Camp NaNoWriMo: An Evaluation of 10k Words

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):

2018 Sprint

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!

*Drink Acronyms:

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

Advertisements

Preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo will be upon us in four short days. Dear Reader, I am psyched! Here’s how I’m getting ready.

Packed My Tent – Since moving, we’ve turned one of our two bedrooms into an office. I’ve got my desk in the back of the room, looking out onto it (so no demons or ghosts can sneak up on me, of course), and I’ve got a table set to my side holding important notebooks, my world’s “bible,” and my big desk calendar. That’s where I’ll be camping out.

Prepared For My Badges – I know I can write 30k words, I’ve done it before, and in the last couple weeks I’ve been ramping up how much writing I can fit into a day. Past success really is the best motivation which is kinda a bummer when you think about it because it’s a circle you almost can’t break into.

Practiced Relay Races – I’ve been working out regularly and intend to continue throughout camp. I find the time on the treadmill to be good for zoning out and letting my mind wander in my character’s world. Plus a healthy body can often keep a mind healthy, and the crazies are all too easy to set in on this journey.

Packed My Bags – And they’re mostly full of snacks. Seriously. I ordered two of those sample boxes from Amazon filled with protein bars and healthy-ish foods. Not that writing is a real physical thing, but if I’m on a roll, I don’t want to stop to make something, I just want to grab 200 calories of whey powder and chocolate and go! Similarly, I’ve been writing down recipes and cataloging my thoughts on them as they’re made and consumed, so I’ll be more decisive about what to cook for dinner. No hour of scouring the web for a recipe, everything will be planned out and set!

Prepared My Letters Home – My NaNo novel will be far from the only thing I’ll be working on in April, but one thing that I don’t want to compromise is Vacancy, so I’m getting every post for April queued up ahead of time. Just a warning, it gets pretty silly in the next couple installments .

But here’s where I’m a little stumped: Do I write out my camp itinerary? That is to say, should I outline? I’ve tried writing outlines in the past but usually I outline as I write so I can go back later and make changes without having to scroll through the whole document and guess at what I did. I typically get certain scenes in my head and have a good idea of where I want things to end up, with all the middle bits to be made up on the spot and heavily edited later. But has that served me well in the past? Or has that just lent itself to procrastinating? I know I succeeded (well, 30k succeeded) with NaNo last November because I had many of the episodes planned out, at least in general, ahead of time.

So my question here: do you outline? And if so, what’s your favorite method?

 

This OnE WeIrD TrIcK Got My Motivation Back

Ew. I am SO SORRY about that title. That’s awful. But it’s true, there is one kinda odd thing I started doing maybe a week and a half ago that got me motivated to write more, and I’m going to share that with you now. But seriously, sorry.

So I have been on a slow but steady recovery from a bout of sorrow and grief, and it was super unfortunate that the place I was at in every word-related project I was working on at the time (my serial, my novel, and the book I was reading (A Casual Vacancy, lol I have a theme)) were all quite death heavy, but I knew I needed to push through on at least one of them, and Vacancy seemed the most pressing (Vacancy, my serial, not Rowling’s book which is, by the way, amazing). I needed motivation and inspiration, but from where?

I’m not proud of this, but I have a Pinterest. Hear me out. I both love and hate Pinterest. A link to a Pin should never come up in a Google search (Pins are the worst, almost never have any helpful info, and sometimes don’t even link to the actual image they’re showing!); however, the search feature on the site itself is pretty damn sweet. If you’re looking for actual how-tos or explanations, it’s a fucking crapshoot, but if you want images to create what the hipsters might call a “mood board,” this is where it’s at.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but I realized I could use this to my advantage with writing. I even had a “Writing” board already, but didn’t put this together til now. I was stuck on Part 1.10, afraid to push Lorelei into the seance, so I was floundering over the basement description and just wanted to look at photos of caves and lakes. As I mentioned, Pinterest’s search is surprisingly adequate at returning what you’re looking for (the catch is that you need to have an account to really utilize the site correctly), so I searched “lake underground” and I got what I needed.

So you’re wondering how this is different from Google image search, eh? Well, you can “save” Pins to your own “boards” for quick access later. I believe the original intention of this was to save links with eye-catching images, but somewhere along the way the users of Pinterest ruined it by adding and not maintaining links to actual sites, so there are a lot of pictures of cool crafts with no explanation how they’re done. But still you can save as many images as you want to a board serving some greater purpose. And you can modify the description of that image/link to whatever you want. It’s usually already a description of whatever’s there (or supposed to be there), but if I’m brainstorming or looking for inspiration, I replace the description with what the image inspires for me.

Pintrest save

You can do this for specific places, of course, but it would work equally well for characters, atmosphere, and of course writing in general to save non-image based links (there’s functionality to save anything as a Pin, so you could take, say, this post and Pin it, and if you’re a responsible user, you’ll get the link right).

Once you’ve saved some Pins, you can go back to that board for inspiration when needed. Here’s a quick example of something I might throw together for a character:

Kimber Board

Since you’re using this for personal reference, I don’t object to losing the written attributions for images by writing over the descriptions, and if the images actually link out properly, you will still have the sources, which is nice.

