Posts Tagged ‘nanowrimo’

Over this glorious four-day weekend, I decided to try my long-awaited 50k/24hr challenge. That means writing 50,000 words in 24 timed, not necessarily consecutive, hours. I can type 119 wpm accurately, and I can write 700 to 800 words of fiction in a 15 minute sprint; that means, with an average of 3k an hour, it would only take me 17 hours, not 24, to finish the challenge. Simple, right? For me, the test would be endurance, not speed.

I started the weekend with 13,644 on my NaNoWriMo novel (yes, being so far behind is nothing new for me). I intended to write on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, then all day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I even had the entire story outlined, something I rarely do, something that would really help in speed-writing. It was going to be easy.

It wasn’t easy. I didn’t write on Wednesday or Thursday. I doubled my wordcount and crossed 25k on the story’s total on Friday. On Saturday, I struggled to reach the halfway point of 8.5 timed hours, 25k new words as of that weekend. Sunday saw me write an hour before the burn-out was complete and I threw my hands in the air. My writing had deteriorated from “not bad for how fast I’m going!” to “still revisable without a total rewrite!” to “man, this is total junk.”

I resolved to just hit 50k on the story, rather than 50k written over the weekend, and even that didn’t happen. I stopped trying to force it, and I stopped writing. I kept thinking about my novel, chewing over the next scenes, getting myself accustomed to the idea of forging on. But I didn’t start writing again.

I didn’t expect to fail this challenge, not when a dozen other 50k/weekend writers were zipping into the 250k range for their month’s total and making 50k on the weekend on the second day. But my brain is not wired to work with this kind of singlemindedness (yes, I’m ADD), and I haven’t built up the conscious discipline that’s needed to keep myself on track. I tried, and I couldn’t do it. I failed.

And that’s okay.

I still tried, and starting was hard enough to be a victory in and of itself. I still got over 40k on my NaNoWriMo novel, making it a cinch to finish over today and tomorrow, before November ends. I stopped, acknowledging my own limits, before I could be so burnt-out that I never wanted to see my novel again, and before I could write so much junk that I’d have to excise entire chapters to get rid of the dross.

So, I failed, and I’m alright with that. It was a good run, I didn’t go completely crazy, and I made a lot of worthwhile progress on my novel. I don’t regret the attempt, and I’m not beating myself up for not crossing the finish line with arms upraised in triumph. It’s okay.

Enough about me. How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

When and how did you find out about NaNoWriMo? How did it go?

I honestly cannot remember how I found out about WriMo, but I know it was in October of 2003. My first attempt at it was a success and an incredible mind-blower; I’d been a prolific writer before, but now I had proof that I could write 50,000 words in a month. How cool is that?

How many times have you done NaNoWriMo?

Seven times – this year will make my eighth rollercoaster ride.

How many times have you won? If you haven’t won, what was your best result?

I won all but one time. My loss in 2006 was due to having visitors from England in town for two weeks in November, and, as much as I love writing, I loved getting to spend time with them much more. I also didn’t have much of a muse that year.

How did it go last year?

Last year I wrote Ghosts in the Machines, a cracktastic novel about shapeshifting (nonhumanoid) aliens who get stranded on a planet not their own (by space pirates, of course) and encounter feral vehicles that are, apparently and illegally, ensouled. Ghosts is one of the incredibly few NaNovels that I actually finished in November, which was a fantastic triumph for me; I’m working on the rewrites now.

You can even read the first chapter here!

Where and with what do you write?

I can write anywhere, but I am not one of the more adventurous WriMos who writes out a lot – I usually write at home, or at the office if all my work is already done. I don’t write longhand – computers only, please, and usually Wordpad, as it has the formatting shortcuts without all the BS of Microsoft Word. I’ve also had years where I simply posted my WIP on my personal blog without keeping it in a file until it came time to submit it for winnin’.

How do you find time to write?

I do not lead a terribly busy life, so it’s not actually too hard. I write whenever I’m bored and inspired (or when I know I’m behind and need to catch up).

Are your partners, friends and family allies or enemies?

Allies, definitely. I get a lot of support and encouragement from everyone around me – along with the occasional incredulous “you’re doing what in a month?” reactions, which are almost as fun.

What are your strengths, and what do you use to help you get to the end?

