NaNoWriMo 2010

Yup, it’s that time again (jeez, it comes around freaking fast! And – of course – I’m late with this post).

I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month for 2010, the 50,000 words in 30 days global writing frenzy.

As always, I encourage anyone with the slightest shred of interest to take part. 1,667 words per day is definitely do-able, and it’s a ton of fun if you like to write.

If you’re participating, go ahead and visit my profile to add me as a NaNoWriMo Buddy. The more the merrier (and the less lazy I’ll be when I see your word count overtaking mine).

Moleskine Hack Success

Moleskine hack success!

Constantly hunting for my pen whenever I needed to jot something down in my pocket Moleskine was getting a bit old. Since the Moleskine hack community is no small potatoes, I figured someone would have figured out a way to attach the pen to the notebook that required ZERO points in the effort department.

Didn’t take long to find one. Duct tape. Pure genius.

Doesn’t look half bad, either.

And before anyone asks, yes, that is a knot in the elastic of my Moleskine. It decided to stretch like a lanky contortionist. I wasn’t too happy (it’s not like I found the notebook in the discount aisle at K-mart), but hell will freeze over before I go to any effort to replace the elastic. The knot does just fine.

The NaNoWriMo Experience and the Taste of Victory

When I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo for 2009 – my very first one – it wasn’t just because it sounded like an interesting and challenging experience. Well, there was that, too; I was intrigued by the idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days as part of a large community of people doing the same thing. But what I mean is that I decided to use NaNoWriMo as a platform to aim for some very specific goals:

  • Imposing self discipline. I wanted to form a daily writing habit, and discover how easy or difficult daily writing goals of this length would be for me.
  • Writing a story sequentially, from beginning to end in order, instead of jumping around all over the place like I usually do.
  • Suppressing my inner editor. I’ve developed a nasty habit of editing while I’m writing a first draft, which often stifles the creative flow and stops you from really just writing. NaNoWriMo was the perfect opportunity to force myself to just write, to just get the words on the page, and leave the editing until later.
  • Improving my writing. The only way to do that is to actually write, right? Even if I didn’t reach all my other goals, this is one goal I’d achieve just by doing it.

NaNoWriMo 2009 is officially over (has been for a couple of days, a little late with this post), and my recorded word count is 50,885. I reached the 50k goal three days early and decided to finish off the chapter I was working on and then stop. I’m pleased to say that I did achieve all my goals, and also discovered some things about my writing process and myself as a writer:

1,500 to 2,000 words every day is actually pretty simple; I can fly through the word count when I know what I’m writing about. It’s only when I enter murky waters that things start to slow, and I think this is because I find it hard to string a good sentence together when I’m also trying to feel my way through the story. I realised this about halfway through November, and decided to abandon great writing in favour of increasing the word count. This worked well for NaNoWriMo, but for my own writing, I think I prefer to keep the daydreaming and the writing a little more separate. This allows my ideas to bloom instead of being half-baked and forced, and I think I enjoy the process more this way.

My story is an absolute mess filled with sections of bad writing. I actually ended up with two first halves of two separate stories that are linked together. While I’m stoked that I made it over 50k, I’m going to welcome a slightly slower pace once again, and spending more time on the planning and worldbuilding will be nice, especially when I hit a road block and feel the need to consult or rework the plans even while in the middle of a chapter.

I learnt to shut out my inner editor completely. A couple of times I’d catch myself going over a paragraph I’d just written to see if it was structured well and made sense, but those occasions were rare and fleeting. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you actually force yourself to keep moving forward. Do that enough and it becomes a habit.

Writing is work. It might be enjoyable work, but it’s still work, and some days you just don’t feel like doing the work. It took an event like NaNoWriMo to make me realise that this is perfectly normal, and probably something that all writers go through. Even those off days filled with bad writing are rarely a waste of time; often figuring out what doesn’t work helps you to figure out what does.

I’ll be honest here: I never had any doubt that I would finish NaNoWriMo. My personality type and work ethic would never allow me to stop without crossing the finish line. That said, I’m still proud of myself and what I achieved, and I think everyone who participated this year, whether they reached 50k or not, should be proud. I think NaNoWriMo is more about the journey than the end result, and I got so much out of the experience that I definitely want to do it again next year.

As for the my 50,000 word novel, it’s definitely not my best writing to date (which is probably to be expected), but there’s some great ideas in there that I want to explore, and will do so now that I’ve developed a writing habit and realised it’s not so hard when you take the time and do the work. I’ll be continuing with it and aiming to finish my first draft. But I doubt I’ll be working on it exclusively; one thing I didn’t anticipate from NaNoWriMo was all the ideas for other stories that sparked just from being in a creative kind of head space. Can’t wait to start writing those.

