Experiments

The really interesting thing about NaNoWriMo this yeear is that I’d decided I wasn’t going to try to write another novel on the 23rd.

What happens next is that two days later I start getting this itch. I made a map, you see, of the world of my Camp NaNos this year. In June, when I wrote Perfume, I had the idea for the stories of two other characters, dubbed them sequels, and wrote the first sequel, Incense, in August. I was going to write the third, Spice, in November, but that fell through as I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about it.

Well, now I’ve started Spice, and instead of making it my priority, it’s my reward for all the other work I’m doing in writing blog posts, selecting pictures, reading Silent Spring (one of the most depressing books I’ve ever encountered), and clearing out my e-mail archives and action folders. I started this on the 27th, so we’ll see how far I can get in writing it by the 30th.

I find it fascinating that my brain, once I tell it it’s not allowed to write at all suddenly comes up with all sorts of ideas. What would happen if I didn’t allow myself to write on Wednesdays, for instance? Or I could only write on Sundays? I can’t wait to experiment on this in December, or perhaps even 2013.

I’ve experimented before, but I’ve never actually put that name on it before. I’ve found that if I only allow myself to do push-ups every other day, I can’t wait for my push-up days. (This plateaus at about 7 push-ups though, when I start getting angry at the fact that past 8, I start collapsing). It would be fascinating to see what bearing this has on writing.

What sort of experiments do you conduct in your own writing?

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It Gets Easier

140,200.

My word count is high.

Higher than it’s ever been before. In fact, I think the last time it approached these heights was when I was 14 and my maximum speed was 75% of what it is now. I’m 17 now, but it’s not as if I have more free time than I did then. Though, at 17, I can stay up till 2am if I like, instead of going to bed at 10pm. Or I can wake up earlier. The upside about being in a different hotel room than your parents. ūüôā

Yes, it amazes me too. It took me 30 days to hit 100k when I was 14, in 2009, and since then, I haven’t gotten past 70k in a NaNo event. (The novels, of course, were longer).

So what’s different now? I think it’s a combination of things:

  • Pantsing.¬†The stories are solid in my head, but that makes them flexible. Eloise from¬†Settling the Accounts¬†took 40k to realize she was going to poison her husband. I’m at 70k now and their in-laws are moving in.¬†Detailed planning doesn’t work for me.¬†It’s taken me five years to notice, but now I’m putting it in practice.¬†Finally.
  • Time.¬†It takes about 4-8 hours a day to hit the word counts I set for myself (about 10,000 words a day).¬†Give yourself time.¬†Turn off the internet, or war with friends. Do the¬†NaNoWordSprints¬†on twitter.
  • Few expectations.¬†My first year the idea was to hit 50k, hopefully before the end of November. The second it was to hit 100k (I got both of these). The third it was to write an entire series. I didn’t even finish the first book. The fourth year I wanted to aim for 300k in one novel. (I know what you’re thinking… “wut???”) I failed categorically. Didn’t get past 60k in November.In Camp NaNos I aim for a finished novel of about 60k. And I hit it every time. So the goal this year was:¬†Write novels, 50k or more each. Write every day of November.¬†That’s it. I’m on track to write 300,000 words this year, but that’s not because I’m aiming for it.
  • Faster typing. I’m doing these one minute bursts to try and hit 100 wpm. I get about 80-90, and there are typos, but it definitely helps.
  • Wars.¬†Two hour wars? Super. Getting words you’ve never gotten before, and able to say that you did it in two hours? Fantastic.
  • Writing every day.¬†Here’s a secret:¬†It gets easier to write enormous amounts of words if you do it regularly.¬†Especially once you get past the first block of the day. (For me that’s at about 5k. They wreak havoc on my brain, those first 5,000 words. After that it gets easier for some reason.)
  • Wrist exercises.¬†Wrist pain is no fun. I have a timer on my laptop that forces me to mostly pause writing and work through exercises for two minutes. I should turn the opacity up on it so I can’t see what I’m writing, though. That would be good; I tend to cheat on it and keep writing regardless.

