Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Tag Archives: NaNo11

NaNoWriMo 2011: Before and After. Part 2: After


It is the evening of December 1st (though the blog tells you it’s December 2nd, I blame it on internetlessness at home) and I’m home sleepily snugglinng my slanket, and NaNoWriMo 2011 is over. Once again, lack of internet shows in the updated wordcount on the Nano page, so I’ll show you a few screenshots of my spreadsheet. The final count at 00:00 today was 107153 words, which is up to date my highest NaNo count. Comparison (click for bigger):

I plan NaNo in advance with a nice little outline that usually is not that little and is at times blatantly ignored. Although the idea is to write 1667 words a day, my ‘need to’ count is 1500-words for weekdays and 2500 words during weekend days. Apparently I am not too good at following guidelines, as the next spreadsheet shows XD

First and second columns are really straightforward, day of the week and date; the third is the Office of Letters and Light’s official wordcount; the fourth is the cumulative wordcount that I need in my 1500/2500 scheme (column five); column six is the actual cumulative wordcount and column seven is the daily wordcount. Finally the eight column is ‘words missing to 50k’. I apparently went a bit overboard though XD The graphs to the right are my cumulative count (green) vs the OLL cumulative (pink) on the first row, along with sector percentage to the upper leftmost (halwfay through the month is in red for missing, green for done), and my actual cumulative vs my own cumulative count on the bottom left.

The first 19 days I focused on my planned novel, The Shikigami of Trust, of the Osaka Guardians series. It ended up having two extra chapters and did not come out completely as expected, but most of the time I had fun with it. It was however about 9000 words longer than expected, two extra chapters and a ‘cumulative extra of about 3k (you know the drill, click for big):

The structure of the Osaka Guardians series tries to be the same for all books: Prologue (1000 words), Chapter 0 (2000 words), a number of regular chapters (about 20, each 3000 words) and an Epilogue (1000 words); the Prologue and the middle chapter show the same scene from different points of view. What made Trust special this time was it was the first time since forever that I had a strong female character taking up the co-protagonist role (I just made to wordcount the post, see what NaNo does to you? XD) and the absolute first time of an heterosexual NC17 scene – time for discoverings XD. It flowed up rather well, even during the scenes that were not planned. The average daily wordcount was close to 4000, but of course it is very biased by the weekend days and the first-day burst, and the total word count is 74238 pending a long process of editing.

I was not planning to continue writing, NaNo-wise, and I had nothing in store after Trust; however, just for the hell of it, I started Undeliverable, in the Retriever universe, with nothing but a couple of very basic ideas, and started developing them on the go. A few words to 33k, I’d say I’m halfway the story (actually, Undeliverable’s word count is a bit higher after adding some snippets I had previously written following random ideas, but those don’t count for NaNo, the final real count for it today is 35275). No clue of what is going to happen with it, but I want to finish it, eventually, although not at the same rhythm (2992 words per day, on average).

The total daily average has been 3572 words, higher during Trust than during U/D, which makes sense considering that the former was planned and the later is being thought of ‘on the go’. I have missed the Interent quite a bit during the writing process, in order to check facts as I was writing, especially travelling distances, but that’s what’s editing is for. All in all, NaNo’2011 went rather well and kept me distracted during long dark evenings with bad weather, but now I can do other things, after all, I’ve just gotten myself Kaplan and Dubro’s Yakuza. Japan’s Criminal Underworld and tomorrow (today XD) I got a few upcoming train hours. I will pack up a pen and post-its…

Procrastination post a.k.a. My Characters Hijacked My Food

[Note: This was written last night but only posted now due to lack of internet at the new flat]

Okay, so I am procrastinating from NaNo, but I can afford it, I’m about to hit 12k. Today I had to take half a day off for immigration paperwork, after having moved countries and all. I had to go to the main town around here, which is rather bigger and more international that the little village in the middle of nowhere in which I currently live.

