Now that November's almost officially over and NaNo along with it, I just wanted to go over what I was able to accomplish and what I learned from four years of doing it.
1. My first drafts top out at about 50k. I've won NaNo three years in a row and I always stumble to the finish line. My story peters out at about 45,000 words and I frantically add a sentence here or there to cross the 50,000 threshold. I think every time I've done it, my word count ends up being less than a hundred words over the winning amount. I think no matter what I do, I focus more on the desired word count and rush through the story to reach it instead of letting the story develop organically.
2. It doesn't matter if I plot or pants it. The first two years I went into NaNo with a basic idea in mind but no real plan. I knew a few things I wanted to happen, a few characters I wanted in it, and maybe a scene or two. Both times, I was able to stretch it out to the desired length. This year I went with an outline, one a lot more fleshed out than my disastrous first NaNo attempt in 2012, and I still barely ended up with a win. It's telling me that putting a lot of prep time into a story or not doesn't matter as much as taking my time to write it. After editing my first win, I was able to extend it out to 75k words, which is a length I'm happy with.
3. I'm an ass hole when I do NaNo. I wrote a lot of the story at work in my free time, but I would spend some nights at home writing if I had a busy day. With the wife dealing with the baby most of the time, I'd stay up late to write, but I'd get an attitude with her if she wanted to do something for herself. While NaNo is important to me, it's not important enough that I should shovel my duties in to her so I can accomplish it. It wouldn't be so bad if NaNo was in February or even January, but November's too busy with Thanksgiving and Christmas.
4. I don't write as much when I do NaNo. Don't get me wrong, NaNo is a great way to words on the page, but since it focuses almost totally on writing one month of the year, it's difficult to keep writing the rest of the year, at least for me. I hold off on writing as November gets close, hoping not to burn myself out before it's over. And during NaNo, I can't focus on anything besides the writing, like modeling or art stuff. Granted, the rest of the year is supposed to go towards editing that novel, with January being full od support and tips, but still consolidating all of that into one month instead of promoting it year-round, makes it hard to continue once the month is over.
5. I don't get a lot out of NaNo. I'll be honest, besides that bar graph, I get no real motivation to work on my story from NaNo. They post a lot of pep-talks, even though I noticed fewer this year than the previous ones, but I never read them. They encourage word sprints and write-ins, which I never participate in. I have a few writing buddies there, but since all of them are in my critique group, we update each other on our progress outside of NaNo's email service.
This is leading me to think this might be my last NaNo. As long as I give myself a deadline to write a first draft, I can push it out any time of the year. And there are much easier months to do it in. Times when family events are disrupted or put on hold. I can be more flexible with when I have to work and when I can take a break. And I can adjust the length I want to shoot for - or just ignore the length entirely and write the story the way I want.
"How does this all apply to Old School Evil?" I'm sure you're all asking. Don't deny it. The first Old School Evil is totally complete and has taken me two years to finish it. That's a whole year longer than I originally planned, since I had no idea how grueling editing could be and how many rounds of beta-readers I needed to go through. But it's done, and hopefully I can hasten the process a bit.
I've got the first draft of Old School Evil done from last year's NaNo. I'm hoping to have it done by May 1st, 2018, giving myself 1.5 years. However, instead of building on a decent first draft like the first book, I'm not really happy with book 2 and I'll need to rewrite most of it from the ground up. I've got a much better idea of what I want it to end up like, but it'll take significantly more work to get it there.
This year, I wrote a spin-off book that is set in the Old School Universe but won't crossover much with the main Old School Evil story. I'm not in a hurry to get it finished, but I don't think it will take as long to polish since I do like the story. I'm going to hold off on it though so I can do the third book in the Old School Evil series. If I split my time writing it and editing the second book, Maybe I can have both done sooner than later, but I'm trying not to put too much of a deadline on anything besides finishing Old School Evil 2. And without focusing all my attention on November, I'm hoping I can be more productive than before.