Winner-180x180NaNoWriMo has been over a week now so its about time I summarized the experience. This was my first NaNoWriMo after years of sitting on the fence, watching and thinking I should do it but never finding the time or quite frankly the need to do it, but now I’ve finally done it, I’m rather sad I didn’t do it earlier. The resources, the helpful people and the “shared pain” with many other like-minded, aspiring authors is extremely gratifying. You know, misery loves company. 🙂

With my job as a video-game developer, specifically a content creator (designer, writer, concept), I got to write a lot, but most of the time I didn’t have to do it every day and certainly not a huge output everyday. NaNo pushed me toward that end. As usual, I was very enthusiastic toward the beginning amassing about 2500 words a day and sometimes 3-5k on weekends. I crossed the finish line around Nov 21st, a good nine days before the event was over, so I felt pretty good about things.

Shortly after that, though, the continual press to write became actual pressure and I found myself driving toward burnout. During the last nine days, I struggled to get even 1k words a day and often fell miserably short. It wasn’t the act of writing that was slowing me down, it was wrapping my head around where the novel would go next, and sometimes realizing that the novel was going its own way, rather than where I needed it to go. Even with a full plan and a good knowledge of what I wanted, I felt the walls closing in. Thankfully, I pushed through it and by the end of Nov 30th, managed to get 60647 words of the novel complete.  But I couldn’t stop there: I needed to finish this thing in the hopes of being able to shop it around relatively soon – and actually more importantly, I wanted to get back to the SF novel that I had left behind to work on my NaNo (the one that inspired this blog.)  As of writing this update, the novel stands at about 71.5k words and has one major chapter left to written. As my “completion bonus” I treated myself to a little memento of the month: a Calimacil Viking LARP sword based on the one carried by Ragnar Lodbrok (Ragnar “Hairy Breeks!”) – I wished I had it while I was writing, since I was using an old, cheap LARP sword to get into character.

Of course, the first draft of anything inevitably leads to a wish list of things that are missing. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people to write, to throw mud at the wall and hope it sticks. There are invariably things you write during the month that have no business being there, but you feel like they should be at the time. As you write, you realize that you need x and y as well, but don’t really have the time to include them unless you can see how they fit. I managed to get some of them in, but there are at least 2-3 more than I feel are needed to make it a decent first draft.

So, what did I think of it overall? In short, it was a very good experience and something that I plan on doing again. It was hard denying myself free time everyday to write – it is work for me – but it was extremely refreshing bashing out prose, channeling my inner Robert. E Howard and Frank Frazetta, indulging in whatever held my fancy, without re-reading, editing, or otherwise making it readable for someone beside myself. Going from nothing to novel (or at least, a good chunk of one) in less than thirty days made me feel very good, even though I got less than 6 hours of sleep and only 1.5 maybe 2 hours of downtime per day. Indeed, the biggest problem of NaNoWriMo was making it work alongside my regular schedule. But even on the rough days, pressing through and hitting 1.6-2k words a day, even if they were crap, was enough to make me feel productive; I had climbed the mountain and overcome, planting my flag at the summit for the day.

If you are thinking about doing it next year, or as many “serious writers and authors” have pointed out to me already, doing it every month, then here are my tips on the whole thing.

  1. Make sure you are prepped before hand. Get an outline done, even if its a basic linear timeline.
  2. Dedicate the same time period each day to do it and stick to it. Doesn’t matter if its 1 hour after dinner, or 6 hours in the morning, just make sure it becomes the regular thing to do.
  3. Keep going. Even if you only get 10 words down, sit down for your allotted time and keep writing. Even if you feel its not very good – you can edit it out later, but you’ll build up momentum.
  4. Don’t write until you run out of things to write about. If you’re about to wrap up a chapter, but running out of time today, you might want to save that last bit for tomorrow. Why? You’re excited about it and so you’ll be excited about it tomorrow, which means that you’ll be able to get started quickly tomorrow and build momentum for that session.
  5. Read the Forums, look for help, give help and get caught up in the spirit of things. You’ll find there’s always someone worse off than you, someone better/faster/more ambitious and that’s good for getting perspective on things: you are not alone! Not only that, but if you get stuck, need ideas, mascots or even a reason to keep on living, you’ll find it on the NaNo forums (and related sites)

Hopefully, I will have a few excerpts from the “Vale of Odin”, after its draft is complete and its been given a revision pass to straighten out the lunatic sentences and correct the ubiquitous typos I’ve inflicted on it in my frenzied writing fugues.

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And in other news, Pan-Spectrum Analyzer got its 1000th visitor! This is very gratifying for me and I thank everyone who has perused the site and many more to those who have read my articles. I hope you have enjoyed at least some part of them.  And thanks to all those who have left comments and spurred some interesting conversations.

A big tip of the hat to you all!