Today is day six of Camp NaNoWriMo. I haven’t written yet today, but I have completed 10,079 words so far, so I’ve already surpassed how many words I’d need by the end of today (9677) to stay on track for 50k by month’s end (I think this book will end up a fair bit over 50k though). I’m not saying these are great words, and some of them probably aren’t even good, but they’re words nonetheless, and they’ve felt pretty flipping good coming out.
So I wanted to do a quick rundown of what I’ve done to get here and try to evaluate how I can improve. First, I need to throw a huge shout out to Chris Fox whose book (which you can get for free at that link if you sign up for his mailing list AND YOU SHOULD) and videos have been inspiring the fuck out of me. I haven’t actually read any of his fiction yet, so for all I know it’s crap and I’m going to produce crap by following his method, but I highly doubt it because I’ve been listening to him speak and reading 5000 Words Per Hour and he’s no dummy. Additional disclaimer: I haven’t finished the book yet either, but I’ve put into play a lot of the things he suggests by listening to his videos and watching interviews and podcasts with him as a guest.
Sidenote: I watched most of his 21 Day Novel Writing Challenge series while I cooked dinner and played video games throughout June. Chris’s voice is really pleasant to listen to, and I think regardless of if you enjoy his work, you can benefit from listening to him or reading his nonfiction. He knows what he’s talking about.
So I don’t follow his guidelines exactly, but pretty freaking close. I think the single most important thing that has lent itself to my success this week is having a well-structured and thought out plot ahead of time, and I’ll do a separate post on that once I finish writing the first draft of this book. The second most important thing is utilizing writing sprints, which is something Chris advocates for a lot, to knock out a bunch of words. I decided to keep specific records during these sprints, utilizing a spreadsheet. Chris created an app for this, but it only works with Apple products. That’s fine because I prefer to manually write this stuff down anyway as it gives me a weird sense of accomplishment. He also has created a spreadsheet you can use, but I have my own. Here is what the last five days have looked like for me (note, I didn’t write at all on July 4th because it’s particularly unAmerican to use your brain):
I use Google Sheets for tracking because it’s free, easy, and I can access it anywhere I have an internet connection OR offline if I preload it #GoogleBless
I’ve got some weird columns here, so let me explain them all right off the bat:
A: Day – Just the dang date.
B: Time – This is when I’m starting all my pre-writing bullshit, but you can see I don’t record something everyday here.
C: Yoga – I had a lofty idea that I’d do yoga and/or meditate before every writing session, but I was TOO EXCITED to do this after day one!
D: Drink – I’m using caffeine as a stimulant to get my brain to focus during these sessions, so I’m recording what I’m drinking. To be fair, I’m mostly drinking green tea which is pretty low in caffeine, but I usually don’t drink any caffeine, so even a little has a big affect on me (*key at the bottom of this post for the drink acronyms if you care, but it’s bonkers).
E: Ambiance – Sometimes I like white noise to clear my mind, sometimes nothing, sometimes I can’t help the background noises (like the washing machine on 7/2). I really like Noisli for background sounds. The “Day 1” denotation is a sound I “crafted” out of Noisli’s sliders of a happy spring morning.
F: Place – From where was I working. This is in conflict to Chris’s suggestion that you need to carve yourself out a specific place to write so you can get your brain in the habit of writing when you’re physically in that place. I think there’s a lot of merit to that idea, I just feel good when I move around a lot.
G: Section – I have my plot numbered out in a very specific way, and I’m keeping track of the part I’m writing here. I’ll talk more about this in that future plot post.
H: Review – When I start reading over the plot points for the section I’m about to write. Sometimes this involves reading back a bit of what I’ve actually written as well and working very hard to NOT EDIT that stuff.
I: Sprint Start – When I click start on my timer (I use the one built into Windows, your phone or a watch would work just fine too).
J: Length – So far I have focused only on 10 minute sprints, many back-to-back, with row 24 being the exception (more on that later).
K: Words – How many words produced that sprint.
L: Total Words – In the document.
M: Sprint Avg – How many words on average during that day’s sprints.
I was thorough because you can only evaluate data if you HAVE THE DATA.
So far I’ve only used 10 minute sprints for a couple reasons. In the past I have done writing sprints (without a solid plot in mind) and around the 5 to 10 minute mark my mind would wander too much, so I didn’t want to give myself that opportunity. I also wanted to keep my sprints consistent for a few days so I could evaluate how I was doing. That last sprint I did on day one where I noted “WTF” stands for “write til failure” (and it makes me chuckle). I got the idea from working out with weights where you “lift to failure.” That means I wanted to finish the section I was in before I stopped for the day, but I didn’t want to constrain the time, so I just wrote until I was done. This ended up being 26 minutes long. I didn’t include these results in any of my sprint averages, it’s just there.
I wrote a shit-load on day one, half of my total words so far. That was a great boost to my confidence and to the story in general, but you can see on average I was getting ~200 words every 10 minutes, so I had some trouble getting back into the swing of writing. The next three days that I wrote, I averaged much closer to 300 words per every 10 minutes, but I did fewer sprints on those days as well. It’s also interesting to note how long each section denoted by column G took and what they produced.
Section 1.1.1 – 120 minutes, 2433 words
Section 1.1.2 – 126 minutes, 2568 words
Section 1.1.3 – 80 minutes, 2378 words
Section 1.2.4 – 80 minutes, 2372 words
So I can see over just four days that I’m improving at least a little bit, or I’m just getting into a groove. More data is needed to evaluate that really, but it’s encouraging to see this so far!
Today I’m bumping my sprints up to 15 minutes and going to stay at that length until I hit 20k words and I’ll drop another post with some comparisons. Wish me luck!
10k | 20k | 30k | 40k | 50k
I = Iced
H = Hot
GT = Greet Tea
HL = Hazelnut Latte (yes I have two Hs it ain’t perfect!)
MS = Maple Syrup
RaspPom = Raspberry Pomegranate flavor
ProB = This weird probiotic drink I had once because I was not feeling good
Extra sidenote: Everything was homemade except the Diet coke, obviously. You can make cheap, delicious lattes at home and control the calories #CaffeineBless