Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

NaNoWriMo 2011: Before and After. Part 1: Before

NaNoWriMo, NaNo, National Novel Writing Month [link] is an annual challenge run by the non-profit organization Office of Letters and Light [link] which consists in writing 50000 words of one same story during the month of November. Considering that 50000 words is what defines a ‘novella’, the goal is basically, write a book in one month. Take that.

These are the mechanics: there is a webpage, with wordcounting gadgets and forums and you get your profile page and describe yourself, talk about your novel and update your wordcount every day during November. Usually a few times a day, too. When the month is ending, you’re invited to validate, i.e. copypaste your manuscript for the inner engine of the webpage to count. If by the 30th of November this validation says you have your 50000 words… you’ve won. Now you can claim your prize, a shiny pdf that says you’re a winner and on which you can write your name. Exciting, right, it’s such a valuable prize anybody would kill to own one.

Since NaNo became a world-wide event, the web is populated with forums for ‘research’, motivation, procrastination and meeting other crazy people doing NaNo in your own area. Not only get to know them, actual real-life meetings are organized, and so-called ‘write ins’, ‘Kick-Off’ and ‘Thank God It’s Over’ parties are scheduled along the world to write together, celebrate the beginning and the end. In the US the Office of Letters and Light even organizes a fundraising and an all-night writing meeting. There are Facebook groups, Twitter trending parties, and a newsletter with ‘pep talks’ that I most of the time ignore. To be completely honest, this has become so big that there are quite a group of sponsors, and one of the perks is a professionally-printed copy of your novel. Others include free trials of writing software, and themed merchandise.

The mechanics are simple, you just write. You don’t worry about editing or finding the right synonym. The idea, however, is that the story has to be a new one. You’re not stopped from preparing for it nor making any kind of notes whatsoever, but the whole reasoning is that an old character, an old idea is too settled in one’s mind for the author to have the capacity to just let go and write. Once the first manuscript is churned out, you can edit in December. It is an honour system, nobody checks whether you type the same word 50000 times and claim your shiny pdf.

When I was first introduced to NaNo I did not really care much about it, because, sorry to sound pretentious, experience taught me that I could do it – in 2008 I had chunked a similar amount of daily words as it is required by the basic math behind NaNo. Fifty thousand words in 30 days, makes you need a daily word count of 1667 words per day if you aim for a regular wordcount. Well, I knew I could do it, I knew I was able to write 2000 words per day, so I did not feel like I needed to take up the challenge.

This year will be the third time I do NaNo, so yes, I ended up dragged into it. What NaNo has become for mean for me, is the excuse. The excuse to write away as long as I can until my fingers and my wrists ache from typing – I think I reached my own limit last year when I wrote 10003 words in a day, but that is digressing. NaNo is the excuse to just sit down and write, everyday, shouldering aside all those should-dos that I usually don’t let go of. For this one month, junk food is allowed and preferred to nice, slowly-cooked homemade food. Yay coke and chocolate.

In 2009 I wrote The Shikigami of Life’s draft 0, developing a seed of an idea I had played with for a while, and somewhere between that and November 2010, that one book had developed its own universe, and The Shikigami of Chance was planned. That year was a very bad year for me and writing became somewhat of a therapy – I often joke that I either shot people in the novel or I would start shooting people for real. The draft was done by the 16th, and I decided to go on and write whatever scenes I had decided on The Shikigami of Night. By the time I had to leave for a business trip on the 25th I had around 82000 words and maybe I wrote another 5000 before the month was over, but I was not back until December 1st so there was no record of them during NaNo.

Something that amuses me lots about NaNo is how it shows both the best and the worst of people. In the forums, people help out as much as leash at each other, mostly due to quitting and wordcount issues. It’s fun when the cheating accusations star flowing around – you know, that shiny pdf! This year I will see whether that is something that also happens in the write-ins.

I attended a Kick-off party this year for the first time. It was remarkable, but I am not a… party person. With my 2500 outline and four books as background I don’t really need 11 strangers to bounce ideas at me after reading a three-line synopsis, either. The dynamics were interesting indeed; I don’t think I had seen so many people interested in writing together in my whole life XD. I will try to attend a write-in and see how the atmosphere is in one of them.

As I mentioned before, I got a 2500-word outline. Working on the Osaka Guardians needs careful planning because it’s a very complex universe, very different from the feeling I had when working on Retriever (begin{shameless self promoting} btw, go vote for Retriever if you haven’t yet [link] \end{shameless self promoting}). In Retriever there was lots of room for improvisation, aside from a very basic timeline of key events, everything else was just ‘thrown in’ as it happened. The Osaka Guardians books merge into each other and share scenes, thus the events need to be very sequential in order to maintain consistency. I think that is something that helps during NaNo – that and the fact that I can type 54 wpm when I know what I need to write.

This year I face NaNo in a different country, without Internet at home, with a lot of mini problems piling up, and facing new dynamics – real life people and write-ins. And honestly, no clue how that is going to pan out, but let’s be honest: The Shikigami of Trust has Okonogi Azusa in it. And I know how the Okonogi act when given a book.

P.S.: I’ve decided not to go over the post in depth when I finish writing them. They feel more personal when I just write them out, so you’ll have to live with my random mistakes

P.S.S. There might be a “during” post, but don’t hold your hopes high XD, most probably we’ll head directly for the “after”.

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6 responses to “NaNoWriMo 2011: Before and After. Part 1: Before

  1. Denise October 31, 2011 at 13:01

    I am curious, where you actively involved in flashing out other people’s plots? To my experience that is what most planners do, when they really don’t have much to worry about (other than stairs at Hiroshima castle) they just focus on bouncing ideas off of other people. Strangely enough at our pre-meeting writing was less of the topic than personal history and what brought everybody into this country. Then again we were only four.

    • Sakaki Delijah October 31, 2011 at 13:15

      It went like this: you wrote your synopsis and then passed it to the person on your right, so you got the one from the person on your left and wrote a sentence. It was not like I could get out of it. Sincerely, I did not see how it can be useful, to bounce ideas at a one-sentence synopsis but people seemed to enjoy it.