Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Launch vs. NaNoWriMo

I'd like to say something about setting goals. Goals are good. Goals are motivating forces. Goals push you to do more, be more. That said, can you over-set goals?

At the end of last month, I set two goals: Publish/launch The Prince Charming Hoax on Kindle the first week of November, and participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and complete 50,000 words toward a new novel during the 30-day month.

I christened this project "Sweet November," and announced my intentions publicly. I created a game plan for the hours I would devote to each. It would be intensive, but I could do it!


I dutifully started NaNoWriMo on November 1 and flew through week 1 meeting the 1667 word/day quota. The time to complete the quota, however, was far greater than I anticipated. I ended each day thinking, "Tomorrow I'll work on the launch." Didn't happen.

Then came week 2 of NaNoWriMo. I'd lost some of my exhilaration for the project and hated what I was writing. I procrastinated and found myself either not meeting the daily quota or pushing myself to reach the mark until the words on the screen were so blurry I couldn't see what crap I was putting out. And, to make matters worse, I agonized each day that I did nothing to promote the launch of my first novel.

A Kindle Select eBook
I did publish my ebook on November 2 (proud mama here), but publishing a book on Kindle and launching a title are two very different activities. I had begun some launch promotion before NaNoWriMo began: setting up some blog posts, interviews, and connecting with possible launch partners. But once my I began the NaNo challenge, everything grinded to a halt.

I also began working with my book designer on the print version of The Prince Charming Hoax, compounding the pressure and contributing to squeezing the launch promotion out of my daily attention. Although the designer was doing most of the labor-intensive work, I had to turn my attention to reviewing the various cover designs and interior layouts. We ran into a bit of a snag when the book ran 404 pages once the manuscript copy was imported into the design template I selected! Adjustments were made and we were able to reduce the page count to 322, but it took several passes between us to achieve our goal, which translated to more work, more of my attention, and another week without book launch activity.

I was at a crisis point. I wanted to honor my commitment to NaNoWriMo, but I was getting ready to punk out. I was feeling guilty that it was taking me away from the final phase of the book that had just launched, but on the other hand, I am adverse to quitting something halfway. By the end of the second week, I felt I was sinking and fighting a growing sense of despair: I was writing badly just to make the word count, and because I was so unhappy with the work I was putting out, I felt even worse about  delaying work on my book launch. To keep my sanity, I had to pick one.

Here's a look at my Sweet November, describing my progress and thought process during this project.

Days 1-7: I wondered what the fuss was all about. Yes, it was more time consuming than I imagined to reach the daily 1667-word quota, but I was completing it with ease. The first draft was progressing nicely. I was easily able to incorporate the launch and early promotion was going well. The sample design templates for the interior pages of the print version of The Prince Charming Hoax arrive.

Days 8-12: I found it much harder to reach the daily word count and was miserable that my story was suffering under the need to produce, but I kept grinding it out each day. Not much time for anything else because the writing was going sooo slooooow. The review process for The Prince Charming Hoax design templates goes smoothly and I approve a version on Day 11. At the end of Day 12, I have first proof pages for book, but it's running 404 pages—way longer than I anticipated.

Days 13 and 14 were torturous, and I considered giving NaNo up to focus on the book launch instead. Each day I struggled to complete the daily quota and I began to slip behind. I face new rounds of decisions to make with the print book as I look at several versions of adjusted designs with smaller font size and varying degrees of decreased space between paragraphs and between lines of type (leading).

Day 15 was a turning point. I got up at my usual 5 a.m. (usual since starting this project), and meditated instead of hitting the computer straight out of bed. Aah, big difference! I finished the day at 23,660 words, just under the 25,000 midway point, but I was feeling confident that I could catch up and complete the goal on time. Good news with the page proof, too. At the end of the day, I received a new first proof of The Prince Charming Hoax, down to 322 pages...a very manageable size.

Day 16: Distractions began to deter me. I had been ignoring so many to-do's to get to my daily ta-da word count. I had several outside activities that drew me away from the computer, but I managed to break the halfway mark and write 2000+ words for the second day in a row. I was starting to have real doubts, though, that it was worth it to complete NaNo at the cost of delaying my launch and promoting my debut novel. And I hadn't even begun proofreading the page proofs for The Prince Charming Hoax yet.

Day 17 brought a project that could no longer be delayed. I had a deadline that was immutable and not completing the project would have serious financial consequences. Although the project took me away from both books, completing something in its entirety felt good. Something finally got done, completed, crossed off the list!

Day 18: Up on Sunday morning at 5:30, but complete very little writing. I'm exhausted and rationalize I need time away to refresh and renew my creative juices. Although I planned to get back to the page in the afternoon, I did not.

Day 19. Conundrum Day. I'm at my computer, finished meditating at 6 a.m. Rereading my last few days' work is not prompting me on. Nothing's happening and I know I can do better than this. I check my NaNo stats and find out that although I'm behind, I can finish the 50,000 word goal if I write 2,021 words per day for the next 12 days. Doable, for sure. Do I want to do it, though? I know I'd give a resounding "yes!" if I were more excited about how the second book was progressing. But I feel that what I"m producing isn't worthy of postponing my work on The Prince Charming Hoax print book and the launch of the ebook. Still, I'm not comfortable being a quitter on any front.

Day 20 brings client commitments and outside distractions of real-life responsibilities to complete before Thanksgiving. It's late afternoon before I get to work on anything: will it be NaNo, The Prince Charming Hoax pages, a blog post, my Thanksgiving Day newsletter, or book launch prep?

This blog post pours out of me...clearly what I needed to do as a way of releasing the stress of the self-imposed pressure I've created. I would normally journal out these kinds of decisions, but I want to have a more public way of expressing my thought process here. After all, I started this project out in the open, and I want to honor that commitment.

I've decided to give up the need to control the outcome. I am going to complete the NaNoWriMo project, writing every day. If I reach 50,000, whoohoo. The NaNo word meter tells me that I can reach the goal if I write 2084 words per day from now until November 30. But, whatever number of words I reach will be good ones. I can't live with the discomfort of writing crap, so I've let go of the pressure of the 50,000 word goal.

Habits engrained after 38 years as an editor cannot be easily undone in 30 days. My first draft will not be pitch-perfect by any means, but there's a big difference between tweaking copy and needing to completely rewrite almost everything you've done. In the long run, I'll finish sooner by writing better because there will be less to change. No matter what, I'll be at least halfway through the follow up book  to The Prince Charming Hoax, and that's a big accomplishment.

I am going to shift my emphasis to proofreading The Prince Charming Hoax page proof and completing the print version of this book. I'm also going to renew planning my launch. Details to follow!


  1. Having been a four year veteran of NaNoWriMo, I learned some very important things about it. 1)Don't plan any other major projects during that time (Example: I finished editing my book Soldiers Don't Cry and sent it off for my editor's final okay BEFORE the month started and I have put off my marketing projects and promotional until December). 2)The second week of NaNoWriMo is the most difficult. I try to do dialogue during that week because I find it is the easiest way for me to add word count.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Donna. I believe we had this conversation on Facebook around the time I announced what I was planning. Good advice and next year I'll be following it::-).

  2. Well, Shelley? Did you make 50,000 words? I have to know now....

    1. No, Shane. I did make it to a bit more than halfway, almost 30,000 ;-)