Two Brief Reflections: Winning NaNoWriMo, and Governance

I did it — I crossed, barely, the 50,000-word mark on The Children of St. William’s to earn my third consecutive “win” for National Novel Writing Month. The story isn’t finished, of course; my detailed scene graph pushes the final word count much closer to 85k. But working through the story when you’re at 50k aiming for 85k is much easier than starting from zero. Which, I believe, is the whole point of NaNoWriMo. And as I finished, I figured I’d change the book name, too, to the less cumbersome Six Lost Souls.

Some take-away observations about writing this past November:

  • I wrote my last 10,000 words in a single marathon day. That’s a lot. I couldn’t have started the month with that kind of productivity, mostly because — for me, anyway — I have to get north of 30k to 35k words before scenes start to roll off fluidly. Prior to that, and I’m still spending too much time thinking about structure and characters, so the writing process is slower: I’m making follow-up notes, thinking through the finer points of character voice, making decisions about scene details, etc. I tend to plan in detail, but you can’t plan for everything.
  • Much of my writing in the moment focuses on dialogue. I usually have to swing back after I’ve finished a scene to insert environmental details.
  • I don’t write much action — most of my scenes tend to be people arriving at a place and talking. I varied it this time around, however, and had a fight scene and two scenes of extended narration while a character does something alone. On rewrite, I’ll chop things up a bit. But, as they say, just knowing you’ve got an authorial quirk is half the battle.
  • For the first time, I was deliberate from the get-go about my point-of-view characters, and which scenes led with a specific POV. By default, I tend to write Third Person Limited, with a small number of POV characters.
  • I couldn’t write nearly as efficiently without Scrivener for Windows. With this app, I can condense notes and research and plot my story on a chapter-and-scene basis, with target word counts and synopsis cards. I can also configure various status flags for each scene (I customize my own) and set color codes to indicate which character’s POV governs a chapter or scene. I don’t think I could be nearly as successful if I had to rely on a generic word processor.

State Leaders’ Summit

I spent some time last week in Chicago, for the State Leaders’ Summit sponsored by the National Association for Healthcare Quality. The event went off without a hitch. I drove, which was fine, although I managed to hit eastbound I-90 around O’Hare just in time for Friday-evening rush-hour traffic. Took a full two hours to get from the airport area (Cumberland Avenue) to the Skyway Bridge. That said, there was much fascinating discussion to be had, including a valuable two-hour presentation by an association-management attorney about the basic principles of governance and legal/tax compliance for small non-profits.

Board members have three duties: A duty of care, a duty of loyalty and a duty of obedience. I think this tripartite distinction offers a good framework not just for business endeavors, but also for how we nurture personal relationships. More to ponder about that, I think.

Strategic Planning Retreat

Tonight the Caffeinated Press board of directors conducts a four-hour annual strategic governance retreat. Lots on the agenda. We’ve had a busy year, with a great mix of successes and … ahem, opportunities. We’ll cover Governance 101, plus look at our board composition, 2016 editorial strategy, the annual budget, and ways to grow the market.

The retreat starts after the regional TGIO party — celebrating the end of NaNoWriMo — so it’ll be a long day. But worth it.