lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I'm not doing NaNo, but I am taking November (and a bit of December) 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 third and probably final installment.

NaNoWriMo is a bit of a Thing in the writing world. You do it, or you don't do it, and you proselytize the doing/not doing... or maybe you are one of the quiet voices who says that it's fine if that sort of thing works for you, but it doesn't work for everybody and could we all just stop trying to declare the One True Way for everybody to write.

NaNo last year worked for me in the sense that I got my 50,000 words (and finished the book shortly thereafter). It did not work for me in several other ways, and that's what this post is about. Fair warning: if you are sailing happily along in the "NaNo is awesome!" glow, you might not want to Read on )

I am damn proud of the book I got out of NaNo. Not just that it's done; it's also good, IMNSHO. I'm glad that I did NaNo last year, both for ...And The Kitchen Sink's existence and for the NaNo experiment itself. I may even do it again some year, if the right project comes along. But you won't catch me proselytizing NaNoWriMo, and I think NaNoWriMo could benefit from a lot less proselytizing itself.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
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.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
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 first installment.

NaNoWriMo was among other things a data collection session for me; that extended bout of intense writing allowed me to track patterns and conditions that helped (or hurt) my writing productivity. Some of these are not exactly stunning revelations, but it's useful to be reminded of them. And some were a surprise, though perhaps they shouldn't have been.

- Start the day with writing, not with the internet. It's amazing how much more productive the day feels if I have 500 or so words under my belt before I do anything else. And the more productive the day feels, the easier it is to keep being productive. Speaking of which....

- Turn the wi-fi off. No, you don't need to just quickly check email, or see if the new post on is up, or even hit the online thesaurus. You need to write. No, a little light web-surfing will not warm your brain up for writing; writing will warm your brain up for writing. Adding that extra step of having to turn the wifi switch back on helps you catch yourself before the "Oh, I'll just--" impulse gets loose.

- Get some sleep. A decent night's sleep had a noticeable positive effect on my productivity; more to the point, short or much-interrupted sleep had a noticeable negative effect. That might seem self-evident, but there was a time when I associated the buzz of mild sleep deprivation with a lovely alpha-state creativity burst. That may have worked when I was still doing the "only write when I feel like it" thing, or maybe I was just younger then, but for nose-to-the-keyboard real writing, being decently well-rested is the way to go.

- Keep warm. Presumably more important in the winter than in the summer, but we have a lot of winter around here. A comfy writer is a productive writer; a cold writer is a hunched-up ball of distraction and incipient depression. Warm feet seem to be especially important. Note to my future self who is reading this: I don't care how much your feet want to breathe, put on some socks.

- When in doubt, eat sushi. That lagging, pulling-words-with-pliers, this-has-stopped-being-fun, brain stuffed with hard-set superglue feeling? Raw fish will help. Seriously, both the Week 3 slump and the post-NaNo burn-out improved dramatically after a trip to AI Fusion. Hit the red & white tuna and the yellowtail, and watch the neurons turn back on.

- Get up and dance. Put on some Elvis Costello or New Radicals or whatever works, and move for five minutes. Gets the blood pumping, gets the body temp up, gets the energy flowing so the brain can make words out of it. It's not a bad way to start a session, and it's definitely a good idea after an hour or two of hunching over the keyboard, or when the word-flow starts to flag.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year. I considered it; not necessarily starting a whole new project from scratch -- I only just got back into the WIP, I don't want to drop it again -- but perhaps some modified multi-K push to get the current WIP closer to finished. I decided against it for a number of reasons, not least that a book where I'm constantly running up against plot-walls is perhaps not a good choice for NaNo-ing.

But the thing that clinched it for me, that put the full-stop on my decision not to play this year, was NaNo's own pep talks and supposedly-motivational postings, specifically this. And specifically one line: Slow writers find they can write about 800 words of novel per hour. So a "slow" writer might hit a productivity rate that's so wildly in excess of my output levels on even a good day that I'd be dancing in the freakin' aisles to achieve "slow"? Thanks so much, Chris Baty. Screw that and the horse it galloped past on.

