Movable Type 3.2
November 21, 2010
Or, to be more precise, 50,031. Yes. I'm done with NaNoWriMo. Yay! I feel like I should do something to celebrate, but I've been basically staring at my computer in a stupor for the twenty minutes since I finished. So. Actually, what I'm going to do in just a little bit is write you a big roundup of a bunch of good links I've been collecting this week. And maybe give you a little preview of coming attractions, now that I'm done worrying about NaNo and can really concentrate on CHEER. Yay!
November 18, 2010
NaNoWriMo Advice, Part Two: ACTUALLY FINISHING
Good evening! Exciting news: I located a new coffee-and-sandwiches type place that is independent AND open past four in the afternoon! You wouldn't think this would be a huge issue but it is, around here. I needed a dinner on the go tonight and got a tasty sandwich. (They actually have no vegetarian sandwiches on the menu, but they were happy to just make a sandwich with whatever I wanted on it.) On Friday mornings I usually let myself go to Starbucks as a reward for making it through the week, but I think tomorrow I will try a latte from this new place instead. And maybe see how their bagels are. This IS New Hampshire. I'm not expecting much. (Oh, look, they have a Web site.)
I suppose you want that advice on things like MOTIVATION and REWARDS I promised yesterday, though, huh? Okay. I think the advice tonight all falls under the rough category of "actually getting all 50,000 words in." I mean, I guess yesterday's was sort of about that too, but this is more direct. Or something.
1. Keep track of your word count progress as you go. It's satisfying watching the numbers stack up. There are various ways to do this - anything from just a list of daily word counts in a notebook to complicated Excel "Report Cards." But regardless of what else you use, I do suggest that you update your word count on the NaNoWriMo site. They'll make you a pretty bar graph of your daily progress, and also generate some other statistics (more on that later). How often to update your count? Whatever, really. Some prefer to only do it after one writing session. I do it much more frequently so I can obsessively monitor the statistics and be encouraged by the graph.
This year I also have an item within my document in which I'm recording my ending word count each day, just so I have that record in a place other than the NaNo site.
2. Use the NaNo Stats page. (You can find this on the "My NaNoWriMo" section of the NaNo site. Last tab to the right.) It offers the aforementioned shiny bar graph, as well as a bunch of other helpful things. The "today" section is based on a daily goal of 1667 - the minimum average per day you have to do to get to 50,000 in 30 days - and shows you how many words you've written and how many you have left. But I actually find the "total" section more helpful. It shows you how many words you need to get to the day's minimum target, so I find it soothing to keep this at 0 by always staying at least a day ahead. I generally try to write until my word count for the day is higher than my average words per day, which is a fun little mind trick because, of course, the daily average increases as your daily word count increases. And I have been loving the "words per day to finish on time," because watching that drop is really encouraging.
3. If you're having trouble keeping your momentum going, stop in the middle of scenes. Really. It's much easier to start up again the next writing session if it's obvious what the next line should be.
4. Friendly competition can help, but keep it friendly. I will admit that I almost stopped writing when I hit 2000 words this morning (my usual goal), but then I realized that I was only about 500 words behind the person on my Writing Buddies page with the highest word count, so I kept going until I had a higher count than any of my buddies. (It only lasted for about an hour, but it was satisfying.) On the other hand, you'll probably have a friend or two who has a lot of free time or writes really quickly or something, and they'll always be way ahead of you, and it will be tempting to let this make you feel like a failure even if you're not actually behind. RESIST.
5. Make a realistic assessment of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is tricky, because reactions to it can range from "Yay, an extra long weekend I can spend writing!" to "OMG, it's a black hole of traveling and relatives that will suck away all my writing time and possibly my will to live." I have been in both positions. One year, I hosted Thanksgiving instead of traveling, but it was only for four people and three of us were writing, so they didn't expect much. And that meant I could spend Saturday (I think I worked on Friday) writing all day, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving was actually the 30th that year. I was behind and wrote ten or twelve thousand words in a marathon while eating leftover Chex mix. Good times. On the other hand, this year I have a fairly busy Thanksgiving week, so I'm planning to get to 50,000 this weekend so I don't even have to worry about it (although I'll try to keep writing each morning, even if only a little). Either way is workable; just think about it ahead of time and plan accordingly.
