NaNo 2010 reflections

In case you missed it, November’s over, and so is National Novel Writing Month. Before the clock hit midnight on December 1st, I managed to write 47,877 words… this close to the 50K I needed in order to win.  Oops.

Don’t feel too sorry for me, though, because so far as I’m concerned, I won. I may not have made the requisite word count, but I did finish the rough drafts of “Areopagus“, “Spyder, Spyder“, and “Strength of the Fallen“. Each of the three projects now has an ending, if a sucky one.

I’m not too concerned about suckiness. The goal of NaNo is not to be perfect, it’s to be prolific – to suck, but to suck impressively. At this point, the hard part – the “getting words down” part – is over. What is left is the perfectionist’s dream. When editing, I can be as detail-oriented as I please, from the perspective of a writer, a world-builder, a reader, and a feminist. Revision brings out a polished shine to my impressively sucky words, and adds depth and thoughtfulness to an otherwise-flat world. Yes, revision is definitely my favorite part of the writing process.

But first, I get a break. I had homework to do December 1st, but on the 2nd I had my first taste of freedom. I got more than 6 hours of sleep (during the entire month of November I only managed this once), and when I woke up, I did whatever I wanted. So I really just played Pokemon in bed all day, but hey, that’s what I wanted!

The days to come will be slightly less fun, as I have one more week before finals. Still, I will be without a long-term creative project for at least a few weeks. Maybe I’ll do some art. I have a short autobio/journal comic planned for Winter Break. Nothing epic in scope, thank god.  I’m even too pooped to start thinking about Multiversed again. The goal for now is simply to recover. When I return to the drafts of the three projects, they will be new to me again, and more importantly, as exciting as they were when new. 😛

So that’s the interesting stuff. What follows is a rundown of my NaNo 2010 experiences. If you like stats or listening to me blathering on about process, feel free to read below the cut.

Daily word counts in NaNo 2010

First of all, this was a terrible November for me. For a few weeks before November started, I was having almost constant panic attacks trying to figure out who was coming with me to a convention in New England. No one could come with me, so I then had panic attacks trying to figure out how I would get there. In the end I didn’t go, but these panic attacks and the constant low-burning stress in my stomach took me right up until November 4th.

The rest of the month wasn’t much better. There were a number of days when I couldn’t write at all because I was so depressed. One nice thing that came out of this: I can now recognize the symptoms of stress fairly reliably. On the other hand, I was not physically/mentally capable of writing for 8 days out of 30. I also lost 2 days when Dan came to visit.

I don’t regret this lost time, because there isn’t much I could have done about them. Writing during those days would have made my moods worse, and would have caused me to burn out. I think that the worst thing you can do during NaNo is to push yourself past your breaking point, be that physical or mental. I came close to pushing past both, and I didn’t because that would have ruined NaNo for me.

On the days when I could write, I wrote in sprints throughout the day. I dragged my old laptop, Kyle, out of his sleepy retirement so I could use the desktop version of Write or Die (WoD) without internet access. For the first half of the month, I didn’t even turn on my newer desktop, Jade, until late evening.

Mostly I didn’t have a schedule, instead setting a word count to reach by the end of the day. I generally started out my day with a 20-minute sprint on WoD. The rest of the day would be spent like this: do homework; do a sprint; feed myself; do a sprint; do more homework; do a sprint; get fed up with working and read a book; do a sprint; etc. etc.

Sprints varied in time and goals. My default was 20 minutes, no word goal. 20 minutes would allow me to work in WoD up until I started to get tired. At the beginning of the month, I could get 350-450 words out of a 20-minute sprint; by the end, I could expect about 650.

About a week into NaNo, I began using a random integer generator, which would decide how many words I had to write in a sprint. At first I used one on the internet. I’m taking a class on the Python programming language, though, and I decided to use the random module instead of a website. Using Python in the Linux terminal had its benefits. It kept me offline and undistracted; the randrange() function could be personalized to only include integers between 400 and 1000; and I could now keep an accurate daily wordcount by continuously adding sprints’ wordcounts to a variable.

As in previous NaNos, I decided early on to reward myself regularly, but, as in previous NaNos, I stopped rewarding myself around the 17th.

Every NaNo, I allow myself three cheats:

  1. Don’t Do not use contractions. This only nets one extra word per contraction, and is easily revised. I actually did some “search and replace”s right before midnight Dec. 1st, and so my final word count includes this cheat. It only added about 500 words, and I “undid” the damage immediately.
  2. <Add in personal commentary like this.> I consider this forgivable because I don’t keep a journal anymore, so I have no other way to draw on older ideas of where the story’s going.
  3. Write bad fanfiction of the story in question. I usually rely on this when I get bored of writing one story. The fanfiction can be as out-of-character and ridiculous as I want, and usually includes some fourth-wall breakage. This NaNo, I only had one fanfictiony scene, when Kyle (the Areopagus character*) did something that I didn’t expect and, with a lot of time left in the sprint, I could only react by making the scene over-the-top. Otherwise, I could solve boredom or writer’s block problems by simply switching to a different story.

All in all, this NaNo was easier than the previous three. WoD helps a lot; I would be lost without it. These days I find it easier to spew words out, too. It’s easier to write crap, knowing I can revise to my heart’s content. In the last week of NaNo, I doubled my total wordcount by reciting just that to myself before starting yet another sprint.

I feel like I could speak even more about NaNo, but I’ve spent a whole month being wordy, and I’ve just about reached my limit tonight. I’ll close with some stats I’ve compiled:

  • Word totals per story
    • Spyder, Spyder: 13,151 words
    • Areopagus: 15,905 words
    • Strength of the Fallen: 16,406 words
  • Total wordcount based on sprint totals (no edits included): 45,377 words
  • Highest daily wordcount: 8,112 words (11/30)
  • Highest sprint wordcount: 1,286 words (11/30, in 40 minutes)
  • Average daily wordcount: 2,268 words
  • Median daily wordcount: 1,932 words
  • Approximate number of times played “The Girl in Byakkoka”: 25**

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    * : Yeah, so… if I name something/someone ‘Kyle’, I’m naming it after this hunk. Always. ^^;;

    ** : “The Girl in Byakkoya” is a song from the movie “Paprika.”*** I discovered both movie and song during my sophomore year at Drake, before NaNo. I found that “The Girl in Byakkoya” had the perfect amount of energy and playfulness to keep me energized while writing. At the same time, I could tune it out so that I could write. I’ve said it many times before, and I will continue saying it: this song is the Perfect NaNo Background Track. During NaNo 2007 (“Strength”), I did all my writing with this song on repeat. At the end of the month, its play count was over 800.  XD  These days, I have a playlist of energetic background-noise songs similar to “The Girl,” so the play count for that specific song has dropped significantly.

    *** : The movie is amazing too, btw. It continues to blow my mind every time I watch it; Satoshi Kon was that frakking good. If you’re okay with a little mind-fuck in your fiction, you need to watch “Paprika.”

    P.S. This blog entry was posted without editing. Because I can. 😛

    P.P.S. Okay, one little edit. For readability. >.>;;

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