Um, what else?

I guess… I’m not stressing about this NaNo like I usually do? It’s ridiculous, considering that on five days of NaNo I’ve written above and beyond 10,000 words a day (hitting 30k and 24k on two of those days, and 20k today). I’d expect me to stress about it, but… I’m not.

So, lessons to take away.

  • Don’t stress it.¬†The words will come.¬†If you’re behind, focus on the next ten minute sprint.¬†Or do 1-minute sprints to up your word count quickly. Aim for 5 words more each time you do it (So if I wrote 90 words, I’d aim for 95)
  • Commit online. Go on FB or Twitter and state that you will write for the next 30 minutes and you will wriete 1000 words that were not there before (adjust for your own word count, but make sure to push yourself. If you write 500 words an hour, aim for 300 in that half hour).
  • And, I cannot stress this enough,¬†TURN OFF THE INTERNET!¬†If you war online, turn off all websites that do not correspond to that warring center. If you’re on Twitter for word sprints… turn off the net during the sprints. Turn it back on when you finish the minutes.

Please don’t feel discouraged by the enormous number stated at the beginning of this post. remember that NaNo is a self-challenge, and remember how crazy I’ll be by the end of these 30 days of nutsiness, alright?

And, now you’ve finished this post, go knock out 100 words, alright? (Or if you’re adventurous, make it 1,000)

Ciao!

One Week Later

This is more of an update post than anything else…

First things first. I’ve switched NaNo novels.

Now, I know I said in my ‘NaNo Tips’ post that you shouldn’t switch ideas. And, of course, like all great writers (great is a general adjective in this case), I broke that rule.

Why?

There were a few factors that went into the decision:

  1. I hit 42,891 words in¬†The Handkerchief¬†(the old story), and was still eager to write it… just maybe in a different way. With a better thought-out setting. And the elements of the story that came into my head. And maybe with more rest. In any case… I knew I was going to write the story at¬†some point.
  2. The ‘new’ story,¬†Settling the Accounts, is not a new story.
  3. I made a commitment to myself to finish The Handkerchief in one way or another (hit 50k, at least, and type THE END), by the end of November.

Because¬†Settling the Accounts is kind of my pet project at the moment… I’m going to tell you a little bit about it.

In late 2008 or early 2009, soon after my first NaNoWriMo, I was looking through our house’s collection of National Geographic magazines. Now, these magazines are still there, from I-don’t-know-what-year to the most current magazine that was delivered to our house before we left (that’s about October 2011). I haven’t read all of them, but the May 2005 issue caught my eye on this particular day.

A tarantula was on the front. Now the cover story was Poison: 12 Toxic Tales.¬†Fascinating, right? Maybe for someone who likes reading about poisons. I didn’t, and I don’t. But the most interesting part of this entire article was this phrase right here:

Because it is colorless, tasteless, and odorless, arsenic was the poison of choice for […] Hieronyma Spara, a 17th-century Roman entrepreneur who ran a school that taught wealthy young wives how to dispatch their husbands and become wealthy young widows.

What could¬†possibly be more fascinating than a man who finds out his beautiful young wife wants to poison him? Of course, me being a romantic (and newly-14), what if the man was so in love with his wife that he,¬†instead of behaving like a rational human being and having his wife carted off for intended-homicide, tried to make her fall in love with him so she wouldn’t want to poison him?

It gets better, trust me.

This October, I suddenly realized that I had the missing piece of this puzzle. Why, after all, would anyone want to murder a perfectly nice guy (of course, the hero of a story has to be a perfectly nice guy)? Of course the heroine can’t be a power-hungry mercenary, because that wouldn’t make a nice character! (I am a firm believer in the idea that everyone is nice if you get to know them better. Unfortunately, this means all my villains turn out to be perfectly normal people who don’t get along with other people.) What if, the guy she was marrying was supposed to be a very rich man, but is actually a miser? And he wants to marry her, to throw his creditors off the track? (By the way, in this version, she’s penniless too.)