6. Write out a word count checklist each day. This takes a little time at the beginning of your writing session, but it's definitely worth it, at least for me. There are various ways to do this. A few years ago, I wrote out instructions for the formula I was using at the time. I still really like that system. This year, though, I've been going a little simpler: I write a list of all the even 100s between my current word count and my goal, and add in the number for (my word count + 1667) (the minimum; my goal is 2000), as well as any daily word minimum goals that fall within the range (so 1667, 3334, etc.). Conveniently enough, the notebook I'm using has exactly as many lines as are required for that, so it's all nice and neat. The basic idea here is to give yourself a ton of really teeny goals that you can CROSS OFF as you reach them. The crossing off part is important, and extremely satisfying. This is all basically mind tricks, but I write so much more quickly when I do this.
7. Reward yourself! I actually prefer to call this bribing myself, because it sounds so much more sordid and dramatic. Someone in my writing group tonight said that she hadn't been rewarding herself, and we all gasped in horror and immediately concluded that this was why she felt her novel wasn't going well. You can set rewards at all sorts of milestones, and they can be whatever you want. Food is good for smaller milestones. I don't let myself eat breakfast until I've written 1000 words. A friend tonight said "I get 3 chocolate chips every 100 words," and I'm honestly not sure whether she was joking, but hey, sounds like a plan! Daily rewards can also include walks, showers, breaks to read or watch TV, whatever. I haven't yet gotten to the point this year when I start "allowing" myself to do chores as rewards, but hey, maybe this weekend! (I'm rather behind on dishes.)
Big rewards can also be good, either at the end or at a few big milestones in the middle. This year, I'm not letting myself watch Christmas movies until I hit 50,000, and I ordered a few new ones (well, old favorites that I didn't have on DVD) that will be sitting next to the computer
So . . . I think that's all my NaNoWriMo advice. At least for now. Off the top of my head. But if you have QUESTIONS or other things you would like me to address, comment away and I will write a follow-up!
November 17, 2010
Some NaNoWriMo Advice, Part One
We're over halfway through the month! Everyone surviving? I am still feeling chipper about the whole deal, and honestly, the longer I go setting my alarm for five, the more I like getting up so early. I know, I'm weird. Anyway, I've been answering some questions and giving some tips on Twitter, so I thought I'd pull some of them into a post. I'm not claiming I'm a great expert or anything, but I've done this a bunch of times, and God knows I have opinions on everything. And some of you even asked questions!
So I have settled in with a fruit smoothie and quality Food Network Thanksgiving programming to answer your questions and generally tell you some things that have worked, for me. (They are showing me a turducken. I am disturbed.) So first . . .
My NaNoWriMo Rules
1. Most importantly: Ignore all advice if you want to. Yes, even what I'm saying here. The only rules that actually matter are the official ones: You must write 50,000 words in November. It must be fiction. It must be a new work, not something previously started. I know people sometimes break these rules, and frankly, that drives me nuts. If you're doing something other than writing a new piece of fiction, that's fine, but it's not NaNoWriMo. But anyway. My point was that people will tell you a lot of things you "have" to do other than those basic rules - Outline! Don't edit! Don't reread! - and you should feel free to ignore all that.
2. Define your goal. Are you literally just trying to see if you can produce 50,000 words in a month? Or are you trying to produce something that you can eventually turn into something publishable? EITHER OF THESE OPTIONS IS FINE. Really. For my first few years, I concentrated on the former, but this year its the latter. It doesn't really matter which you pick, but it helps to know, because some of the wackier techniques, like randomly inserting ninjas or something, work better if you're just trying to write 50,000 words of anything.
3. Figure out your optimal writing circumstances. You won't always be able to create them on demand, but it helps to know. Do you write best at home? Out somewhere? Alone? With people? Morning? Late at night? I've found things go so much more easily when I make time to write in my optimal circumstances and don't try to force myself to write at other times. (Again, this will not always work, and you need to be flexible. I am lucky that my best time is before anyone else is awake, so it never conflicts with anything.)
