04 December 2007

NaNo Lessons - 2007 Edition

Well, this was an interesting NaNo.

I finished later in November than ever. I finished with fewer words than ever. If this trend continues, I won't finish next year at all... But, this year, I finished. And, as usual, I learned a whole lot.

1) Deciding to sit down and write is like deciding to have a baby. No really. As in: there's always a reason not to. With babies, it's: "I have to finish my degree first" or "We have to buy a house first" or "Let's get a dog first". With writing it's: "I'm too tired" or "I should really clean the kitchen first" or "Hey! Let's go scrub bathroom grout!". There's always, always an excuse not to do it.

2) "When" doesn't matter, but "where" does. My vastly prefered writing time is in the early-early before anybody else wakes up. It's quiet. I can focus. There are no distractions, but there is lots of coffee. It's a good time for me.

I didn't get to do it even once this November.

Everyone was too sick or too awake and screamy for too many hours during the night, so the early-early was time for sleepy-sleepy. The only time I had to write was the hour and a half or so between kids going to bed and me collapsing. So that's when I wrote. And to my surprise, found that I could. Who knew?

On the other hand, writing while sitting in bed - which is normal operating procedure for me during normal times - proved to be a spectacularly bad idea. I would literally fall asleep, fingers on keys, and amass all of two or three hundred words. No so good for word count.

So, instead, I made myself sit at my desk until I got done for the night. It was miserably uncomfortable (bad chair), downright chilly (underpowered heat pump), and quite impossible to fall asleep. Much better for word count.

3) I really can stick to an outline as long as I don't actually have one. I mean, not a formal outline, like what they teach you in school. No, those kinds of outlines are doomed from the outset. As soon as my characters see one of those, they grab it by its scrawny neck, wring the tar out of it and hang a sharp left for parts unknown.

This time, I was sneaky and tricked them and used Storylines, which is sort of like outlining and sort of like messing around with color-coded index cards (mmmm, color coding....). This seemed to keep my characters somewhat more in line...

Well, OK, there were still sharp left turns and a couple of loop-de-loops, HOWEVER, every little color-coded index card is checked off because it got written. With a normal outline, I would have gotten half way down page 1 checking things off and then the other eight pages would be sitting there forlornly wondering what the hell happened.

4) Never underestimate the power of a good widget. Seriously. Updating my word count every 25 words so that I can see my widget change may be neurotic. But if it helps me to move the story along, so be it.

Anyway. As usual, there is still much more to write, so it's on to NaNoFiMo for me.

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