Mostly? I type fast. 119 wpm accurately, though considerably less when writing creatively. Still, I can finish the day’s quota of 1667 words in under an hour; I can do 15 minute sprints and come up with some 700 words each time. Those sprints really make the difference when I’m trying to catch up (or make headway), ’cause I can manage between 15 and 30 minutes of solid, break-neck writing before my brain fries and I need to take five.

What are your weaknesses, obstacles and challenges that hinder you from finishing?

I am really, really lazy and inconsistent. Normally, I can make a running start in the first week, and then die off in the middling two weeks. I’ve written the bulk of my novel more than once in the last week of November, once even writing 17,700 words in one day. The middle of the month seems to be great for letting everything percolate in my head and less great for actually pumping out words.

Do you plot/outline/plan or do you write by the seat of your pants? How much have you plotted or how unprepared are you this year?

In the past, I have tried outlining, both detailed and vague, and I have flown by the seat of my pants before. I am definitely a pantser at heart; it’s the 19th and I have no idea what I’m doing this year, nor will I really get a bead on my direction until about three days before November. Some years will knock me in the head with an insistent and wild idea, which I’ll run with, and other years will have me logicking out my best choice for the month – and then years like this will see me twiddling my thumbs until I can’t twiddle no more and have to start typing.

Do you participate in the real life community and/or go to write-ins and meet-ups in your area?

Not really. I’m pretty much a hermit.

What are your writing aids? Special snacks, music, totems, rewards or punishments?

My most important writing aid is music; I am helpless and hopeless without it. Music fuels me, inspires me, directs me, and gives something for the other nattery bits of my brain to focus on. I’m also fond of pretzels and sweet mint tea while writing, though I try not to overindulge too much for fear of consuming nothing else all month. I don’t use punishments nor totems.

There are two great events in November.

One is the well-known, well-loved National Novel-Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. Write 50,000 words of original fiction before midnight on November 30th. It is a mad dash into the fray of muse-fueled worldbuilding, characterizing, plotting, and type-type-typing.

The second is something I found just yesterday – National Solo Album(-Writing) Month. Write, perform, and record a full solo album lasting at least thirty minutes in one month. (The performing and recording bits are optional, but the site can host your mp3s should you wish to share them.) This is much, much smaller than NaNoWriMo, and similar to February Album-Writing Month (which tasks you to write 14 songs of indeterminate length).

I have been doing NaNoWriMo since 2003 and have won every year save one; I am certainly continuing the tradition this November! Whether or not I’m brave enough to try NaSoAlMo will be determined come November 1st…

I strongly encourage any and all creative types to participate in one or both of these crazy, wonderful challenges. It’s a wild ride and can really transform your view on and experiences in writing!

Day 8 is a moment.

‘Moment’ is ill-defined in length, so I’m going to cheat and pick a day. (In my defense, the day has since blurred and could be encapsulated into a very, very, very long moment.)

It was November 20th, 2009. I was way behind on my wordcount for National Novel-Writing Month. (50,000 words in 30 days, for the unfamiliar.) I was museless. I was desperate. And my partner was at work, which at the time was a 24/7 emergency animal hospital.

Over the course of the day – and I use the term loosely, as I think my ‘day’ ended somewhere around 4 AM – I wrote 17,700 words on my work-in-progress. Fueled by chai and pretzels, I more than doubled my wordcount – 15,769 to 33,469.

And my partner, J? He wound up being awake for thirty hours straight, working twenty-two of those. He didn’t stop until I drove up and took him home.

Now that was a helluva day moment.

I have a veritable history with NaNoWriMo. I began participating in 2003 and, with one exception, have won every year since.

In 2003, I had written only one novel before; it was The Dark Wars, an unfinished Young Adult story about the most memorable and violent time in Lavana‘s history. It spanned five spiral-bound notebooks – yes, I had written the entire thing by hand. But, in 2003, I was a fast typist, and my NaNovel was done on computer. It was entitled Seeker, a story about two gay boys in college trying to find themselves and finding each other instead. (Shh. It wasn’t a real romance, I swear.) While I got 50,000 words on the story, the plot arc was far from complete. This would set the norm for all NaNovels to come.

In 2004, I wrote Outcast, my first Korat-only novel. I got 80% finished with the story arc by the time I crossed the 50k finish line, which was the closest I’d come to completing an entire novel in my life. I even skipped ahead and wrote the ending scene (which, sadly, I later lost). Outcast followed the story of a lone striped female as she never stopped running for her life, even when she encountered three people who actually didn’t want to kill her.

