Wednesday featured an especially delightful 350-mile round trip drive to a 30-minute hearing. But today I grabbed my MacBook as I ran out the door and wrote about 400 words on the train to and from work. More this weekend, for sure.

It’s time to admit that I will not be finished with the first draft by June 30. I need to think hard about what a realistic revised deadline would be. An easy choice would be October 31, so that I’m finished in time to start something new for NaNoWriMo, but I think that gives me too much time. I’m inclined to try to finish it by the end of Labor Day weekend, which would give me the whole summer (including some real vacation time in August). At my original pace of 5,000 words per week, that would take me to 125,000-130,000 words total, which is probably where Meet the Larssons is headed (for the first draft, anyway), although I haven’t kept that pace for the last couple of months. I’ll give it a week to see how I’m doing before I set another firm (or firm-ish) deadline, but I have to get my pace up or MTL will end up gathering dust unfinished.


I just passed a milestone on Meet the Larssons: 50,000 words (50,083 as of 10:24pm CDT, to be exact). It’s a long way from done, but it’s moving along nicely. I have the word meter set for 100,000 as my target, and that’s probably right for the first draft. I expect to cut some of that in revision — maybe 10,000 words — not to make it shorter but because I’ve either overwritten some of the technical details (what we refer to at the firm as “lawyer stuff,” or would, if we weren’t charging for it) or just to tighten up the prose. I also expect to have to write additional scenes or partial scenes, so it may all net out even in the end.

My target when I’ve finally crunched through the editing process is somewhere between 90,000 and 110,000 words, which should be enough to tell the story without channeling James Michener (I should be so lucky). By no coincidence, this seems to be the range that editors and agents are looking for from a first-time novelist (at least according to Editorial Ass and Nathan Bransford; I also noticed that it’s what Scalzi hit with Zoe’s Tale).

Fifty thousand words is not just the halfway point for my target word count for MTL; it is also the target word count for NaNoWriMo, which I plan to use to hack through as much as I can of my second novel in November. Apparently, all I need to be able to do in November is knock out an average of three times as many words on the novel each day as I have managed for MTL.

No problem.

Running and Writing in Place

I made it to the gym today, finally. It’s been so damn cold I can’t bring myself to run outside (if the temperature is in the single digits, I’m not goin’ out there in tights), and I just haven’t had the energy to drag myself to the Y that early in the morning. On days like that (and like this), my only shot at a run or weightlifting is to go to the gym downtown during lunch, which is a 50-50 proposition at best, because as often as not, something comes up and I end up working through lunch and not having time to go.

Today I made it, and I would like to thank all the people who signed up for gym memberships for New Year’s and have now stopped going. There were plenty of open treadmills today, and I got there at the height of lunch hour.

I’m not going to spend much time writing about my runs here. If you’re interested, and God knows why you would be, I’m keeping my public training log at Buckeye Outdoors. When I talk about running on this blog, I expect to stick to races and extraordinary events.

That said, while I was running today, I came up with a couple of ideas for Meet the Larssons, which made me feel productive. I’ve heard other writers talking about getting ideas on their runs, but most of the time my day (and night) job occupies my attention on mid-day runs. I was glad for ideas about my current work in progress, frankly, because lately I’ve been spinning off more ideas for other projects, which will be great when the novel is done, but until then they’re just cluttering up my head.

There’s one I managed to write down this morning, which is a keeper. I came up with the situation for my next novel. I’ll probably use it for NaNoWriMo, unless I start working on it before November.