All Ready For NaNoWriMo

Well, here goes nothing.

0/50000
Words written: 0 / target: 50000

As many of you already know, I’m participating this November in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month contest. The aim is to write, from a standing start, 50,000 words in 30 days. So… about 1,700 words a day. There were days that my dissertation got a lot more than that out of me, but then: I wasn’t working full time as well as helping with a million and one other projects when I wrote-up my dissertation. And in the end, that came to under 30,000 words.

In answer to the inevitable questions from those folks who can’t understand why I’m engaging in this ludicrous idea: no, I don’t expect to write something publishable; no, I don’t expect even to reach 50,000 words; yes, I’m going to give it a bloody good shot. I’m being joined in this challenge by several folks in Aber, including, I’m lead to believe (although some of these seem a little uncertain), by Sian, Paul, JTA, and Jimmy. A little bit of healthy competition as we try to keep our WordBars filling up will probably do me the world of good. Let’s see how far we can get.

When I say “All ready for NaNoWriMo,” of course, I am lying at least a little. I have only the vaugest idea of a story and no idea where it’s going, two characters: both underdeveloped, and no way of tying together all the ideas in my head. And I’ve written nothing down. This could turn out to be an inspirational benefit, or a self-destructive nightmare. But we’ll see, either way.

Anyway; better get ready to get to it. Damnit; why does Civilization IV have to be released in November, too…

13 replies to All Ready For NaNoWriMo

  1. Yup. All ready. I’m not going to submit anything to them for the first couple of weeks though, so don’t be surprised if I’m still on 0 by the 20th or so…

    I’ve got the premise, half a dozen characters or so, and a plotline, but no ending. Hmm. I’m sure I’ll think of something. I hope. Maybe I’ll reach 50,000 words before the end and then just stop. I don’t want to do that though….

  2. Feels like everybody has a better idea about what they’re doing than I do!

    Nah; I (probably) won’t be continuously submitting to them, either: but I will be keeping a WordBar up on Scatmania from time to time, and I encourage the rest of us Abnibbers who are participating to keep WordBars up, too (it’ll encourage me to keep writing if I can see that you lot are: perhaps the other way around, too).

  3. I still don’t understand the point of this…

    Not only is the end result totally worthless, Dan conceding “no, I don’t expect to write something publishable; no, I don’t expect even to reach 50,000 words”, but it’s been done by thousands of people before and will be done by thousands again this year, presumably.

    Why not set yourself something equally arbitrary, more original and which will result in a more useful finished product?

  4. Absolutely, Statto. Because the only point in writing any work of fiction is to meet a deadline or to get published. And, of course, that hundreds or even thousands of other people have already tried similar things with success or not makes such an exercise pointless.

    Why not set yourself something equally arbitrary, more original and which will result in a more useful finished product?

    Such as what, pray tell?

    In answer to your query, the point is much the same as the point of running a marathon: to exercise (in this case, your brain), to get better at doing it (in this case, writing), and for fun (both in the attempt and, perhaps, in the accomplishment).

    That you cannot understand this makes me very sorry for you.

  5. It’s not like running a marathon: it’s like aiming to walk 26 miles whilst wheezing asthmatically. And then admitting you’ll only manage 14.

    Why not set yourself the target of 8,000 good words, and have a useful finished product? It need not be for a deadline or to be published, but just the personal satisfaction you seek from doing 50,000.

    Doing NaNoWriMo to improve your writing is like running ten miles a day to practise for a fencing competition. Yes, you’ll be fitter and yes, your fencing will probably improve as a result, but there are better ways to spend your already-packed time if you wish to improve your swordplay.

    If all you seek is enjoyment, then I can’t come up with a viable objection. But you can’t accomplish anything in a project for which you have no expectations.

  6. …it’s like aiming to walk 26 miles whilst wheezing asthmatically. And then admitting you’ll only manage 14.

    I can see how you would think that if that’s what I’d said. But I didn’t. I merely expressed doubt that I could make it. When I went on my sponsored cycle around Malawi, I doubted that I could cycle for 60 miles a day on rough terrain under the African sun. But, in general, that’s what I managed, and I was both impressed with and surprised by myself.

    Why not set yourself the target of 8,000 good words, and have a useful finished product?

    Because that’s a different challenge which I’ve achieved before and have little doubt that I can achieve again. Because that doesn’t feel like a challenge that I’d enjoy doing. Because having a “useful finished product” does not interest me. Why should I be trying to write 8,000 ‘good’ words (by who’s standards?) when it doesn’t seem even remotely like something that I’d enjoy or could quantify?

    Doing NaNoWriMo to improve your writing is like running ten miles a day to practise for a fencing competition.