It gets better, trust me.

I actually tried writing that version.

It didn’t work. For one thing, something went wrong with the story in my head. For another thing, I got about 10k into that version and realized that, if I hated the last 8000 words, it was probably time to step back and reconsider my options.

And it does get better.

On about November 3rd, I came up with the best part.

Warlocks and witches.

And towers. And lots of cats (cats show up often in my novels, though I’ve never had one).

And, why does she want to poison him? So he doesn’t steal her magic. And why does he marry her? Because he thinks she’s rich. And why do they fall in love in the first place?

Because‚Ķ well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

At any rate, when he finds out she wants to poison him, he doesn’t love her yet. In fact, at that point, he probably hates her, and laughs at what a good joke it’s going to be when she finds out she’s a billion dollars in debt.

It’s still in the working stages, but I’m sure it’s going to be comedic.

Here are a few scenes (veeery rough draft), in case you’re interested:

The Proposal Scene

“If‚ÄĒ if we were married‚ÄĒ”

“Now you’re getting the picture.” He said with a smile.

“If we were married,” she said, her voice gathering strength as her cheeks became redder, “if we were married,” she said for the third time, “I’d‚ÄĒ I’d poison your tea!”

He frowned, then his expression cleared. He gathered her up into his arms and brought her too close for comfort, then lowered his head until she stiffened.

Eloise wondered wildly if he could feel any magic, and if so, was it more safe to back away or to blast him with a fire ball? He lowered his head to her ear, and she tried to draw away, but he was just a bit too strong for her, and she couldn’t. Instead, she tried to push herself away, but that didn’t work either.

“‘If we were married,'” he said in an undertone, “I like to hear you say that, by the way.” Then he smiled wider, and she could hear it in his voice, “If we were married,” he said, “I’d drink it.”

She froze. “That’s‚ÄĒ”

“But only if you really wanted me to.” He said.

And, the Wedding Night Scene

He raised his eyebrows and shrugged off the shirt, hanging it up on the footboard.

He turned away and took off his pants. Eloise plucked at the bedspread a bit more.

He turned around.

Eloise screamed.

Ten minutes later, Arthur exited the room looking thoroughly disgruntled. “Don’t smirk.” He told Damad. [the cat]

“Can I help it if I find it funny?” Damad asked, smirking.

“Yes,” Arthur said, stamping viciously across the peach sitting room, nearly knocking over a dainty wooden table, “you can.”

“Don’t worry.” Hannah [another cat] said, jumping onto one of the lace-covered armchairs and then onto Arthur’s right shoulder, “She’ll get over it.”

“I don’t think so.” Arthur said, “You didn’t see her face.”

“Was it excited?” Ana asked.

Arthur shot the orange tabby a disgusted look. “No,” he said, wrenching the door open, “it was not excited.”

“How would you describe it?” Ana asked, ever-curious.

Arthur reached up a hand to scratch Hannah’s neck. “Scared stiff.” He said, “Like she’d seen a ghost.”

Ahem.

To end this ridiculously long post (and I apologize– it won’t happen again for at least a week).

If you want to start a new NaNo story,

  • Make sure this is not just a fad.
  • Don’t start a third new story.
  • Write like mad.

What are your experiences with your NaNovels so far?

How to Write More Words Than You’ve Ever Written (NaNo’12 Day 1)

I decided to aim for 50k day (the act of writing 50,000 words in one day).

This, I knew, was a stretch. The last time I’d written 15,000 words in one day was in 2009‚ÄĒ in the middle of NaNoWriMo‚ÄĒ and the last time I’d written 15,000 words in a 24 hour period was in August. 10,000 words a day show up more frequently, but never on the first day. My first day totals tend to be terribly pitiful drops in the bucket.

But I wanted to break through my barriers… and I did.

How?

