The NaNo Countdown

November the 1st is tomorrow, and my enthusiasm for the task ahead is… shall we say “changed”? I don’t really know what happened, but for the last couple of days I have been very warn out (lack of sleep) and I just haven’t been looking forward to it like I had before the weekend.

It may have something to do with the “Weekly Drinks” I attended last Thursday with other NaNo hopefuls. It was an interesting experience which I mostly enjoyed, but it had some downsides. When I arrived I was introduced to a few people (gee I’m terrible with names), and had about ten minutes of chatting before we had to move from a round table, to a longer thin table. This was complimented with a crazy extrovert who stole the conversation and essentially forced myself and two others into a 4-person conversation with him for the rest of the night. It just wasn’t as awesome as I had hoped it would be.

For the last few nights I have been trying to go to bed early to beat the previously-discussed “tired” issue, but it doesn’t seem to have been working. I have had 8 hours of sleep or more for the last two nights, and I’m still feeling like crap by midday. I guess this hasn’t really been helping with the optimism for the task ahead. I might try getting to bed even earlier tonight (maybe 9pm?) get in early to work and do a little writing before-hand.

The 2000 words a day push is going to be hard for me to hit during the week, with so much stuff I usually have on weeknights, and not being 100% sure of my plot. I am 95% sure I’m going to attend a bunch of write-ins over the month, and really push myself to do a lot of work on those days. If I can do 5 or 6 thousand words a write-in, that would probably get me half way to the finish in about 4 or 5 days throughout the month. the rest will have to be hit and miss during the week.

Patrice has been really pushing for me to do it. She wants really wants me to enjoy what I do for a living, and realises that what I’m doing professionally at the moment is not my ideal long-term occupation. I’m really glad she is, but I don’t know if writing is what I want to do long-term either. That, and I don’t know what sort of outcome I’m going to get from NaNo. There seems to be a lot of people saying that a “Draft 0” is all you get, then you have as much work again to get it to a readable, editable level. I know it’s all about word-count during November, but does that mean I am going to have to let quality slide? Can I even write quality in the first place?

What else have I been doing recently? Pokemon X and Y came out on the 3DS, and I have been playing through Y. It’s a great game, but quite frustrating at times. The japanese grind has always kinda got me down. I just want to progress but I’m stuck in a cave getting attacked by bats every 20 seconds, and I don’t even know if I have to be there. At least it’s a distraction from worrying about NaNo…

The Big 2000

Exactly how hard is it to write 2000 words?

This is a question I want to answer before I begin my attempt at November’s NaNoWriMo. I know from experience that I often have trouble following through a task I set myself. Weather this is because I lose interest, or I reach a point where the task becomes difficult, or I simply run out of time, it boils down to the same outcome. Half finished projects, ideas, courses, and a distinct disappointed feeling about a week later.

Deadlines seem to help. When I was at university I majored in Procrastination, which meant that all my assignments were half-assed the night before they were due. Surprisingly, I still managed to pass every subject and got (reasonably) alright marks. While this isn’t the best approach, it might mean that I will be able to get a lot done in a small amount of time. I might consider organising some days off work towards the end of November to really push things along.

Another issue I have is distraction. I find that I can’t work while the TV is on, or if Patrice is around and wants to talk. As long as I have some time to dedicate to the task and am alone, usually in a different location than where I normally relax, I am able to hammer out some good work. In September Patrice and I are going on a week long vacation to Bribie Island, and I am hoping to really nut out the plan for my story. It will be a good test of endurance to see if I can work on something with a bit of gusto, but it will also see if Patrice can stand me spending so much time on something other than just spending time wit her. If this has any impact on her, I will probably not invest myself in it.

The most important thing for me will be sleep. If I am tired at all (from anything less than about 8 hours sleep) my work ethic drops to near-zero levels. This is even in my day job. If I am well-rested I am capable of a lot, and I find I have a much longer attention span, can multi-task better, work harder, and don’t fall asleep when I could be doing something more interesting like reading. Exactly how much sleep I need I’m not sure, but from past experience the amount seems to be “more the merrier!”.

When Patrice was doing shift at a hospital in Brisbane which started at 7am we were heading to bed around 9pm. This usually ended up being closer to 9:30, which meant that I was getting around 9 hours sleep each night (or at least 8:30). During those two weeks I read three whole novels, smashed out a few weeks worth of an online programming course I was doing, updated my website, and was around 1400% more productive than my usual, tired self. This is how I want November to be.

To reach the 50000 word goal I will need to write (minimum) 1667 word per day. I’m not sure exactly how long that is going to take. Sure, I can type pretty quick, but when it comes to creative writing (even what I am typing now) it’s not that fast. I need to stop and think about what I want to say and try my darnedest and cut down the number of commas I use. When I re-read what I write that is one of the big things that seems to crop up. It has the inflection of how I say it, but the sentences just don’t need the pause.

Another thing I have been thinking about is what I am going to use to write. I find that pen and paper is too slow and painful (I hold pens like I don’t want them to live any more) and my computer too impractical. I have a netbook (Samsung NC110) which is pretty light and has a battery which lasts a good number of hours, but the keyboard is a little bit small and the screen resolution is just low enough to really annoy me lately. I do think that the netbook will end up being my weapon of choice during November however. It’s the most practical and portable solution that doesn’t involve me typing thousands of words on a touch screen.

What it all boils down to is passion. Do I want to write? Do I enjoy creating fiction? That’s something that I just won’t know until I start. The best outcome would be creating something good, or even great, and being really proud of what I accomplished. If I start only to find I don’t enjoy what I am doing, that is an acceptable outcome as well. What would really bum me out would be if I started, enjoyed it, but didn’t finish because I just was lazy.

I guess we will have to wait and see.

Writing. And Writing. And Writing.

Something I have always been interested in is reading. There is so much detail, depth, intrigue and narrative in a good book that just can’t be portrayed in any other medium. When I was younger, I began writing a fantasy novel and never finished it. I believe it got to about 4000 or 5000 words before I moved on to other ways to spend my time. Throughout Primary school and high school I always read, but never tried writing again. In my second year of university one of the elective courses I could take was “The Short Story”.

It would be a bit of a tall tale to say that course made me fall in love with writing again. I enjoyed it, however I only achieved a passing grade. The tutor didn’t seem to like the hap-hazard style of writing I employed. This was mostly because I did it all the night before, and never had a plan.

After working full time for three years, I have been looking to branch out and extend myself. This is where NaNoWriMo comes in. National Novel Writing Month started in America by the Office of Letters and Light and has spread to a world-wide literary undertaking. The basic premise is to write a novel of greater than 50000 words within the month of November. I believe this is something that I want to attempt.

To do this, I need an idea which I believe is original enough to build an interesting story out of. I will also need a solid plan, and time each day to write the required 1613 words to hit the deadline. Recently I have been reading the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, and I have fallen in love with the characters and the quirky, left-and-a-little-behind-centre-field way they are portrayed and interact with the world. I think I want to try and write comedy.

Have a think about the genre, I believe it will be a real challenge to keep the book light and funny while still keeping the story entertaining and deep. I want to challenge myself. I don’t consider myself a very funny person but I believe I have a good understanding of logic, and can use that to my advantage.

Leading up to the month I want to maintain my blog a bit more often than I have been, and to get used to writing a serious amount of text down. Ideally, I would like to write five to ten thousand-word-long posts before November, so I can understand exactly how long it takes me to write, and pick up any flaws in my plan.

Assuming I can do it, I’m not sure what I would want to do with the end result. If people like it, there might be self-publishing. This is something that I can worry about after the fact.