That casual assumption and line-drawing encapsulates a lot of what I dislike about NaNo. I get that my process is unusual; I'm fine with my approach not being held up or talked about a lot on how-to-write forums. But I get damned tired of being told that writers like me don't exist. And NaNo, for all its supposed inclusiveness, is pretty much a month-long exercise in being told I don't exist. (And on the rare occasions that I am acknowledged as existing, it's only to be told I shouldn't.)

This, I do not need. So, no NaNo for me this year.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
One of the reasons I did NaNo was to try to increase my writing speed, and one of the reasons I want to increase my writing speed is that it takes me so long to get through a book that I get incredibly bored with a story long before I finish it. There's usually a cry of "oh god, isn't this done yet?!?" at about the two-thirds point, and possibly a less agonized but more ennui-filled one at about one-third of the way through. Write faster, thinks I, and I should be able to get through a book before that hits.

Last night, I realized I've been dragging around whining, "oh god, can it just be done now?!?" about Kitchen Sink... and it's right about at the two-thirds point. Only it's been six weeks, not three years. Interestingly, Week 3 of NaNo, which was when I really hit the I'm-not-having-fun-any-more wall, was about one-third through the likely eventual length of the story.

So it seems this may not be a time-based phenomenon at all, as I thought it was. It may simply be a function of the story flow, and my immersion in the story. Which is not entirely welcome news, as it means there's not a lot I can do to avert it. But if I know going in that this is just part of the process, maybe I can soldier on through it with more steadfastness and less wanting to run screaming in the other direction. ;-)
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Final, validated word count: 50,563

I wrote 28 out of the 30 days. I wrote at least "quota" (1667 words) 23 of those days. (One of the under-quota days was the last one; I already had enough words to "win", and there didn't seem much sense in pushing for the full quota only to risk the NaNo validator being overloaded late in the day.)

General impressions: It was an interesting experiment. I'm glad I did it. Whether I'll be doing it again depends on a host of factors, some of which I'll be analyzing here as the whim takes me. I learned some useful things, top among which is that I can write a heck of a lot more in one day than I thought I could if I just push past that first wall. There were some rough days in there, but on balance it was even kinda fun.

And I've got 50,563 words that didn't exist on October 31st. About 2/3 of a novel, which yes, I will be finishing. That ain't chicken feed.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)

50,070 words.

I'm going to do a little more tomorrow, just for kicks, and then I'm going to validate it, kick back, and go out for celebratory sushi.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Clearly, I was mistaken.

Spent a decidedly uncomfortable night, and still feeling not quite the thing today. In spite of this, achieved quota, par, and goal yesterday. And I'm well on the way to the lowest of the three already today.

The ironic thing is, I'd just started the scene where one of my characters gets poisoned. Life need not imitate art quite this directly, in my considered opinion.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Thanksgiving caused me to fall behind a little, not surprisingly. Only a little, happily; while I didn't have the margin built up that I wanted, I did have some. And despite four-plus hours of driving and extensive relative-visiting time, I managed to get in 1002 words last night. I'm really rather proud of that.

Doubly so because the whole process has been dragging at me rather. People talk about the Week 2 blues, but it's Week 3 that I've been struggling with. To the point that I've flirted seriously with giving up, not because I can't do it, but because I am profoundly not having fun any more. And the reward for writing myself dry and producing what constitutes a quite decent chunk of words by my standards, and fairly decent ones at that, should not be to chain myself to the laptop and do it again, three or four more times. But then I took a look at my stats. 36,000 and change done, which means a bit less than 14,000 words to go. It'd be a shame to stop now.

I must remember that, if I do this again. Inertia can be your friend if the object's already in motion.

That said, I'm still having to play catch-up today. In a house full of cats who are full of pent-up energy from being stuck inside all day yesterday, and who are taking it in tag-team turns to remind me that if I won't let them ooouuwwwwt, nooowwwwww, I am at least obligated to entertain them. It was sleeting earlier; now it's snowing. Sideways.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
I fought my way back to par; go me. And I have a generous string of little gold stars for making quota each day.

Writing every day doesn't generally work for me. I do a lot better with a couple of days on, then taking a day off to recharge. This was surprisingly a non-issue during the earlier parts of NaNo, but now it's really getting to me. I badly want a day off to kick back, relax, and feel good about the last bit I wrote -- which turned out very well indeed, I think -- with the reward for a job well done not being another job, at least not right now.

