Monthly Review: November 2017

November is always a wild month for me, because for the last seven years I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I found Chris Baily’s thoughts on “tilting” this month apropos — purposefully choosing to over-commit to one aspect of your life for a short time to complete a project.

Last month’s review.

Creatively Productive — doing great

I “won” NaNoWriMo on November 24, and met my goal of 60k for the month.

  • Number of words written: 60,441
  • Active writing time: 61 hours
  • Time at writing sessions: 94 hours 30 minutes
  • Number of writing sessions (public and by myself): 50
  • Number of write-ins attended (official and informal): 18

This was my eighth NaNo, and the fifth with my writing group (who I met at a write-in the last week of NaNo 2012). 

This was my hardest NaNo since 2011. I wasn’t prepared with a detailed outline, just a rough idea of how the story would go. Since I was writing a sci-fi retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I had that framework to fall back on, but I’m changing and expanding the story significantly. Also, I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about NaNo until about a week or two before. I’m sure it didn’t help that I’ve felt emotionally exhausted this whole year.

For this NaNo, I tested out a new writing / outlining technique, as described in Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. The book rubbed me the wrong way at first, but her method of planning a scene with her scene cards has been very effective in creating meaningful scenes. (I skipped some of her exercises that would have been helpful because I ran out of time before November.) I used her scene cards within an outline structure combining Jami Gold’s romance beat sheet and the more detailed beat notes from Katherine King’s The Love Plot.

Play — doing well

Bridle Trails State Park

  • I visited a state park in my town that I somehow hadn’t visited despite living here for eight years. My neighbor has been trying to drag me there for like six months, and we finally made it work out.
  • Usually I write “serious” sci-fi, but decided that for my first try at sci-fi romance, I would go all-in and have fun with the story, including making the Beast be a baker with lobster oven mitts
  • Stats to the max! Since NaNoWriMo dominated my life, I needed to figure out a way to incorporate play into NaNo. I tracked each writing session’s productivity and cost to calculate the time and money cost to write a NaNoNovel. All in play, with no judgment against myself for time spent not writing while at write-ins or money spent at coffee shops :)
    • Average writing speed: 980 words written / hour active writing time
    • Average cost per word: half a cent
    • Total cost, excluding write-ins at my house and where I bought dinner: $144
  • In NaNo, the Detroit region challenged the Seattle region for average word count. I signed up for a “personal writing nemesis” from Detroit, to see who could be the first to reach 50k. He completely smashed me on speed and total word count. Oh well. I’m writing my own NaNo. (Aside: my favorite nemesis-related art (video).)
  • Hosted four write-ins for my writing group at my house, and cooked dinner for everyone. I love taking care of my friends <3
  • Spent 10 hours on Twitter — I found I didn’t have the concentration for long-form reading, especially later in the month

Comfortable Sustainable Living — doing well

Hosting write-ins was actually a decent strategy to make sure I didn’t let the house fall apart, because I knew I’d be having people over :) I had to clean common areas at least once a week.

  • Fire safety! Ordered a new smoke detector and requested replacement for fire extinguisher affected by Kidde recall
  • Bought a new art print from 59 Parks (by Nick Slater) that will go awesome with the pink wall in my office :D
  • Got a “robot cat box” from a friend in late November to see if my cats can handle it
  • Pre-ordered bareroot plants from an annual sale for my garden and “back 40” ongoing restoration project, which is really filling in three years after planting!

AFTER: Back 40 three years after restoration planting (2017)

BEFORE: Back 40 filled with invasive Himalayan blackberry (2013)

Taking Care of Myself — doing OK

  • Took one weekend “off” of writing to re-read three books “for inspiration”
  • Reconnected with my neighbor who I’d been walking with over the summer to start doing walks again. Also restarted my weekly “team walk” with coworkers
  • Dragged DH on a hike (boy am I out of shape). Got caught in a rainstorm on the way down the mountain and were completely drenched when we reached the bottom!
  • Biked to a write-in, testing my physical therapist’s theory that carrying my bike down stairs was what was bothering my knees: incorrect
  • Cooked healthy dinners for three of the write-ins I hosted (fourth was a pizza night)
  • Got two massages, then decided to stop going because it doesn’t seem to be helping my neck pain (which dates back to June! Getting frustrating…)
  • Started a week-long high-dose anti-inflammatory (naproxin) that my doctor prescribed me to try when my knee was bothering me
  • Took a day off work in the middle of November, and taking a day off at the start of December to give myself time to recover from NaNo

Strategic Spending and Saving — doing well

We got a little carried away buying stuff on Cyber Monday (art and clothes for me, a new computer for DH), but I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

I got a raise at work! The last raise I’ll get in my current position other than cost-of-living adjustments ;) I love the transparency of a pay scale, and never needing to worry that my employer’s taking advantage of me. Not totally on board with the idea that my expertise and experience will never become more valuable — but if that’s the max they’re willing to pay, it’s my call whether to stay or move somewhere that pays more.

DH hadn’t met his IRA contribution limit, so I re-routed our regular investment into his retirement account. I’d also miscalculated my Roth IRA monthly contribution and would be $40 shy, so fixed that :)

About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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