4. Don't worry too much about the peripherals. The forums can be great. Local gatherings can be great. But don't feel like you have to do all that, if you don't want to and/or don't find it helpful. I've been pretty much ignoring the forums this year, and really, it's fine. (If you do like the forums, I'd recommend trying to get your daily word count in before visiting them, or they might suck up all your writing time.)
5. Similarly, don't get too caught up in the silly stuff. There's all sorts of stuff on the forums that's designed to be inspirational - challenges, adopt-a-plot, trading characters, whatever - but I've never been wild about that for a few reasons. Firstly, trying to cram random stuff in can backfire and send your book off the rails. And keeping track of it all can get time-consuming and just distracting. (Full disclosure: I did take a few requests of this sort this year, from specific people, not the forums. A friend told me to include someone named Spencer, and that was easy enough, because I have two whole schools of people to name. Another friend asked for a grocer named Telemachus, and I already had an unnamed grocer, so fine. And my cousin, upon hearing that I had my characters reading the late lamented Gourmet, asked for House and Garden to be resurrected too, so I'll probably mention that at some point.)
6. Know what you can let go. By definition, if you're spending x amount of time writing your novel in November, you are taking those x hours away from something else. It helps if you can articulate what that something is. This year, for example, I have been cooking less, blogging less (obviously, although I'm kind of like this new format of fewer, longer entries, and might keep it up), and watching less TV. I've also more or less given up any pretense of getting to work on time, but I'm lucky enough to have a very understanding boss, and my job is such that it doesn't really matter which hours I'm there as long as I'm there for forty hours. So your mileage may vary on that one, and really, think about your situation before emulating me there.
Here are the questions you all asked . . .
"What about resources for NaNo participants such as where to find writing prompts, organizational tools, apps for phones, etc..."
Honestly, for me, most of this falls into the category of "peripherals" so I don't pay much attention to it. But let's see. Writing prompts? I, um, actually hate writing prompts, especially when I'm working on something longer like a novel, because they usually mean I have to add in something I don't want to add in, and I'm too much of a control freak for that. Writing prompts are unexpected and mess things up and obviously I have a hard time handling this. But if you do like this sort of thing, for reasons I can't fathom, try the Word Wars, Prompts & Sprints forum. Organizational tools: I am using Scrivener this year, and it has changed my life. No joke. It lets you organize and write in the same place, and it's amazing, and I will devote a whole post to this soon. There are lots of places where you can find word count graphs and progress reports and stuff, but I've been really enjoying keeping things simple and using the tracker and stats page on the NaNoWriMo site. More about that tomorrow.
"What does one do when you're writing along and all of a sudden you hate your characters and plot and think it's all crap?"
I'm going to focus on the first part of this, because the next question is also about thinking it's all crap. (Apparently it's an epidemic.) When you all of a sudden hate your characters and plot, it's usually for one of two reasons, or maybe a combination. It's possible that you are stuck on some particular point or issue, and you might not even be consciously aware, but you need to solve the problem before you can like your novel again. It's also possible that you've just been spending too much time with your characters and you're sick of them, they way you can get sick of even your closest friends when you're together for days on end.
In either of these cases, I recommend taking a break from the particular bit of the novel you're working on. If you have time to take an actual break, great. Take a walk. Take a shower. (I often figure out difficult plot things in the shower.) Read a book. But if you don't have time to take a break and just need to get your word count in, there are a few things you can do. If you hate your plot and characters, why not describe things? Houses! Houses are great to describe. So are school curricula. Or the way your character's office works. Or have your character go on a walk and describe their neighborhood. Basically, write things in which you are not trying to progress the action - since you're stuck with that - but which still fit in with the rest and help you get to know your novel better. You can generate thousands of words this way. You may end up cutting some of them later - after November - but it's actually all stuff that's helpful for you to know. And if you're still stuck? Write out of order. I do it all the time, and it's so much easier. And often writing a completely different scene will help me figure out what went wrong in the first place and made me start hating everything.
"How do you move forward when you think everything you've just written is crap?"