Instead, I am slogging along every day, this morning no exception. And Turkey Day is likely to be a low word-count day for me, so I'd really like to build up a little margin today. Which means more slogging.

On the other hand, 35,000 words and change so far. Which means only about 15,000 to go. It says something (not sure what) that I can look at 15,000 words and say "only".

In the TMI department, I had to go out and buy snack veggies (carrot sticks and two kinds of pea pods) the other day, or face serious internal rebellion. My standard project-muchie diet of Cheetos and M&Ms is normally fine, but projects requiring intensive munchies usually last a day or two, not 21 and counting. I've never been so glad to see a naturally-green food product in my life.

Also, I may have to burn the hoodie I keep by the computer, come December.

NaNo so far

Monday, November 12th, 2012 01:34 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So, I'm NaNo-ing.

The first five days went really well. I did over 3000 words the first day, which I think is more than I've ever done in a day before, and kept on well ahead of schedule. Very encouraging!

Day 6 ended up being a day off. It was going to be a short-word-count day anyway, as I had family obligations to deal with. Those got canceled, which threw off my mind-set more than trying to cram writing in around them would have. So I took care of some errands, prepped food for the next several days, etc. Taking a day off felt really good, and I think I needed it.

It also made getting back in the saddle again on Day 7 pretty challenging. I managed to hit quota, but it was a near thing.

Day 8 was prepping-for-trip day. I wrote, but not up to quota.

I actually managed to hit quota the first two days of WindyCon, despite several hours of driving and gophering on Friday and workshopping on Saturday. Woot! I figured I could get at least some writing in on Sunday, if not the full target. The morning was eaten by moving out of the hotel, and the afternoon by, well, con, but there was still the post-drive evening.

That was before the car broke down on the way home. As car problems involving tow-trucks go, it went surprisingly efficiently, but it left me with neither time nor brains for anything but petting the cats and setting the alarm so I could drive the housemate into work and thus have her car for the day.

Oddly enough, being exhausted, stressed about the car, and up too bloody early is not conducive to writing productivity. I'm behind for the first time since November started, I ended up with an unplanned and unwanted day off yesterday that nonetheless is making me think another day off would be magically okay, and every word is requiring pliers and a blowtorch to pry it free.

Which doesn't mean I'm giving up. I'm not. But that ~3000 words I need to catch up is sure looking like a hell of a hill.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
I was tracking that WindyCon was this weekend, but somehow the prep for WindyCon has entirely snuck up on me. Must pack, and get stuff ready for the cat-sitter, and so on today. While writing 1667 words, because NaNo waits for no con. And maybe attend a local NaNo event tonight, because I don't have enough on my plate. Yep, cloning is starting to sound like a really good idea.

Hmm, I don't have clones in my NaNo novel. Yet.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
So, I'm officially doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Let me state right now for the record that I don't expect to hit the full 50,000 word mark. If I manage even 25,000 words, I'm calling it a win; that's still more than double my best output since I started tracking. The goal here is to up my frustratingly-slow writing speed, not to set myself at the edge of a canyon and push myself in.

Usually when I start a story, at least an ultimately successful one, I've got a scenario, a few major characters, a couple of key scenes clear in my head, and at least a vague idea of how things end up. In this case, I've got the setting for the first scene, two character names, and a list of odd phrases and ideas collected randomly over the past few months. First phrase is the first scene, and every time I get stuck, I'll grab another thing off the list and throw it in. Could be wacky fun; could be utter nonsense. We shall see. Working title is ...And The Kitchen Sink.

I'm doing a few other things differently, too. I'll be using the "work" laptop instead of the elderly writing laptop (for portability purposes). I may even go so far as to write the thing in Word instead of Textra, my antique but beloved Word Processor of Preference. (Probably not in full manuscript format, however; all that white space... *shudder*.) Don't know why; it just seems right for this one.

I may, incidentally, fall off the internet even more than usual come November. I'm not going to have any margin to spare if I'm going to make a serious try at this, and I know what effect even touching the internet has on my general ability to get things done.

(WinAmp's psychic powers continue; after the below, it offered "Could Be Anything" by The Eames Era, and is now providing Genesis' "More Fool Me". Yes, thank you, electronic peanut gallery.)




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