Anyway, that’s my quick and dirty one weird trick that’s been quite helpful to me these last few days. Maybe you all already do this? Maybe there’s a better site for it? Pinetrest sure isn’t paying me to do this while simultaneously dragging them, so any suggestions you have, I’d love to hear!

Letting Your Writing Sit

I wanted to call this post “Take A Break From Your Writing” but sometimes people just read headers, and I’d be remiss, Dear Reader, if that’s all someone took away from this post. Everyone gets overwhelmed and burnt out at some point, and taking a break isn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t think I’d really ever suggest a true break from writing.

This post is actually about taking a break from a piece of writing. I find the longer between writing a first draft and returning to edit it, the more clarity I have. Over time, your own writing can become almost foreign to you. I have much less a problem crossing through and suggesting changes to others than I do with my own work, and when I put enough time between writing and editing, my own work begins to feel like someone else’s. Sometimes I discover the bad: “Who wrote this? It’s garbage!” but (less frequently) sometimes it’s good: “Wow, that dialogue was convincing!” I become less attached to specific words or phrases, or even scenes and characters, so I can make changes, even big sweeping strikethroughs and plot disruptions, divorced from my original love for whatever my past self’s fevered brain thought was good.

There is probably a break point where you become too detached, your style evolves too far from where you started, or your passion for the topic has been snuffed out, but I’m not sure where that is, or if I could even council others on where it might be for them. Stephen King suggests a minimum of a six week break for the first draft of a novel. Close the file and don’t open again for a month and a half. That’s probably a pretty solid time to clear your mind and heart of what you created and long enough to complete some other writing task (because, remember Dear Reader, don’t take a break from all writing, just this writing). I put a solid month between NaNoWriMo and editing the latest part of Vacancy and that felt like a good amount of time. Another couple weeks would not have hurt, and perhaps would have helped had Vacancy been longer or I had worked on it for more than a single month. (King also suggests no project should take you more than three months/a season. Good thing I live in Florida where it’s summer 90% of the year.)

What actually did help was finishing up Blogmas, which I considered a writing project, if not traditional fiction. Filling the time between vomiting thousands of words and heading back in to edit those words with vomiting other words that held a totally different meaning (non-fiction) with totally different parameters (no word length, just a daily requirement and a very loose topic) felt like a reset. I let go of Vacancy and didn’t have pangs of missing it, desire to edit it, or conversely dread for having to edit it later (probably the more likely feeling for NaNo-ers), that was all replaced with another project. Blogmas also gave me a little boost of confidence because I completed it and felt particularly successful doing so.

So I came back to Vacancy with a new excitement because I already felt so victorious over Blogmas, and a fresh set of eyes that weren’t already fed up with Moonlit Shores Manor or too in love with some trash sentence that I couldn’t bare to drop in the bin just yet. Editing now is easier than it would have been a month ago and, more importantly, more pleasurable. I normally really enjoy editing, but this go around has been particularly fun. And I owe it all to letting my writing sit.

Blogmas: A Wreath

YuleWreath2017

I did a Christmas craft! Yeay! Well, I guess technically it’s a Yule craft, according to the name. When I showed Husband the finished product, he made a legit “woah” face, told me “That’s freaking cool” and said it reminded him of Hermes which, in many ways, was what I was kind of going for (also Artemis, obviously).

IMG_20171210_203422570.jpg
Supplies and my scratched up table. It has seen its fair share of crafts.

I wanted a wreath, and I figured I could make one, and if I was going to make one, I should go all in and make exactly what I wanted. No greenery here! I took some inspiration from Homemade Ginger for the twine background. I thought it had a distinctly witchy vibe, then tried to take it in a little more wintery direction.

Everything came from Michaels except the twine which just came from my mini craft closet thing. I found sprigs of gold/off-white/glittery things at the store that I thought went well together and were also on sale. They were really big, but I intended to cut everything apart anyway.

I started with a metal ring and wrapped it in the twine–this was both for the aesthetic of the twiney look and to give everything I’d glue to it something to grab onto. Then I continued with the twine and wrapped it about, criss-crossing the ring. My one regret here was not looping the twine around the ring every time I crossed it. In some places I just when around the ring instead of looping it totally to make it sturdy. I’m afraid the strings might come loose in the future.

That got tied off when I felt it was right and then I started laying out the pieces of my flowers where I thought they should go. Again, this was all a feeling, but I stuck with the more neutral gold leaves as the base, then added in the glittery leaves in distinct groups since they were visually louder. Since they were originally these really tall sprigs, they had wire running through them, so I was able to twist them around the ring until I was ready to start hot gluing which I did from the back at first, then when it dried I added some to the front under the leaves for stability.

The antlers were planned for the bottom, of course, and the flowers were strewn around to cover up and parts of the metal still visible. Like a lot of artsy fartsy projects, it was mostly by feeling: what looked good to me and would I be willing to continue staring at as time went on? I can stare at this and not get sick of it, I think. I’m just glad I got this done before the new year, honestly.

IMG_20171211_200657698
Obligatory filtered photo.

And here’s a little diddy for you to turn up while you’re crafting this holiday season: