Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NaNoWriMo Day 13 - On Speed

As expected, I've gotten very little writing done because I've been travelling. My three day trip last week went into five days because of car trouble. So here I am, at Day 13, with 3400 words.

I've got some catching up to do.

The most I've ever written in a day is 9,000 words, and I've had two day totals of about 15,000, so I know I can still reach the 50,000 goal and save my lovely curly locks from the trimmer.

I've always been able to write fast, and stay focused for long period of time. But I never stopped to ponder why. I certainly don't think I'm more talented, creative, inspired, or dedicated than any of my peers, pro or newbie. But I haven't met many writers who can crank out the words as quickly.

So before I get started on my novel this morning, I thought I'd write a few words about speed, endurance, and staying focused.

1. Sit Your Ass In The Chair

The first step is to actually sit at your desk, your Word Processing program open on your computer. Now be a good dog and STAY, getting up only to eat, hit the john, and attend to any bleeding children.

2. Limit Distractions

The biggest attention temptation for a writer is the Internet. Besides email, chat, and games, there's also the dreaded research, which begins at Google or Wikipedia and then, an hour later, devolves into you reading about something entirely unrelated to your book.

Phone calls, nonessential communication with family members, stretching your legs, or doing anything "to get the muse started" is time that should be spent writing.

3. Write

You shouldn't worry if it's crap. Give yourself permission to write crap. The goal is to get words on the page. Write them, even if they suck. Inspiration is bullshit. Writing is a job. How often does your 9 to 5 job inspire you? Yet you do it anyway. When working, the motivation is the paycheck. With Nanowrimo, the motivation is getting to 50k. Get there, even if you think you're producing garbage. You can always edit in December.

If you are stuck, staring at a blinking cursor and pulling out your hair, here are some tricks:
  • Read what you wrote the day before. That can give you a launching point for getting into the next scene.
  • Spice it up. Usually, being unable to decide what happens next means you don't have enough action or conflict. Give your hero more problems to deal with. I don't care what kind of book you're writing, you can always introduce more characters and plotlines to make things harder for your protagonist. When God gets bored with earth, he sends in a tsunami.
  • Skip around. Much of getting stuck happens when you're pushing for something to happen, but you can't seem to get there. You know what I mean; the big scene that came to you fully-formed, but you haven't gotten to the point in the story yet. Who says you need to write in order? Do the scene you're itching to do--you can connect it to the rest of the book later.
  • Free yourself. Often you get mired down in outlines, plans, details, and expectations, which can bring your story to a dead end with no hope of moving forward. Allow yourself to change your original plans. Narratives often go in places we didn't expect, and may not even like. Roll with it. Change things. Go in different directions, even if that means your book becomes something different.

4. Fight Fear With Action

Fifty thousand words in a month is a scary thing. It's easy to obsess about word count, worry that everything you've written is garbage, and spend so much time questioning your ability to finish that you're wasting valuable writing time. The best way to combat fear is with action. Every time you feel the need to doubt yourself, or check your word count, force yourself to finish the page. The doubts usually go away for a while. When the come back, be aware of them, and finish that page.

In short, less thinking, more writing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have 46,600 words to write in 18 days, so I'm getting started...


feywriter said...

I needed to hear #4. I'm not doing NaNoWriMo, but I'm down to the last two chapters of my book. A lot of doubts and fears have crept up to replace the excitement. My new mantra shall be "finish the page".

Anonymous said...

It's day 13 and I'm at 45,151 words.

You can do it.

We both can do it because we want it badly enough to make it happen.

Best wishes to you!

Kameron said...

Skipping around has always been an obstacle for me. I excuses, but I think I'm finally going to have to do it with my current project, as I've sat too long at the current plot point. Thanks for the reminder.

Jim Winter said...

I recently had a web design job that sucked up a lot of time and essentially ground my latest effort to a halt. Fortunately, I made notes on what I wanted to write next.

The first scene upon my return was like pulling my own wisdom teeth with a pair of salad tongs.

The second?

The second was magic, baby. Thought I was channeling Ken Bruen.

(Thankfully, Ken, who read it, didn't pick up on that.)

(Er... Does Ken read this blog? I meant MacBride, Ken. Really. Or David Simon. Really.)

Ty said...

As for the Web being a distraction, this was my solution:

I have two computers, in separate rooms. My "writing" computer is not hooked up to the Internet, so there's little distraction there. My "Internet" computer is at the other end of the house, far enough away to not be so tempting.

Rob Flumignan said...

46,600 words in 18 days? That's just over 2500 words a day. That's nothing for you. The question is, if you hit 50k, will you have a whole novel? Seems kinda short.

Good luck, my friend.

Rob Flumignan said...

By the way, am I just not seeing it or did you kill your blog index?

Shauna Roberts said...

A note from your friendly neighborhood medical writer: I beg to differ on stretching one's legs. Sitting in one place in one position all day is unnatural and is not good for the muscles and joints. One can end up with chronic neck and shoulder pain and headaches, not to mention blood clots in the leg ("Economy Class Syndrome"). Writers should get up, move around, and stretch every hour.

Physical activity also sends more oxygen to the brain, which is a good thing for a writer.

Spy Scribbler said...

Hey, you're in better shape than me! I'm -7,000 on another project before I can start nano, which means I've got about 57,000 to go this month. I really want to do it, though.

Anonymous said...

PS I dug deeper today and cracked 50K this afternoon -- in 13 days!

If I can keep a good pace, I might finish the 100K in Mid-December!

Carleen Brice said...

Don't know how you do it! I'm a butt in the chair kinda gal, but I'm THRILLED when I get more than 1,000 words in a day. It just wears me out!

Shesawriter said...

Great advice, especially the stuff about writing out of sequence. If I didn't write out of sequence, I'd get nothing done. My muse is fickle. She hates being linear, so I'm all over the place at this point. Anything to get those words down.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Nano newbie, and I managed to get 40,000 words in 14 days (and the day ain't done yet). A pro like you won't even break a sweat!

Conda Douglas said...

Great advice, Joe. The one I have the greatest prob with: limit distractions. That's why I can't get on the Internet with my writing computer. And I've had to remove all the games on that computer as well. ANY EXCUSE. Unless I get into the writing--but I can't count on that.

Keep up churning out those words, Joe. Remember some guys look good bald and some...don't.

Anonymous said...

Joe: I can actually write 50,000 words in one day.

Don't believe me?

OK, watch carefully . . . here goes ... don't blink ... "50,000 words in one day."

Told you!

Keep writing. PS DId you wife ever finish reading Deadly Laws?

Cyn Bagley said...

Good luck. I find that the most I have been able to write in one day is 5,000 words.

Right now I am at 32,102 words. I need to start cracking again.

just taking a bit of a break.

WayneThomasBatson said...

I did 75 pages in a weekend, and by the grace of God, it was actually good stuff.

I'm normally a slow writer. 1-2 pages an hour is what I usually do. No smoke off my keyboard.

But I've decided that measuring progress in pages bites the wax tadpole. I now assign myself 1000 words a day or bust. And I've found if I find some pre-writing-session to zap out 250 words or so, that the 1000 word goal is so much easier to meet later on when I sit down for the heavy session.

Go for it, Joe!

Swanny said...

Jen wants to know why your children are bleeding. Good luck, sir! we may be up your way within the next few weeks. Lunch may be in order.

Anonymous said...

I'm struggling. 7,757. Talk abou falling behind....

JA Konrath said...

You guys are posting some great numbers!

Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

A feel author has some other thoughts about the worth of NaNo here:


Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Oops. I meant *fellow* author, not feel. :) And here's another shot at the link.


Anonymous said...

NaNo Thanks....have to agree...think of the poor editors and agents, people! The onslaught of hastily-written crap that's going to wash through New York like a tsunami this winter. Piece of advice: DON'T mention in your query that your novel was written for NaNoWriMo. If your idea is so compelling, you have to torture yourself for a month to get it on paper, maybe writing isn't for you. Very few people can write fast well (J.A. being a notable exception). You're all insane! Why is finishing a novel a laudable goal, if the finished product sux? Why not make the goal to write the best book you possibly can? I can promise you, that will take longer than a month.
John Q.

Carole A. Ward said...

Ah, thanks for that. I'm doing NaNo and felt a teensy bit discouraged to be so far behind. Day 15 and only 6224 words in.

It'll be a challenge, and I know it's still possible to succeed. I appreciate your encouragement, and wish to extend the same to you:

You can do it! Go, go, go!


Simon Haynes said...

I write humour, and sometimes I have to write 5000 words of crap before a really funny bit comes along.

The good news is that by the time readers eventually hold your latest novel in their hands, you've removed all the crap and left them the good bits.

Today I got ahead of my Nano target for the first time since day 3, and I'm very happy about it. I did it by unchaining my inner writer and telling the critic to bug off. My writing today didn't fit the novel or the plot, and took a major character in a direction I never really expected. There was also a section which had me laughing so hard I couldn't type - and if all the other words are chucked out, I'll still have that to hang onto.

Anonymous said...

To John Q. -

I find it interesting that all the people out there in the writing world that tell us to "Just write" are the very same ones that are slamming NaNoWriMo. Isn't that what we are doing? Just writing? So what if some of it is crap. That doesn't mean all of it is, and it doesn't mean that we are all deluded into thinking that if we write a bunch of words for a month that we have a publishable novel.
Everyone has a different reason for taking on this challenge. For some, it is just a writing exercise; a way to just write without having to worry about quality. It's not like anyone is going to see it. Practicing writing is like practicing anything else. Do it enough, and one will improve.
For others, this is a challenge of our skills and the opportunity to learn new skills, like planning and avoiding procrastination and distraction.
Personally, I am doing this to prove to myself that I *can* finish a project. Maybe this will help me get over my natural tendency to procrastinate (because I fear I won't finish. Irony...). By the way, my focus is on telling my story and enjoying the process of writing. It's not all about the quantity of words for me, and I suspect a majority of people who are participating feel the same way.
But for all of this... it's fun. It's fun to just write without boundaries and do it in the company of a bunch of other crazy people. Some people will have a bunch of words that will be dumped at the end of the month. Big deal. I don't know of any author that does not have at least one manuscript that they hated and shelved. But for some of us, myself included, we will have a shell of a manuscript that can be snipped, prodded and shaped into a story worth reading.
NaNoWriMo may not be for you. That's fine, no one is forcing you to participate. But for people to disparage a challenge that is designed to get people to do the very thing that so many others exhort us to do- "Just write"- is deplorable.
Sorry this comment is so long, but I really tire of seeing people who think they are better than us because we participate in NaNo and rip us apart at every opportunity. I get it. It's not for you. But that doesn't mean that we deserve to be looked down upon. After all, we are doing what we're told. We're writing something.

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