In 2005, I wrote The Panthera Walkers: Peace as part of a Panthera Walkers trilogy (the second book, might I add – the first and third unwritten). Set in Ykinde, TPW:P chronicled the story of the growing Walker tribe and their aid in trying to establish peace between Lupos and Avans – trying to end the Elderwar – and how nothing is ever as black-and-white as it seems. I had a lot of trouble that year and took a major plot detour, then had to write feverishly to catch up and cross the finish line – at something like seven minutes ’til midnight on the last day. It was nuts.

In 2006, I failed. I did participate, and scanning back over my personal journal for November, I wrote that I’d gotten 21k on something. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was, so I’m inclined to think it was a bunch of false starts and half-baked stories. My only excuse was that two great friends of mine were visiting for two weeks from Britain, and I was out and about with them almost every day they were here. (Sure, I was working full-time, too, but I’d been working every November except for 2003 – and in 2004, I was taking a few college classes as well as holding a job!)

In 2007, the miracle that was The Demon-God of Jubagh came to pass. By the time November rolled around, I’d already finished Book One; that year’s NaNoWriMo saw Book Two and half of Book Three completed before the 30th, and the rest of Book Three finished before the December holidays. I’ve already discussed TDGoJ previously on here (see the above link), but let me tell you – this was the first (and so far only) time I’d truly, totally, 100% finished a novel. I was gleeful.

In 2008, last year, I struggled to pick a direction for the first week or so. I first veered towards an anthology of myths and stories of Redwood, sidifir oerri, ageless mother of the Koratian race. I thought I could do two novels in one month, since I was on part-time at work and would never have that much free time ever again, so I tried to do a story about animetals on Ryarna in that world’s equivalent of the Wild West. Both petered out within days, and then – thanks in large part to some brainfodder and a great friend being a sounding board – I got inspired to do Into Fang Wood. I flew past the finish line, half-crazed and gibbering from the chaos of trying to wrangle that story in a month. (Later, of course, I found out how big it wanted to be, and I quailed, and then I began outlining…)

In 2009, this year, I have something very fun planned. The incredibly tentative working title is The Ghost In The Machine. (Asimov, I salute you, sir.) Set in the Gurhai universe, it will feature three corata, shapeshifting mammalian predators, who find themselves on Ryarna by chance or by fate. They encounter an impossible thing: a feral, instinct-smart herd of motorcycle-like wheeled vehicles that are, apparently, bound to and powered by animal ghosts. It’s illegal to fuse a ghost to anything but an animetal shell, however, and these wheelers are meant for personal transportation alone – not animation. Not only do the corata have to survive the largely-without-fleshy-animals desert, they have to figure out how to survive increasingly restless, doggedly stubborn aniwheelers.

It’s going to be so much fun.

Fellow WriMos, what are you planning for this lovely November?

If you’re not familiar with the National Novel-Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, please allow me to introduce you to one of the most awesome things to happen to writers since ballpoint pens.

NaNoWriMo is a caffeine-addled, plot-fevered, ever-growing group of people who bridge geographical distances to write a novel in each other’s company. It espouses “exuberant imperfection,” quantity over quality, speed over strength, and the end of the “one day” novelist. (“One day, I’d like to write a book…” Trust me, your ‘one day’ will expand into thirty, and they are fast approaching, my friend.) NaNoWriMo begins at 12:00 AM on November 1st and ends at 11:59 PM November 30th. In those sweet, mind-boggling, too-short thirty days, you are going to write an original work of fiction of at least 50,000 words – 175 pages in your average Word document.

Writing so much in such a short time is bound to produce a crazed heap of scribbling, and NaNoWriMo’s founder, Chris Baty, acknowledges this – and encourages it. You can’t write the story lurking in your head if you’re too afraid of churning out terrible fiction to even pick up the pen or turn on the computer. NaNoWriMo gives you the excuse and the freedom to write whatever comes to mind in whatever fashion you choose, so long as you hit your word count goal by the end of the month. There is no competition – everyone who crosses the 50,000 word finish line is a winner.

The prize? Being able to tell everyone who asks (or doesn’t): Yes, I wrote a novel.

In a month.

Signups have started, and there’s more information waiting just a click away. Come join the madness!

(If you doubt it’s possible to succeed in this epic quest, let me reassure you – it is. I’ve participated six years in a row and won five of them… while working full-time jobs, and once while attending school and still holding down a job. You’d be surprised how easy it is to make time for something crazy in an already-busy schedule.)

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