Archive for November, 2010

Wordy Writer

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

One thing I'll miss, now that Phase One is complete, is the rapid word count gains I saw last week. I never thought I could sustain a burst like that, but I owe it all to my detailed synopsis. One major difference between plotting and pantsing (at least for me) is the former allows me to really crank out words as I go from bullet point to bullet point.

Exhibit A: Here is a post from the NaNo forum containing the Austin Area stats as of Sunday:

Hey everybody! We have some numbers for the first week -ish. These numbers were accurate as of Sunday morning around 8 am.

We have 1,497 people homed in Austin and 827 have entered word count. Our total regional word count is 6,016,832. The average word count of folks who are writing is 7,561. With yesterday's end of day goal at 11,669, there were 191 on target - but actually, there are more because the numbers are from the beginning of day and the target was end-of-day. Anyhoo, we have two winners already!

Here's a list of the top dozen wordiest Austin authors so far:

  • Caeraerie : 101,307
  • MerryTwoTwo : 72,852
  • dalartha : 38,109
  • rianlrt : 35,153
  • theresajmc : 33,547
  • hillsc : 31,717
  • Peska : 28,084
  • MTeson : 27,815
  • marysipe : 27,284
  • Tathry : 25,742
  • OrangeTangoDoble : 25,377
  • Rabidtreeweasel : 25,059

Check me out there in sixth place. Of course, that's as good as it's going to get. I'm essentially dropping out of NaNo for now (since the spirit of NaNo is to simply crank, crank, crank, and that phase is behind me now).

It will be sad watching everyone catch up and eventually soar past me. But that's okay. I was never in it for the win this year. It was simply an excuse to get a 33k word burst in one week and prepare me for the slow and difficult part.

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Posted in Progress |

Half a Draft

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

It was the end of NaNoWriMo Day 8, and I somehow found myself writing last sentences of the first draft. It felt a little strange, actually, like, "is this really happening?" But as I stared at it I thought, "Well, yes, I think it is."

But something about it didn't quite feel right either. There was no, "Wow, that felt good," moment. Or, "Man, I'm so awesome! Check me out." As I searched for the source of these feelings of discontent, I found it right in front of me: this draft.

It wasn't like anything I'd ever tried before (not that I've tried this that many times). As I thought about it, I slowly realized it's not so much a first draft as it is a highly detailed, sixty-two thousand word synopsis.

In the movie Finding Forrester, Jamal and Forrester sit down at back-to-back typewriters and this scene takes place.

Jamal: What are you doing?

Forrester: I'm writing. Like you'll be, when you start punching those keys.

A moment passes. Jamal has not begun typing.

Forrester: Is there a problem?

Jamal: No. I'm just thinking.

Forrester: No thinking. That comes later. You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write. Not to think.

I really liked this scene because I remember thinking how spot-on it was. It's exactly the path I was following a year ago: just write, write, write and let it flow the first time around. Don't think about it. Don't worry about. This is the phase where what happens to your head in the process is more important than the words that hit the paper.

But it also got me nowhere. And this time around, without even a firm conscious decision to do so, I changed tactics. I used nothing but my head this time. When I followed heart, I ended up with one hundred and twenty three thousand meandering words that no one---not even me---would ever want to read. I made valiant attempts to fix it with my head on subsequent passes, but my heart had apparently taken that story to unrecoverable places.


This time I decided to nail the plot. I had to make sure, first and foremost, that the framework was solid. If I wrote the first draft with my head, I could then use my heart on later passes to really flesh it out, without the worry that I'd end up with all frilly words and no backbone.

And that's why this draft is just that: a backbone. It has lots of, "add something here" or "don't forget to stick this there". It's full of placeholders where I knew story needed to go but those words weren't necessary at the time to keep things going. It' as if I were building a skeleton. As I work my way down the backbone I might say, "Arm goes here . . . leg goes there," without the bother of wasting time building the perfect limbs. Yet limbs the body needs. I can't leave it with nothing but a backbone.

And that's why I got to the end of this "draft" feeling nothing but, "meh." Because it really does feel like only half of a traditional manuscript.

But it is a major milestone, and I'll take it. For the first time in my life I feel like I have a solid, complete, end-to-end story with some great potential---and that's saying a lot. Even with "half a manuscript," my job is really ninety percent done.

Now I just have to finish the other ninety percent.

Posted in Progress |

NaNoWriMo Day 4

Friday, November 5th, 2010

It is just November 4, right? (Well, okay, it's half past midnight as I write this, so technically today is NaNoWriMo Day 5.) In spite of that technicality, I did just finish up my fourth day of writing and I wanted to let you know how it's going.

Why? It's not because the entire blogosphere is dying to know what I'm up to, but because I had to go on record saying I'm utterly astonished that I've somehow written over 22,000 words in just four days. I had no idea I was capable of that. I guess that's what a little "spark" can do.

Wish me luck. It still has yet to pass the dreaded "But Is It Crap?" test. I mean, for all you know I've written, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" twenty-two hundred times.

Posted in Progress |


Monday, November 1st, 2010

As PBWQ enters its third month, NNWM begins. My plan had been:

Sep: Planning
Oct: First Draft
Nov: Second Draft

But I'm only 28,300 words into the first draft: maybe one third of the way through, so now I'm about right where I was a year ago at this time. Therefore, my NaNoing this year will mirror last year's. In short: I'm not beginning and ending a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I'm hoping to add perhaps 60,000 words to an existing manuscript in 30 days.

I "won" last year, but didn't mark myself a winner, since I neither started nor finished the book in thirty days. "Don't forget to claim your winner status," the WriMos said in response to my surpassing 50k words at the three week mark. But I hadn't won for the aforementioned reasons, and this year looks like a repeat.

At least, here's hopin'...

Posted in Progress |