NaNoWriMo: Hitting the Halfway Mark

25,003.

That’s how many words I’ve written so far, in the space of thirteen days. Nice big, odd number, that. Three words over the half way point. Can’t help but feel just a little bit of pride at getting this far with my first NaNoWriMo, and that’s perfectly okay (and encouraged!) because anyone who’s written any number of words this month deserves to feel proud of their achievement. For most of us, it’s more than we would ordinarily write, myself included. Hell, it’s more than many published authors write in that amount of time.

Tell you what, though: this experience has been pretty damn interesting. The week before NaNoWriMo started, I did a fair amount of planning. Outlines, character sheets, bits and pieces and scraps of notes, ideas that I thought I could use. I put them all down in my Scrivener document, ready and waiting for D-day. About ten days into it, I changed everything.

I hear that’s considered a bit of a no-no for NaNoWriMo, that you should just stick at it, persevere, keep going, just keep writing. But I felt like I was writing a sequel. I wanted to know what happened to my main character before all of this stuff, the stuff I was writing about, happened. I wanted to know the events leading up to the events that were unfolding on my screen. My mind kept drifting to an earlier point in the timeline of my story, and figured I’d have to write at least something about it if I wanted to be able to focus again. As it turned out, I’m still writing this “prequel” (I suppose that’s the best way to describe it) because it mostly seems to be writing itself.

Everything that I’d previously written isn’t suddenly irrelevant. It still fits into the grand scheme of my story, will still count towards my NaNoWriMo word count, and may appear as a story all of its own some day, possibly as a sequel. But what I do know for sure is that those 18,000-odd words definitely weren’t wasted. With every paragraph, my writing skills have improved, I’ve gotten back into the swing of things, started to challenge myself more, gained the ability to weave a mean sentence better than I could before. To witness that in the space of thirteen days is a pretty damn awesome experience, if you ask me.

I guess the point I’m making is that I now realise what’s so special about NaNoWriMo. It encourages people to start something, even if that something seems hard to reach. It gets us challenging ourselves, settings goals for ourselves, becoming motivated and disciplined. It encourages us to share and discuss and be creative ’til our heads are close to exploding. Yeah, it’s about writing, but I think it’s about more than that. I’ve learnt some things about myself during November that apply to me as a person, not just as a writer. I bet many others participating in NaNoWriMo have, too. That’s got to be considered a win.

November is a Write-Off!

Here’s to a productive November! Yup, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and already my nails are getting shorter with the anticipation!

Nah, that’s mostly a lie. I’m actually pretty excited about it. This will be my first ever NaNoWriMo, you see. I discovered its existence a few days before November last year, but the time just wasn’t right and I didn’t have any plans or outlines. But this year is a whole different story (though I did almost forget about it until the middle of October, but that’s a… minor detail).

If none of this is making any sense to you, you might want to go here and read up on all this NaNoWriMo business. Otherwise, if you’re lazy like me, I’ll give you the nutshell version:

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. Anyone can participate, writers and non-writers alike. This year, at the time of writing, there are already over 80,000 participants. There are no real prizes per se, but you’ll have a written novel at the end of it. You don’t even have to submit your novel or let anyone read a single page of it; you simply update your word count on the NaNoWriMo website.

Why would anyone do this? I can think of a few reasons, but it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s mostly for the challenge and motivation. I’ve never written 50,000 words in a month before, but it’s a habit I’ll need to form if I ever want to be a published author. Another reason is to silence my inner editor who always wants to re-read paragraphs to make corrections. This is my chance to just write in a mad frenzied state and not have to be a perfectionist; the joys of editing come later.

The sense of community is also a pretty good reason to do it. The forums are thriving right now, with people trading tips and exchanging ideas, and even just supporting one another. Plus, there are scheduled events all over the globe; you can put some faces to names and knuckle down for a solid writing session, if that’s your thing.

Me, I’ll probably be holed up in my room, at my desk, madly trying to get the ideas out of my head and onto the screen as fast as possible. Actually, the ideas for this one have been bubbling in my head for over a year, so NaNoWriMo is somewhat of a relief. Finally, my characters can stop pestering me in my sleep 😉

If you’ve ever considered writing a novel at some point in your life, even had so much as a passing thought, NaNoWriMo is a great way to make it a reality. 50k words is the goal, but even if you don’t make it that far, you’ll still be better off for the attempt. Each word is one more than you’d have written otherwise.

If you’re participating, gimme a buzz over at the NaNo site and we can buddy up. My profile page is here.

And for those who are participating…… Good luck and have a blast!