While I’m trying to decide which writing project to tackle next (by playing Torchlight, reading blogposts and books, and generally taking it easy), my husband’s been NaNo-ing! And if that wasn’t intense enough, I persuaded him to do a write-up about his experience so far. And without further ado, I give you the first guest post on this blog:
A Rookie’s Thoughts from the Middle of NaNoWriMo
Hey, David (Rabia’s dear husband) here. This year, in a fit of temporary insanity, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or even NaNo, for short). For the uninitiated, that’s a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. Those of you who immediately whipped out your calculators, you can put them away again–it’s about 1,667 words per night. Which is a lot. Many high school papers are shorter than that. My first exposure to NaNo was in 2003, when my amazing wife decided to join in the fray; her novel, The Changeling, is the result. (I’m still hopeful that it’ll find a publisher soon. It’s a very good book–admin: See what a darling he is? He’s even plugging my book when he’s supposed to be writing about himself.)
So, anyhow, I decided to take up the challenge and actually try to write out a story that’s been kicking around in my head since, oh, the age of twelve, at least. Yes, really. It’s called Storm Rider, and it’s set in a world where the weather is… more destructive than normal. Think tornados, blizzards, and hurricanes raised by a factor of ten or so. And some people have developed the ability to sense these weather patterns, or even to change them (shifting the course of a storm so that it doesn’t plow over a town, for instance). And, of course, there’s the main character who…well, if it’s ever published, you can read it all for yourself.
But now that I’ve hit the 50% mark (54.3%, as I’m writing this), Rabia’s invited me to open up a bit here about my experiences so far. And so, without further ado, and in no particular order, my thoughts on NaNo:
- 50,000 is a big number. 1,667 also feels big. 500, though, is manageable, and so I try to aim for about that much at a time, and do four sessions like that in a night. Makes it far less daunting. If you’ve got a big task that you can’t see how you’re going to get it done, break it down into small chunks that you can do.
- I’m a tools guy, and it’s hard for me to resist tinkering. So, before the month began, I built a spreadsheet to track my progress, and then password-protected it so that I could only put in my daily wordcount (admin–huh. I didn’t know he did that! I didn’t even know one could do that. Maybe that’s why I’m the artsy big-picture ideas person and he’s the tech dude :D). Very useful for keeping me from spending all my time improving the tracker, rather than actually writing. Identify your areas of distraction, and look for ways to wall them off so you can focus on what needs to be done.
- Writing dialog where both parties are lying (or, at least, not telling everything) is challenging, but fun. It’s like holding four narratives–what both parties think has happened and what they’re saying has happened–in your head at once. I don’t know how Megan Whalen Turner did it for the entirety of her three Thief novels, though (admin–me neither. MWT rocks! Sooo looking forward to her fourth book).
- Rabia asks good questions. Often, in talking with her about my story, she’ll ask about a detail which I had mentally tagged as “needs to be decided”–and in the process of answering, have found that the decision has been made. I just didn’t know it yet. Get a good, supportive friend, and talk through what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” But listen to the questions they ask. (admin–D’s my sounding board for worldbuilding and plotting. It’s nice to be able to do that for him, too–and be the one not on the hot seat getting asked difficult questions!).
- A lot of times, novel plots happen because the good guys make mistakes in the early chapters. In bad fiction, that seems to be because, as Dark Helmet put it, “Good is dumb.” It’s easy to have the good guy make silly mistakes if he’s still just a kid when he makes them, though. (admin—yep, blame it on those adolescent hormones! :D).
- By the way, from the start of this post through that last bullet point was over 600 words. See? That small of a chunk is easy! But now that I’ve spent my break by writing, I need to get back to…um…writing. See you at the finish line!
I love that he’s still so enthusiastic about NaNo and his book. I know a lot of times, people burn out in the middle. He’s still going strong, working fulltime, doing handyman jobs around the house and spending time with the kids. When I NaNo-ed, I took the month off my part time job and I had no kids. If D. wins–and I think he will–it’ll be a more impressive win than mine. Go, D!
How are the rest of you NaNo-ers doing?