Back on track, I had to do my immigration interview to prove that I am me – well, my non-writer persona anyway, and I decided to have some Japanese food afterwards, because I’m worth it, and there is this cool geeky Japanese bar I like, because it’s cheap and because the food is reasonably good and because they got katsukare and I wanted katsukare.

After having a look at the menu, because the waiter was a bit busy and I was not going to continue typing on the phone as I had on the train, I ordered miso soup (Sorry for the low-quality pictures, taken with my cell in bad light):

Gyôza:

And yakitori:

Neither of which, as you’ll notice, is katsukaere

Only when I backtracked for a second, I realized that one of my characters had hijacked my food. Okonogi Hisaki, a.k.a. Senior, a.k.a. Okonogi Kazuki’s father. Here I leave you two excerpts of The Shikigami of Night and of The Shikigami of Power so you understand what I mean (both are draft-stage, but still readable, I hope).

*shakes head* Okonogis. They are everywhere. Now back to writing… another Okonogi XD

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”.

Planning (a.k.a. musings in pre-NaNoLand)

A short or relatively-short story usually requires less planning than something… say 30k words. In that case, I usually just let things flow with just the help of a few notes – a small notebook is always handy for that. However, now that November is approaching, a.k.a is NaNoWriMo [link] time and I got free evenings I thought about writing a bit about planning.

A while back I talked about mindmapping [link] and how I found it useful for allocating (is this mainstream word too, or just nerdy word?) and organizing a great deal of information in the same place. However, when planning something bigger, it might not be enough.

The first thing I need is a premise, or a seed. That can be anything, whether a scene, a situation or a character, sometimes even the ending of a story, sometimes just the beginning. The premise has to be, of course, expanded. If you have read the excerpt of The Shikigami of Life [link], the scene that shows in the Prologue, Nao strangling Takuma, was the only premise for the whole story.

Once the premise is set I start turning it in my head, and it fleshes out until I got a rough idea of what I am going to do, or so would be the idea… I am guilty of just starting writing without much idea of what was going to happen, just make a rough graph and type away. Anyway, when working on a complex, long story, what I try to do is organize a scheme. That gives me both a plot line to follow and also helps me keep the structure (e.g., for the Osaka Guardians, 1000 words per scene, 3 scenes per chapter; the prologue scene belongs to the middle chapter; there’s a chapter 0 of descriptions). It also helps not to forget about the important information that I need later on to give coherence to the plot twists, since they’re supposed to be a surprise for the reader, but I should know what is going on. Right now my outline for this NaNo, The Shikigami of Trust is about 2300 words vs. an estimated of 65000.

Something else I do around this stage is flesh out the secondary characters by dragging up their names. Though in the scheme, they are just… for instance ‘American-Ox Guy’, all the characters that have been thought up at this stage are named. It speeds up the process of writing and does not break the flow to have to name a character in the middle of a scene (see? Back to the mindmapping and my intel XD).

Research takes a good deal of the planning stage. It might be something simple as ‘what is the sport team in Honolulu’ to a ton of information, like reading through Nevada’s gaming and employment laws. Research does not only make the story more accurate, it helps its development. Most of the time research helps me round up the details of a story to give it a more wholesome feeling (sheesh, I’m abusing the word XD). Related, sometimes it is good to delve into your own world: mapping and drawing always comes handy – even if you’re not good at it, it helps describe something when you need to.

Usually when I use the planning scheme I have a complete outline by the time I start writing, I especially use that on the Osaka Guardians because the books are linked and I need to keep a general timeline that they all share. Sometimes, however, I just outline the main hits that had to happen and… improvise.

Because down in the end, it would be no fun if everything worked like in the outline. Once you start writing and the characters take over any and everything can happen… especially if there’s an Okonogi involved.

P.S.: The Adventure Writers’ Competition is still up and running. You can vote for RETRIEVER here =D [link]. I promise a signed copy of the book if you go vote and it gets published out of this ^^