Camp Nano: Measuring revision

With the first week of this April’s Camp Nanowrimo done, I wanted to talk about a couple of things that frequently arise for me during Camp (or Nanowrimo for that matter).

Today I want to address is how I measure revision (I’ll post about overcoming obstacles and blocks in the next couple of days).

One of the things about Nanowrimo that I love most is the simplicity of it — a 50 000 word first draft in 30 days. 1667 words a day for a month (although these days I usually break it down into twenty-five 2000 word scenes/chapters). I sit down and write in 2000 word chunks (from an outline). On a good day, I can get through that in two hours or less. On a very good day, I manage more than one 2000 word segment. And, if I can’t manage 2000 words one day? It’s okay, I’ve built in a 5 day cushion!

(I would like to stress that I could not write like this every single month. Or, perhaps I could, but at the end of the year I would have 12 first drafts, which doesn’t really appeal to me.)

But Camp Nano is a different thing. I could use April (and July) to write first drafts, too, I suppose. But I want to do concentrated work on other things — editing those November first drafts and writing short stories.

I have tried — and failed — to do short stories for Camp. It doesn’t work for me. I think that this is because I do far more thinking than writing or outlining for short stories. I spend time on them that is hard to measure — as I go to the grocery store, while biking to work.

But even more so, I find short stories unpredictable. I don’t do outlines of them. I start with an idea and I think about it for a while. And then maybe I write something down. Eventually, I reach a point where I just write the story. And then I edit. And edit some more. And think. At this point, I start trying to figure out a proper ending. (This is only partly a joke. I am so bad at endings.)

This process does not lend itself well to a structured month-long plan!

So, for me, Camp means revision. But how to measure it?

I tried measuring by hours, but it felt very contrived for me. I use an online time tracking web site (Toggl, if anyone is interested, it is very good) for my day job, but something about it didn’t feel right.

I’ve settled on dividing my revision by either pages or scenes/chapters. I take what I want to complete in the month and divide it by 30.  I try to keep it practical, but a challenge. This month’s Camp, I started with a 26 scene/chapter first draft. Over the previous few months, I have worked on developing subplots and other elements that I felt were missing. I used a new-to-me application, Plottr, to visually outline what I had, along with what I wanted to add. It gave me a good day-by-day outline.

So, I have one scene/chapter per day, along with a day every week or so to stop and consider how things were going and adjust accordingly. (I also added another, final chapter.)

As with those 2000 word daily chunks during Nanowrimo, a good day is one scene/chapter. A really good day is two.

Anyway. That’s what I do. It’s one way and maybe I’m the only one who finds it useful, but for what it’s worth, there it is.




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