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November 9th, 2009
05:43 pm
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Why NaNoWriMo?
So, thanks to the discussion in my previous post, I went and made it official: I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year and have been busily writing behind the scenes. This year's goal: 50,000 words, total, period; working on whatever the hell I want to work on, just so long as I'm working. (And so far it is working: I'm still on track for quota.) NaNo has a term for this sort of flagrant non-noveling: being a "NaNo Rebel."

So far I've finished a half-done story; written a story from scratch; typed up a ridiculous number of words in D&D campaign journaling (like the old CSI: Luvine stories, but I haven't found the magic spark to make the stories truly cool yet); and am most of the way through writing up a really vivid dream I had in October. Plus I counted about 500 words that I'm about to edit and reprint below -- it was originally written as an LJ comment in a friend's journal, but it was important. (I'm not counting the few paragraphs of blather here, though. I have my limits.)




Why NaNoWriMo?

> [I] can't really just write regularly like that. ... NaNoWriMo makes [writing] very regular and machinish. ... [I'm] hardly that sort of machine.

If this sounds like something you would say in criticism of NaNoWriMo ... then, first of all, let me make this clear. None of what I say should be taken as criticism of what works for you.

That having been said:

I am the worst sort of burst writer. My inspiration is erratic, I block easily on long-term projects and get distracted easily when I'm blocked, and sometimes I find myself going months without getting anything of value written at all.

I'm also a three-time NaNo finisher.

While the material I produce during NaNo is generally decent enough for me to appreciate having written it, that's not its real benefit. What I truly appreciate about NaNo is its ability to knock me out of the expectations of my own head. I start with nothing but a word-count goal and some minimum quality standards, commit myself to set aside the majority of my social life during the month, and treat the whole thing as an experiment in boundary-pushing.

My first real NaNo was done solely to discover that I can finish, actually get to the end, of a novel-length work. (It also checked off a ticky-box on my ten-year goals list. There's a separate ticky-box for "finish a novel NOT written during NaNoWriMo". I haven't done that yet.)

My second real NaNo (four years later, I should add -- I can't do these things without a cooldown period) was done to prove it wasn't a fluke -- but also as an experiment in serial fiction, because I'd never done a long-form continuing story before. It's not continuing now, but again, I discovered I can, and that was vastly illuminating, and will help me the next time I develop a serializable idea.

I am still an erratic writer. I do not generally push inspiration when it's not there, and I still write best in sprints rather than marathons. However, now I know what it feels like to do both; I know how to recognize the traps I fall into when the sprint doesn't push me to the end; and I've written some pieces during multiple sit-downs that I never could have done at a sprint.

One of the pieces I'm most proud of writing is a product of that. It's a product, in fact, of my "failed" 2006 NaNoWriMo, in that I set aside to write 50K in interweaving short stories and then finished November at a fraction of that.

Do I feel disappointed about failing? That assumes it was a failure! I blew a word count goal and produced one of my life's best pieces of writing. Should I have been disappointed? That depends on what my goal was. And there's nobody measuring that but me. The lesson I took from 2006 is that NaNo is, at heart, a learning experience -- a Rorschach test, if you will, of looking into words and seeing yourself.

And what of the years when I did reach 50K? They've been a slog. Sometimes, yes, writing means trudging on without the muse. But that's part of the learning experience, and when you're done, you've had the experience of doing it, and then you stop. NaNo's goal is not to train you to write without your muse -- just to convince you that you can. And to teach you that sometimes doing so can get you more of what you want -- more words, more satisfaction -- than waiting for inspiration.

...

I think I again need to emphasize that the NaNo I'm most proud of is the one where I failed, because I got an idea dumped into my head that really was worth writing about, and I stopped and did it right instead of forcing myself to live up to those external expectations.

That's the crux of it, right there. While my writing style is spectacularly unsuited to a one-month novel, the reason NaNo has repeatedly worked for me is that I have made it into something that I want to do, and once that happened, by definition it was a success no matter how far I got or whether I met the initial arbitrary goal. (I mostly have, but, well, whatev.) I didn't even try NaNo'ing a novel until four NNWMs in; my first two were an "I'm going to write a journal entry a day!" variant and my third was "One short story per day" (which actually ended up being even more of a muse death-march despite clocking in at ~40,000 words. After that, focusing all my effort on a single novel seemed like a welcome change of pace).