  1. Shut off the internet. The internet will kill you. Slowly. You’ll go on to check something and come away with‚Ķ 2 hours of watching other people hit their word counts. Luckily the apartment we’re staying in now has no internet, and the iPad did not have internet either.
  2. Make five minutes of internet your reward for hitting the midway point. I would not recommend this, though, if you’re not super-disciplined. Luckily, my siblings wanted the iPad at the same time, so I was able to get off with only a quick wordcount update throughout the day.
  3. Plan ahead. I planned my 50k day about 48 hours ahead‚ÄĒ I went to bed super early two nights in a row, and napped all through Halloween. I woke up at 10:55pm to plan a bit more before 12am, so that I could sprint through a lot of words before we left home. Beyond this, I knew where the story was going, and I’d pause every once in a while to draft out the scene before writing. This makes it easier to type quickly.
  4. Write. Once NaNo has started, just write. Don’t censor yourself, set a timer if that helps you (I set 15 minute long timers and challenged myself to hit 1k by the time the timer ran out. Then, 14 minute timers, then 13 minute timers. Soon it will be 12 minute timers.)

 

If you need a break, hit the next milestone and then get up. Stop in the middle of a sentence. Or the middle of your favorite scene. Run around, drink water, put on some really energetic music and dance to that… tell everyone your word count and/or make them push you back to the laptop/computer/pen and paper/typewriter… you get the picture.

So, what’s my wordcount for Day 1?

30,000 words.

Because I’m now keeping records, I know this took me about 9 hours and 56 minutes, and that my most productive moments were bursts of 35-50 minutes, at about 4-6pm, sitting on the bed with lots of elbow room.

 

What’s your first day total? And how are you planning to beat it later this month?

My NaNo Prep This Year

This post may come a bit late for those of you looking for tips on planning your own NaNovel, but I’m only just now sliding into it.

As a (long) bit of background, here’s a quick run-down of how I’ve planned my past novels (and how it worked out):

¬†Pantser: Came up with characters, beginning plot, and setting a few days before NaNo and RAN with it for the entire month, without trying to censor myself. (NaNo’08, NaNo’09, Camp NaNo’11 August)

The Aftermath: Spectacular wins and terrible plots that I don’t have the energy to completely rewrite.

– Obsessive Planner: Came up with characters, plot, and setting in early October. Planned out by scene, with phase outlines, and stuck to it like it was written in stone. (NaNo’10, NaNo’11)

The Aftermath:¬†Solid plot, but I was sick of the story AND had to continue into December to finish the novel. Haven’t looked at them since.

Literary Pantser:¬†Had a plot, characters, and a basic idea “THEY DO¬†NOT HAVE A HAPPY ENDING,” and forced myself to write a tragic lovestory with crazy, homicidal characters. (Camp NaNo’11 July)

The Aftermath:¬†Hated it with all my being. Wrote 40k, killed everyone, and supplemented with schoolwork I’d done during the month.

¬†Semi-Planner: Had the beginning plot, a mostly-fleshed-out cast, and a well-fleshed out setting. Had the plan in my head, and didn’t mind deviating from it. (Camp NaNo’12 June and August)

The Aftermath: Loved the story. There is a semi-tight plot, and one of the two is now in editing stage.

So what can I learn from this?

  • Write what I like.
  • Know the characters and parts of plot.
  • Deviate if necessary.
  • Have the time to devote to the novel.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Answering questions about my characters.¬†What is John’s compelling need? Why did Adam take the silver cup?
  • Figuring out important plot points. But not planning them out in detail except in my head. When NaNo comes, I’ll probably just have an outline to the side and refer to it, but I may not write according to scene. I’m not sure yet, actually.
  • Figuring out the setting. On the prep list for this year is¬†maps. My character will be journeying some, but not a lot, and I’d like to have one of these as a reference– but also as drawing practice.
  • Drawing a cover. This is the first year I have a cover during NaNo. I’m so excited.

And, my NaNo Survival Kit:

  • The trusty laptop
  • And the lovely iPod

What are your prep tools for NaNo?