Ignore it. Really. The only way to stop writing crap is to keep writing, and eventually if you practice enough it will start getting better. When you can't stand looking at what you've written anymore, just go on to a new scene. If it makes you feel better, change the font of the part you don't like to a really bright color so your subconscious knows you will be able to go back and fix it later, and then stop worrying about it. Concentrate on the next thing you're writing.
But on the other hand . . .
"And how do you resist the urge to edit?"
Don't. Why would you? Why resist this urge? Seriously. This is one of those NaNoWriMo "rules" people talk about all the time, but it is not a rule and, frankly, I think it's nonsense. The idea is that some people never get anywhere with their writing because they keep editing the same bits over and over again in some sort of endless loop. And for people with this specific problem, not letting themselves edit is undoubtedly helpful when their goal is word count. But not everyone has this problem, and it certainly should not be a universal rule. If anything, I have the opposite issue: if I know I'm not going to be able to edit, I get paralyzed and don't manage to write anything at all. It all comes back to understanding yourself and how you work, and not trusting other people's "rules" over your own instincts.
And, look, if you're worried about this, compromise. Make yourself get to your work count for the day, and then edit. Actually, if you're really worried, make yourself get ahead by 500 words or something to compensate for any words you might delete in the editing process. It all comes down to figuring out what works for you.
I have more to say about MOTIVATION and REWARDS, but that will have to wait for Part Two tomorrow, because I am starting to fall asleep as I write this. Good night!
November 13, 2006
Writing? I'm supposed to be writing?
My NaNoWriMo novel was going so well. Until it... stopped. Friday, Saturday, Sunday - not a word. Gah. I had a fun, relaxing weekend, but nothing got done. Tonight I wrote a little over 1700, so at least I'm very slightly less behind. I'm sure I can still catch up at this point. But I'm at the point of every NaNo when I start wondering why I'm putting myself through this...
November 02, 2006
Random NaNo Thought of the Evening
I keep having to remind myself that my main character's romantic interest is not, in fact, a vampire. I am not at all sure that this is a good sign.
NaNoWriMo Daily Incremental Goals Formulae
Note: This entry is very long, with lots of numbers and math. I promise it's not actually as complicated as it looks. If you don't care about NaNoWriMo and/or hate math, though, you might want to move along.
Over the past few years, I've developed1 a system for calculating daily incremental word count goals for NaNo. When sitting down to write, the day's goal can often seem overwhelming. It sounds like so much. Writing a list of smaller goals makes it all seem much more achievable. This system has two big advantages. Reaching multiple smaller goals allow you to feel a more frequent sense of accomplishment, which helps you keep going. And the goals are close together, so when one is reached, the next always seems so close that it seems silly not to try for it.
So! Ready to give it a try?
First, define your variables:
A = your current word count
Calculate the following:
The first five are the "reasonable" goals.
1. A + B (current word count plus today's minimum. This keeps you as ahead or as behind the NaNo minimum as you already are.)
The next five are the "dream goals." They're basically the above goals plus an extra day. Because really, we all want to get a day ahead, right?
6. A + (Bx2)
Now make a list of goals.
Arrange the numbers in order from least to greatest. Add round numbers in between them - at least every multiple of 500. If you want more goals, add in multiples of 250 or even 100. Also add any of these round numbers between your current word count and the lowest number of 1 - 7.
I promise this isn't as confusing as it sounds. To illuminate things, let's make my goal list for today as an example.
A = 1744 (my current word count)
1. 1744 + 1667 = 3411
Now I arrange them in order:
And I add all the multiples of 250 between my current word count and the highest goal:
Now I write those numbers on a piece of paper and keep it next to me as I write. As I reach each goal, I cross it out. The beauty of this system is that the next goal is always so close that it's easy to trick yourself into writing just a little bit more. For example, today I'm planning to try for Goal 2 (current word count + 2000), which is 3744. But once I get there, I'll see that the next goal is 3750, which is ridiculously close, so I'll write another sentence to get there. And then the next is right there at 4000, so I'll probably keep going... etc. If you like to play mind games with yourself, give it a try.
November 01, 2006
Word count widget!
This will get into the sidebar soon, but I just wanted to check it out...