And if you have a muse, and some writing talent, and a deep-seated hatred of NaNo, and a little envy of the people who can write 50,000 words in a month? I need to mention how awesome it is that you can work without that NaNo crutch. The vast majority of my writing progress has been with it, in one form or another. And every time you start feeling like you need to be jealous of me for being able to finish a NaNo, take a look at my journal and the five-week dead silence leading up to 11/1, because I guarantee you that the envy flowed the other way while I was stuck. :)

Current Location: ~spiral
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: Billy Idol, "Adam In Chains"
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From:elynne
Date:November 10th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)
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I'm doing NNWM for one specific reason: to force myself to sit my ass down, open a word processor, and SHUT UP AND WRITE. Every day. It's been working so far, in that there's a coherent story progressing, I've added at least some words every day, and I'm currently (barely) ahead of the minimum (though falling rapidly shorter behind my personal goal - which is okay, the personal goal was basically to keep ahead of the minimum anyway).

And it's gotten me thinking about writing, thinking in a writing mindframe, which has in turn inspired me to write other things than NNWM. I'm probably going to follow through on one of those inspirations tomorrow, my day off - or maybe tonight; a short story about one of my RP characters that has nothing to do with the NNWM project, but I'm much more inclined to write it when I'm thinking of writing as something I can do, every day.

I'm not explaining it well. Ironically. (don't you think? IT'S LIKE RAAAAIIIINNN) But I think you know what I mean anyway. ;)

And grats on the writing progress! :D
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From:baxil
Date:November 10th, 2009 02:39 am (UTC)
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That's basically the same reason that I'm doing this year's NaNo: To kick my own ass. I had too much to juggle to make any sort of commitment on a new story, but the extra productivity boost is helping me clean off the writing to-do list that's been cascading out of control.

... Plus, y'know, better folks than I decided to do it first, and I was in a writing pact with them. :) Solidarity, sister!

--

Edited to add: Just curious, there's no right answer -- but were you going to count your side story toward your NNWM wordcount, or are you determined to crunch out a single story of 50K?

Edited at 2009-11-10 02:41 am (UTC)
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From:elynne
Date:November 10th, 2009 03:34 am (UTC)
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Nope - not going to add the side story to NNWM numbers; I already feel a bit skeevy about including the "deleted scene". And something tells me there will probably be more like that as I go along. Wheeee plotbunnies.
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From:rackstraw
Date:November 10th, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
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Are you Eve the KJ from SiliCon?
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:November 10th, 2009 09:10 am (UTC)
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Introductions are in order! You guys met at Baycon 09 (E was working reg and hanging out with the jackals, A was one of the new pups in the jackal pack). Anyhoo, welcome to the party, check out the spiffy NaNo decorations, try the tuna dip. :)
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From:elynne
Date:November 10th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
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A? *peeeeer* Yay I'm bad with names! I will friend regardless - any friend of Bax is certifiably a nifty person. ;)
[User Picture]
From:elynne
Date:November 10th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
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Nope - I've never been to SiliCon, sadly. KJ? I know that's gotta be some variant of "DiskJockey" but I'd expect it to be FJ ("FilkJockey") from a convention context (ConText, as it were, HAHAHAHAHA yes it's a lame joke), and for some reason KJ makes me think "KillJockey" but I'm pretty sure that's not right.

So I've added you to my f'list, hope you don't mind. ;)
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From:rackstraw
Date:November 11th, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
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Cool.

The Karaoke Jock in one of the rooms was named Eve Lynne. My second guess is you're the villainess from He-Man. ;-P
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From:joysweeper
Date:November 10th, 2009 03:19 am (UTC)
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I'm just doing it because I've never participated before, and I want to see if I can do it. At fifteen thousand nine hundred so far, I think I can. Awesome! Plus, I wrote a nearly ten thousand word story up from scratch in something like four days a week before that. Typically I don't finish nearly that quickly.

The ten thou one actually sortof-kindof-maybe sets up the NaNo. Or at least hints at it. If things get really, truly desperate in the last two days, I might tack it on in front. But that seems rather cheesy, so it's Very Very Last Resort stuff, and only if I absolutely need it.

My only doubt is whether or not I should be putting it up somewhere as I write it. Because another harddrive crash would bite.

*adds you*
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From:baxil
Date:November 10th, 2009 09:13 am (UTC)
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If your main concern is offsite backup, try copying and pasting to Google Docs. My experience is that posting to private entries in LJ works as a last resort, but gets annoying as it clutters up your private journal view.
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From:joysweeper
Date:November 10th, 2009 11:20 am (UTC)
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Huh. All right, I'll try that!
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From:krinndnz
Date:November 11th, 2009 06:30 am (UTC)
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This is prudent advice and counsel. Thank you.
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