Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NaNoWriMo Part 2

Before I get into the unexpected happenings of NaNoWriMo, I'd like to take a moment to talk about Scrivener. I purchased Scrivener two summers ago, after reading Stephen King's On Writing. I used it a fair amount at the end of that summer and for the rest of 2015, but had really not done very much writing during 2016. This was not the tool's fault, unless we're referring to the tool between the keyboard and chair. Scrivener is a very powerful tool for all kinds of writing. I happen to use it to write short stories and blog entries, but it supports authorship of screenplays, scholarly or news articles, and poetry among other things. It's a mature product, and has a LOT of how-to articles and videos to help you get up the learning curve. It's a little pricey, but not selling for an exorbitant amount, costing as much as a newly released video game and less than a yearly license for almost all of the other software tools I use professionally.

So, with Scrivener opened to a newly created novel project, I started typing. My normal writing speed is somewhere between 700 and 900 words per hour without stopping for too much editing or backtracking. With NaNoWriMo, you're supposed to write an average of 1,667 words daily to get to the 50,000 word mark by the end of November. At my hourly rate, I was going to have to write for at least a couple of hours a day. I was getting up an hour earlier than usual, so one hour was available, but where would the other hour come from?

As I typed that first morning, words appeared on the page, and kept appearing regardless of my effort to stop. I wrote for at least an hour and a half, and found that I was genuinely enjoying it. I went to work, but was distracted at times by thoughts about what was going on with the story, as if the characters' lives were progressing while I wasn't looking. I wound up jotting down random thoughts throughout the day, and then writing more in the evening instead of messing around on the Internet or doing whatever I do normally.

During the first two days, I wrote 5,218 words. I wasn't diligent the first two days about updating my word count at the end of each day, but the average for those first two days was 2,609 words per day. I was ahead of schedule already, and quite surprised by that fact. I thought for sure I'd be lagging behind early on. This year really did feel different than my two previous attempts on all levels.

There's a maxim in writing: "Show, don't tell." For your edification, here's the breakdown of my progress per day, in tabular format.

Tuesday, November 1, 20162609-
Wednesday, November 2, 201652182609
Thursday, November 3, 201672001982
Friday, November 4, 201692642064
Saturday, November 5, 2016120852821
Sunday, November 6, 2016143392254
Monday, November 7, 2016162361897
Tuesday, November 8, 2016181051869
Wednesday, November 9, 2016201522047
Thursday, November 10, 2016221682016
Friday, November 11, 201623079911
Saturday, November 12, 2016257182639
Sunday, November 13, 2016292473529
Monday, November 14, 2016326783431
Tuesday, November 15, 2016338411163
Wednesday, November 16, 2016359212080
Thursday, November 17, 2016378701949
Friday, November 18, 2016403342464
Saturday, November 19, 2016415501216
Sunday, November 20, 2016435011951
Monday, November 21, 2016459362435
Tuesday, November 22, 2016476371701
Wednesday, November 23, 2016504212784

By the end of the day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I had made it to the victory requirement, and still had a scene left to write. I had done it -- I had written a The-Great-Gatsby-sized novel in just 23 days.

Interesting metrics include:

  • Max output: 3,529 words on Sunday, 11/13
  • Min output: 911 words on Friday, 11/11
  • Average output: 2,173 words
  • Median output: 2,064 words

As an aside: Sunday 11/13 and Monday 11/14 were the first two days that Tanya was in Australia. I found myself both inspired and trying not to think about the fact that she was on the other side of the planet quite a bit those days.

If I wrote an average of 800 words per hour, then that means that on a typical day for the first three or so weeks of November, I wrote for 2.5 hours. Here's the key bit though: I didn't feel like it was that long. I didn't find myself dreading the time required to get the word count in. I was energized pretty much the entire time. In other words, this didn't feel like work, at least not for those three weeks.

I haven't mentioned the final week on purpose, because I took my foot off the gas pedal, let my mind wander a bit, and messed around with a couple of alternate final scenes. I did just enough work on them to realize that I really didn't like either of them. I wound up with almost 56,000 words, but the last 5,000 need to be completely flushed down the toilet in favor of something that actually pleases me.

The other thing that I've found myself doing this past week is studying the craft of writing a little more. Brandon Sanderson (one of my favorite authors) teaches a class at BYU on creative writing. This past spring, they recorded the lectures and published them on youtube. If you're interested in what he he has to say, you should definitely check them out. I'm only through the third lesson, but very much like what I've heard so far.

Where does that leave me? Am I going to become a professional writer? Almost certainly not. However, I have learned something about myself, and that is that I genuinely like making up silly stories. I fully intend to go back and revise this one in January (as NaNoWriMo has suggested), and even if no one else reads it, it will have been worth it. My imagination produced something that (I think) I would like to read. This is a hobby worth having.

Friday, November 25, 2016

NaNoWriMo Part 1

And here you thought it would be November 30th before you got another post...

November has, admittedly, been a busy month both personally and professionally. On the work front, we've been trying to secure a deal with a new, rather large, client. The good news is that the client is not only very interested in our product, but more highly motivated than we'd anticipated. We've had several sets of discovery meetings, and I'm happy to say that we're now engaged in a proof-of-concept implementation with them. We are VERY excited about this.

On the personal front, I need to offer full disclosure to you. I had surgery about halfway through October that has kept me pretty inactive for the past six weeks. That, in some ways, is a good thing. The forced inactivity allowed me some extra time to do something that I've wanted to do for years and never got the full motivation to finish...

This year, I entered NaNoWriMo again, for the first time in a long time.

For those of you that aren't familiar with NaNoWriMo and didn't click the link, here's the executive summary.

<snipped from the website>
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.
<end snip>

I first heard about NaNoWriMo at least seven years ago (and most likely eight or more). That first year, I had a severe false start and only got about 6,000 words in before giving up. The second year I doubled that total, but also fell flat on my face at that point. As a side note, that was the year that my friend Staci Linson entered and produced a book that might still be unfinished at 100,000 words (if memory serves). The next several years were no-go's for me altogether, although I considered it every year. I always managed to find "reasons" not to do it.

But this year was different. I had been getting up early to work out since the spring, and then surgery happened. So when November rolled around, I knew I could carve an hour out of the day just by getting back into the "waking up early" routine. I also had at least a vague sense of what I could write about as well. I created my official NaNoWriMo profile on Hallowe'en; I was all set to go. I set the alarm for 5:30 the next morning, and fell quickly asleep.

I woke up from a dream before my alarm went off on November 1. The dream was an interesting one. I made the decision to use that dream as the basis for my NaNoWriMo story instead of the original vague thoughts I'd had. I realized it was a completely different direction and that I had absolutely no idea of where it would go (much less how it would end), but I trusted that something interesting would evolve. I later found out that NaNoWriMo has a badge for this behavior. I am a Pantser. Simply put, a plotter is someone who plans out the entire novel before writing it. A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don't plan out anything, or plan very little. Some people, call themselves “plantsers,” which means they're in a little of both. (thanks to The Writing Practice for the succinct definitions).

So, I had a brand new story in my head. I opened Scrivener, created a new novel project, and started writing. What happened next was completely unexpected, and I look forward to telling you about it in the next installment.

And yes, I know I'm an incorrigible tease...