I finished the Book In a Month (BIAM) challenge/NANOWRIMO in August quest on Saturday, Sept 11, 2010, with a total of 50,021 words, a completed "A" plot, and lots of "B" plot sketches! The book is not "finished," but it has a good shape, and I'm pleased with it. The log line reads something like "Pride and Prejudice (or Bridget Jone's Diary) meets a rural Oregon alpaca Farm."
I wasn't sure I was going to make it because there were several days when I didn't write a word because my schedule was derailed or because I was just too damned tired to write. That might have to do with me being 7 months pregnant during the month, and chasing a toddler. You know, life.
Anyway, if your goal is to write 1,667 words a day every day, and you find yourself facing three days of big, fat, goose eggs (that's 5,001 words, btw), it can feel like you'll never catch up. However, I have an amazingly supportive husband who took the toddler for a couple mornings, which allowed me to dig myself out of this hole. I also have to give thanks for double decaf soy mochas. Decaf may not have caffeine, but it is very stimulating, anyway.
Besides life and the toddler, one thing that got in my way this time was a bit of a slow-down in the second act of the book. This is where the books Book in a Month and Save the Cat really, really helped. Save the Cat is actually a screenplay book, but I have been told (and experienced) that the beats in a screenplay correspond rather nicely with those in a novel. Also proving this point, the BIAM book was written by Victoria Schmidt, a woman with a film background. Many of the "beats" she describes in her book closely correspond to the ones in Snyder's book.
What this means is that when I was stuck in the second act of the book, I could look at Snyder's beat sheet or Schmidt's equivalent and think to myself, "Oh, yes. This is the 'fun and games section.' What can I do here that would be fun?" or "Oh, yes. My villain needs to be more evil. What can I do to make her truly awful?" This would prompt me to go on to write my quota for the day (or several days if I were catching up).
I ended up really liking BIAM. The book is spiral-bound and set up so that you can fill in a bunch of worksheets to keep track of things like character traits, book themes, and setting details. This is basically all the stuff you organized novelists keep in your story bibles. The book suggests that you buy a new copy of the book for each novel you write, so you have all the useful information for each project in one spot. I thought this was a very clever marketing ploy, and promptly re-created the forms either with pen and paper in my story bible notebook or in my word processor.
Now, I am a very lazy person, and I did not fill in each and every form that Ms. Schmidt laid out for us, at least at first. There were several that I later went back and filled in because, indeed, I couldn't remember if my heroine had green eyes or gray, or which of her lovers had a freckle on his bum. A little due diligence on my part would have made it so I didn't have to go pawing through the earlier parts of the book looking for that information. The next time I teach the NANOWRIMO or BIAM class, I'm going to require Schmidt's book and strongly recommend Snyder's.
I think due to new rules, I'm supposed to disclose whether or not I was given a free sample of the books I review, so here you go: I wasn't. However, just in case any publishers are out there looking for reviewers, I will gladly accept and review free copies of books, especially books on writing--composition, exposition, fiction or otherwise. Just drop me an email, and I'll send you my physical address.
So, now my projects include finishing this alpaca romance and getting ready for school to start in the next couple weeks. Baby is due in early November, which is the reason that I cannot participate in the normal NANOWRIMO this year. I don't expect to be writing much at all once babykins arrives for at least three months, but we'll see. If you keep a habit long enough, it becomes tough to break. That is, if writing 1,000 words a day is as natural as brushing my teeth, maybe I'll be able to do that while a child is occupying the other 98% of my brain.