November 21, 2005
Things I Have Learned in the Past Few Days
1. Six Feet Under + Birch = up until almost two am. Yeah. Bad combination. By which I mean "extremely fun and wonderful." At least I didn't have to be up early the next morning.
2. When my apartment is 49 degrees, it is pretty difficult to get out of bed.
3. Knit.1 seems to have a gift for writing simple patterns in the Most Confusing Way Possible.
4. On Friday afternoon, my roommate had to go to a meeting that might have coincided with our free snacks here at work, so I was to grab a snack for him. I realized that I'd be more confident in ordering for him at a decent restaurant than I was picking out a candy bar for him. Does this make us snobs, or just adults? I'm not sure.
5. It is, in fact, possible to talk on the phone while rolling very hot cookies in powdered sugar. Just in case you were wondering.
6. Sometimes those "Oh yeah, this IS my real life" moments actually help. Yesterday I was trying to simultaneously bake cookies and write my novel, and feeling vaguely annoyed at the situation. And then I realized that, if all goes according to plan, I will be writing novels while baking cookies for the rest of my life. (Well, eventually it would be nice if I didn't also have two jobs and school to keep up with while writing novels and baking cookies, and then maybe I could have enough time to give the writing a break and concentrate on baking for a few hours. But really, no guarantees.) And, somehow, once I realized that this was it, the writing got much easier.
7. A radio station that replaces its DJs with recorded messages about how they no longer have DJs to talk too much is, in fact, more annoying than the stations that actually do have DJs that talk too much.
8. I want to be Meg Cabot when I grow up.
Posted by Kat at 01:41 PM
November 09, 2005
(Yes, we had Random Kat Facts just last night, but that's a different kind of randomness. This is the "Here are twenty things I've been meaning to tell you but didn't have the time/energy/inspiration to write a whole post on" sort of randomness.)
2. I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about the election results. Yay New Jersey and Virginia and Maine. Boo Texas.
3. Whoever decided to play "Saturday in the Park" (you know, the "every day's the fourth of July" one) right when the majority of listeners would be headed to work on one of the coldest days yet this autumn really should not be a DJ. (Or computers shouldn't be picking out music. Whatever.) That said, it did make me smile and it's a good one to sing along with. Can you dig it? Yes I can! (Of course, listening to "My Immortal" next didn't exactly do wonders for my mood, but who can resist the line "Your voice, it chased away all the sanity in me"? Yeah, I'll be listening to that the rest of the day...)
4. I finally finished the school assignment that had been hanging over my head being impossible for two weeks. Turns out I was making it far harder than it actually should have been. (What, you, Kat? Making something hard for yourself? Really? Shut up.) I'm ridiculously excited about it being done.
5. I'm also ridiculously excited about the fact that I'm wearing my "skinny jeans" that haven't fit in about a year. Whee!
6. Novel? What novel? No, really, it's... coming. I'm a bit behind but not irreparably so. As I said to my roommate this morning, I have nothing planned this weekend other than working all day Saturday (yes, he laughed), so I'm hoping to get a few good sessions in and get ahead.
7. Meg Cabot blogs! I somehow just learned this last night. Happiness ensued. (I know what I'll be doing during my down time at work today...)
8. I took a vacation day yesterday and Erica and I headed out for a day of excitement involving Harrisville, the Woolery, and crazy fundamentalist pizza. I'll let her tell you her big news herself, but let's just say that she picked me up at nine and by noon we'd managed to spend about $500 between us. And that was before the Woolery.
9. At Harrisville, I found a copy of Knitting Fair Isle Mittens & Gloves: 40 Great-Looking Designs by Carole Rasmussen Noble. A friend, with whom I had never before discussed porn of any sort (I don't think), recently told me that this was one of his "favorite books of knitting porn." It's out of print, and I didn't want to order an expensive used copy sight unseen, but there it was in the bookcase at Harrisville! And - yes. My friend was absolutely right. (And yes, I have started a glove.)
10. I may have also started the Irish Diamond Shawl from Folk Shawls: 25 Knitting Patterns and Tales from Around the World1 in Harrisville Shetland in Evergreen2. I bought the "weaving" version of the yarn, on the cone, because it was a fraction of the price (and it's what the pattern called for, technically). I'll let you know how it goes.
