Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fifty Thousand Words and really good bread

At this very moment, thousands of people around the world are sitting in front of their computers or poring over their notebooks, typing madly or scribbling frantically, trying to reach that magic number: sixteen hundred and sixty seven words. Why? It’s November! NaNoWriMo!

(National Novel Writing Month, in which you attempt to write 50,000 words in thirty days.)

I did it two years ago and ‘won’, despite my computer cord dying on the 28th of November, necessitating me copying all my files to my external hard drive as my computer battery indicator flashed dire warnings about critical levels. I had to finish my final three-and-a-bit thousand words on the university computers. But I did it!

It’s a great experience. You have to get over your inner editor and just write, write, without worrying if something sounds stupid. You put your writing first (even on holidays at the beach). You stop using contractions (“won’t” only counts as one word, but “will not” is two!).

When you keep writing, your characters and plot do strange things and the world of your story opens up before you. It’s a voyage of discovery, even if you’ve outlined the heck out of it. And when you do get to the end, you can scroll back through your thousands and thousands of words and think yeah, I wrote that. In a month! Haha, super writer! And then you read over it and some of it is really really bad, but some of it actually ... isn’t. Some of it is quite good. In your humble opinion.

I keep thinking I will do it again some time, but that some time keeps getting pushed back to ‘next year’.

But for those of you who are doing it this year, here’s what I learned.

1.     1.  Choose an idea that won’t need hours of research, or do all the research in October. I outlined a huge idea in October, and dropped it at about 8pm on the 31st of October because it was going to need at least an hour of research a day. Started afresh with a completely new idea. I had no idea where it was going, and it went fine.

2.    2.  Keep up with the word count! 1667 words is a lot easier to reach than 3334. Or 6667.

3.   3. Have different parts of your story going at the same time. Maybe this works for me because I get distracted/bored easily, but I prefer to call it writer’s block. If you get stuck on one bit, don’t waste time staring at it or bemoaning how bad it is. Think of another bit and start in!

4.   4. Free-writing is good. Something comes out of it eventually. Even if you’re only describing what your characters had for breakfast.

5.     5. I have Gabe’s typometer in the bottom right hand corner of my screen, telling me how fast I’m typing and how many words I’ve written today. It won’t quite match up with your word count (it counts EVERYTHING, including Google searches and IM conversations), but it’s a nice little in-the-moment motivator. How far can I get the needle to turn?

6.      6. Don’t leave it until 11pm to start writing.

7.      7. You will get faster! By the end of the month, I was able to get out my 1667 words in a little over an hour. True, they may not have been the best of words, but they were on my page!

You can do it!

(Now stop reading blogs and surfing Twitter and go and write.)

And finally: an announcement.

I have Vogel’s.

(this is a NZ brand of bread, and not a strange disease, for those who were wondering).

Tomorrow I will have Vogel’s toast with butter for breakfast, and on Sunday morning (when I have retrieved all my food and bits and pieces from my old flat) I will have Vogel’s toast with butter and Marmite. And for lunch I will have, among other things, a can of L&P (Lemon & Paeroa, fizzy drink World Famous in NZ) and Arnotts Mint Slice. Tesco’s sells Vogel's, but the rest of my haul is from a NZ shop and cost about three times what it would in NZ.

And I will be happy.

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