I'm not doing NaNo, but I am taking November as an opportunity to write up some observations from doing it last year. Any verb-tense weirdness is due to this sitting half-written on my laptop since they were current; I did mention I write slow. This is the second installment.
So, one of the things I wanted to get out of NaNo was to try out the life of someone who writes as their full-time job; a sort of test-drive, if you will. This is one of my long-term goals, I'm pretty sure it would suit me down to the ground, but reality and expectation don't always match up, so it's good to check if one can. Last November was shaping up to be a slow month anyway, so I was able to clear the decks of client projects by the end of October and devote myself to nothing but writing.
Not surprisingly, I liked it very well indeed. But there were also some things I learned that I'll want to keep in mind should I ever get to do this for real.
- I must find some reason to get out of the house at least a couple times a week. All writing all the time makes the author, well, a bit strange, to be honest. A sort of mental claustrophobia sets in. It doesn't take much to clear it -- running a couple errands, a brief mall-crawl, anything that involves breathing fresh air and interacting with real humans rather than pixels -- but getting that occasional change of pace is important for long-term viability.
- Start the day with writing, not with the internet. Yes, I already said that in the "Things That Help" post. It bears repeating.
- Having an established, fixed place to work works rather well. I did the NaNo novel on the "work" laptop for a variety of reasons, not least of which was portability. And yet, with the exception of one "write-in" that was more social than productive for me, the laptop sat in its usual place on the usual desk, and that's where I wrote. Even when I went to WindyCon in the middle of the month, I set up the laptop on the hotel room desk and did most of my writing there. (Okay, and a tetch in the hotel lobby, but that was mostly because that's where the free wifi was and I wanted to update my count on the Nano site.)
Now, it's worth noting that said usual desk is in the middle of the living room, from which I can see outside, and check the deck for cats wanting to come in, and easily pop into the kitchen for a snack or a drink. In short, it's an open, airy, connected-with-the-world space, not an isolated little writer's hole. I don't think an oubliette would work out well at all, in the long term.
It's also worth noting that it's a bit inconvenient for the rest of the household, as it means that if I'm writing in the evening, the housemate can't watch TV. Something to be negotiated should this become a regular thing.
- I need to balance my snacks. My homemade sugar cookies are surprisingly stabilizing, and Cheetos and M&Ms are fine for intense short-term projects, but a novel is not a short-term project. Keep a variety of bite-sized ready-to-eats around, and make sure at least some of them are healthy. Pea pods are good.
- I don't need coffee nearly as much as I think I do. That little bout of food poisoning meant that I did the last week of NaNo on soup, but more importantly, it meant my stomach wasn't really up to my usual double-mocha-latte-whipped-cream extravaganza. And yet, I managed to write just as well (in terms of wordcount, and I think in terms of quality too). There's nothing wrong with a run to Beaner's as a treat, or if I'm having a particularly brain-stuck day, but no, it does not need to be a daily occurrence.
- Employ a writer-at-work sign, or equivalent thereto. The housemate does try to leave me alone when I'm writing, but to be fair, from her perspective it's difficult to tell hard-at-work-writing, or -researching, from sucked-into-the-computer-by-random-internet. Give her a clear sign-posting if I want her to tiptoe around me, especially if I'm right in the path of the door when she comes home. And it wouldn't hurt me, either; after all, if I've sign-posted it, I have to honor it.
- Find-a-better-word brackets are a great tool, but don't overuse them. This is one that I figured out in the months after NaNo and after I "finished" the first draft. Writing at NaNo speed meant that I basically forbade myself the thesaurus. Now, I've always used find-a-better-word brackets, but normally I'll spend at least a few minutes poking around for the mot juste before slapping in a "[foo]" and moving on, or I'll de-bracket last session's efforts as a warm-up, or whatever -- which means that a completed rough draft might have half a dozen brackets per 5000 words or so. My NaNo project had half a dozen brackets per page, and they were all waiting for me when I was "done". De-bracketing takes forever, and it doesn't give me any sense of accomplishment, and two times out of three I have no idea what I was aiming for when I typed those brackets months ago. Don't do that again.