12. I finally went to an orchard and got local apples, unpasteurized cider, and cider doughnuts yesterday. Yum.
13. Okay, my computer here at work is freaking out, so I think it's time for some quality time with AdAware.
14. But I don't want to jinx my bad mood by leaving off on number 13, so let me just mention how annoyed I am that my online registration for next semester is at 5 pm on Saturday. Because that is clearly the best time for everyone to be at their computers. (I get out of work at five, so I'll be at least a half hour late and probably not get my first choice of classes. Bah.)
November 03, 2005
Day 2 Report
Day 2 words: 2021
I did it. Somehow. Even with work and class and not getting home until eleven or so, I wrote 2000 words. (Yes, I was up until 1:30. Yes, I'm tired today. What's your point?) I even managed some description in this section. I introduced a few new characters. The plot is moving along. Overall, I'm satisfied. And tired. But... it's going.
Posted by Kat at 09:43 AM
November 02, 2005
Day 1 Report
Day 1 words: 2142
I didn't quite hit my grand aspiration of 3000 words on November 1, but 2000 was my real goal, anyway. (It's like telling someone habitually late that that party starts at seven so they'll arrive on time at eight. What, you don't play mind games with yourself?) I did complete the prologue, which, in this case, I'm calling the Prelude; my protagonist is a musician and the chapters are all going to have musical terms as names. I like what I have so far, although I've realized that I have way too much dialogue and too little description. My roommate reports the opposite problem, so I suggested that we swap brains for a while, although that might be more trouble than it's worth.
Tonight I have class, so I'm not sure how much writing time I'll get. I will try to get a few hundred words in before class. (I usually arrive on campus at least half an hour early because I allow some time for traffic, subway issues, etc.) I'm determined to write 1667 today, so that I at least keep my current buffer.
Posted by Kat at 02:20 PM
October 31, 2005
On your mark, get set...
It's almost time for NaNoWriMo! Five minutes! Good luck to any of you who are writing. I'm planning to write a sentence or two at midnight, go take a shower, and then write for a little while longer if I feel like it. We'll see how it goes...
Posted by Kat at 11:56 PM
October 30, 2005
Because randomness can happen any day of the week, right?
1. Something strikes me a bit wrong about Weight Watchers sponsoring a figure skating event. Let's see, how many ways can they find to screw up American women's body image all at once? It's multi-tasking!
Posted by Kat at 08:37 PM
October 27, 2005
Where babies come from
So I need you all to tell me where babies come from. No, really. Let me explain. As I've mentioned, I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month again this year. And I need a bit of background research help.
Super-condensed plot summary: Shortly after same-sex marriage becomes legal in Massachusetts, Greg (an English professor at a small college) and Sean Patrick decide to get married and have a baby. They ask Greg's best friend Christine to be their gestational surrogate. Christine successfully gets pregnant. Sean Patrick decides he actually doesn't want the marriage and family thing, now that he thinks about it, and leaves. Greg freaks out and isn't sure he really wants the baby at this point either. Then Christine finds out she's carrying twins, and she and Greg have to figure out what to do.
Now. I'm going to have the initial "will you do it?" conversation be in a prologue and then pick up the story once Christine is pregnant, so I won't need any in-depth descriptions of medical procedures. But I want to at least have my facts straight on the basics. So I'm looking for research suggestions: books, Web sites, etc. for facts, as well as blogs for personal stories. Here are some of the questions I need to figure out:
1. What fertility procedure would be most likely here? I was initially thinking IVF, but maybe IUI? But would that decrease the likelihood of twins? The twins are kind of integral to the plot.
Any responses, thoughts, tips, etc. would be most appreciated. Also, I am setting up a list of people who will receive the story via e-mail as I write it. If you are interested, let me know.
October 04, 2005
Haven't you always wanted to write a novel?
Well, haven't you? Now is the perfect time. Well, not quite now - November. Don't know what I'm talking about? Go have a look-see and sign yourself up. It'll be fun, I promise!
Posted by Kat at 10:30 PM