So, that’s me.
I actually completed NaNoWriMo (a day early!) for the first time ever. I’ve been alternately poking at it, and working at it pretty hard, on and off for the last fifteen years, so this is a milestone for me. It also something-like-doubles the number of words I have in real documents and stories (as opposed to free writes, etc.) So that’s a win on several fronts.
One of the things I did pretty assiduously during this NaNo was to look at my process, because that’s something that has been challenging me for a while, and I wanted to see what changes I was making during NaNo that were/weren’t making me successful. I’m thinking out loud a bit here, but maybe it will help someone else, and maybe it will help me again when I go back to read it.
I had a couple of days where I wrote nothing at all, and a couple where I didn’t write very much (100 words or less). My ‘average-decent’ days were around 1500 – 2000 words. I had three really-big-wordcount days (for me, at least, YMMV) – 7200 words, 6700 words and 4300 words. Those three days were (not surprisingly) days when I wasn’t working and had no external commitments. I also importuned PS to do a fair amount of the cooking during November, and there were a fair number of house chores that were neglected completely. (I have a big “December” list.)
Regarding the days where I wrote little or nothing – some were predictable (my wedding anniversary, PS’s birthday) and some were just days that got too busy. If I’m working to a deadline, I need to plan for those off days better. I’m not great at writing in the morning or at lunch so most of my writing happened in the evening. Evenings are easily taken over by other activities. I want to experiment more with mornings and lunchtimes as those might be easier to protect, although I am in no way a Morning Person. I think starting earlier in the day would give me less pressure in the evenings.
There were some physical discoveries too. I can write after one glass of wine, but more than that and my productivity goes downhill, and my ability to be distracted climbs dramatically. I also cannot write when I am thirsty, hungry or when I have to go to the bathroom, so I need to pay attention to water consumption and bio breaks so that I can focus better. I didn’t really have the opportunity to play with exercise and writing, but I may do that sometime soon. I do better with protein snacks while I’m writing, and modest caffeine intake. Tidy snacks are better than ones where I have to wipe my hands all the time.
Timed sprints worked well for me, and that’s something I can incorporate into my regular routine pretty easily. Twenty minutes seems to be about the perfect length for me – ten and fifteen are too short, and much past twenty I need to stretch or move around or something interrupts me.
Sometimes the thing that interrupts me is not knowing what happens next, and that was a big lesson from NaNoWriMo. I apparently need to do a better job outlining, or at a minimum the quick five to ten minute summary that Rachel Aaron suggests in her book 2K To 10K. She recommends spending a few minutes at the beginning of each session going over what you’re going to write that session. I think of it as something between blocking (in the theatre/film sense of who is moving where when) and a rough outline, but when I had an idea of that going into a writing session I was much more likely to plow ahead making words and much less likely to wander off on some random thought, or stop and have to ponder what came next. I am not a rigorous outliner by any means, and I may need to slide more in that direction.
I spent probably more time than was necessary figuring out word counts, moving things from 4TheWords to Scrivener, updating counts on the Nano page, etc. The battles in 4TheWords really kept me going though – that’s another part of the sprint idea that really worked for me, and there are some days where I wouldn’t have made my count without them. (If you aren’t already member and would like a referral code, mine is GTIRV49322 – come on in, the water is fine!) On a related note, as was probably obvious to everyone (including me), the likelihood of producing words drops to nearly zero if I even open World of Warcraft.
Speaking of tools, I love my new Kinesis Freestyle Edge keyboard – my hands and shoulders and arms lasted very well without much pain, although I need to fiddle a little with my monitor setup, and I probably need a new chair. I also really like orchestral or instrumental music but I cannot write to songs with words in English (or words I can vaguely understand). I also have to be careful with music I readily recognize (themes from very familiar movies, for example.) I really found 8Tracks to be useful – there are some great playlists on there for writing, and I also ended up using some that were designed for studying. I also used Ambient Mixer sometimes, if I needed a particular mood. (The lyrics thing might be different if I was writing something at all contemporary, but I’m not, so it isn’t.)
So, some interesting lessons learned, some things to try out, some things to practice more. I am still basically clueless about outlining, but now I have a pile of words to play with. There are a lot of things that need filling in (GODNAME and PLACENAME appear a lot) but it’s often easier to work with once there’s something there. We’ll see.