    I disagree. But I think perhaps you’re focussing too much on the process, and not on the aftermath. Being forced to drive oneself to write a ludicrous number of words in a short space of time will produce something which is likely to be – at best – unpolished… and quite possibly sloppier still. However, being able to look over what kind of quality one can produce at that ‘rate’ will give a far better indication of how one should attempt to write in future. In addition, going back and improving, drawing from, or changing that work can produce something that is worthy of merit… worthy even of publication (as has been demonstrated by several NaNoWriMo-ers in the past).

    …there are better ways to spend your already-packed time…

    If I wanted to improve my writing and that alone, I wouldn’t do NaNoWriMo. Similarly, if I wanted to improve my cycling skills, I would never have cycled around Malawi? So why do you think I did do it? Perhaps if you can understand that, you can understand this.

    But you can’t accomplish anything in a project for which you have no expectations.

    Also true, but I also never said that I have no expectations. In fact, I have several expectations. The first one is that I expect that I will fail. The second, and even more important one, is that I expect that I will flog myself half to death in an attempt to succeed. Perhaps I might. But to say that I have no expectations when I explicitly used the word “expect” in my post demonstrates a genuine lack of understanding in what I was trying to say. But then, you’ve already confessed a lack of understanding in the whole thing (“I still don’t understand the point of this…”), and I don’t know how I would go about changing that, even if I cared to: which, in the greater part, I don’t.

  7. In which case it’s like aiming to walk 26 miles whilst wheezing asthmatically, and then expressing doubt that you can manage it!

    I understand the motive – humans love to try to hit targets plucked from the sky, whether they relate to bicycles or novels, and especially if they’re quantifiable – what I still don’t understand is the point.

    It seems a shame when the time could be better spent writing quality words, not quantifiable drivel with unquantifiable potential for future analysis or improvement.

    And, on a side note, enough of the condescension and personal insults in this debate, already!

  8. In which case it’s like aiming to walk 26 miles whilst wheezing asthmatically, and then expressing doubt that you can manage it!

    That’s closer to the mark. What of it?

    I understand the motive – humans love to try to hit targets plucked from the sky, whether they relate to bicycles or novels, and especially if they’re quantifiable – what I still don’t understand is the point.

    What’s the difference between a motive and a point? Isn’t “being motivated to do so” a point?

    It seems a shame when the time could be better spent writing quality words.

    But without the challenge, do you think that they would?

    …with unquantifiable potential…

    Isn’t that true of everything written by anybody, regardless of motive or ‘point’?

    And, on a side note, enough of the condescension and personal insults in this debate, already!

    No condescension. Certainly no personal insults (correct me if I’m wrong). Debate is debatable. =o)

  9. The point of my copious long-distance running analogy was this: why aim to do a marathon, a novel, or indeed anything, rapidly but badly?

    I only reprimanded you for your notion of unquantifiable subsequent potential because your previous argument seemed so heavily couched in quantifiability, discarding my “8,000 good words” as something ethereal and impossible to know you’ve achieved. Are you out for pure quantity? If so, “In addition, going back and improving, drawing from, or changing that work can produce something that is worthy of merit…” is totally invalid. If not, why are you doing NaNoWriMo?

    As I’ve said before, if you only want to do it for fun, the motive itself is point enough. It just seems a shame when you could produce something else (it need not even be words) to a similar arbitrary deadline, enjoy the process, and actually have something nice at the end.

    However, I still find the whole “made-up targets” affair depressing in the same way new year’s resolutions are depressing; why does it take the beginning of another unit of time, which humans have delimited into orbital periods of the planet we happen to be on, to spur people into action on something they should care to do anyway?

    And I’m somewhat heartened that what you wrote wasn’t intended as personally insulting: however, you must realise that, after a comment loaded with sarcasm, phrases such as “That you cannot understand this makes me very sorry for you…and I don’t know how I would go about changing that, even if I cared to: which, in the greater part, I don’t” could at least be construed as slightly patronising!

  10. …why aim to do a marathon, a novel, or indeed anything, rapidly but badly?

    Because “rapidly” isn’t the opposite of “badly”. In fact, in many things, speed is a desireable quality in a piece of work.

    If so, “In addition, going back and improving, drawing from, or changing that work can produce something that is worthy of merit…” is totally invalid.

    My suggestion was that this could be done at the end, not as part of NaNoWriMo, as a means to make a “good” piece of work out of a “bad” one. The difference between a marathon run “sloppily” (not sure what that means in the case of a marathon) and a writing competition with “sloppy” participation is that at the end of the writing competition you have a physical product that can be adapted and improved upon – “de-sloppified”, if you like – whereas at the end of a marathon you merely have sore legs.

    However, I still find the whole “made-up targets” affair depressing in the same way new year’s resolutions are depressing; why does it take the beginning of another unit of time, which humans have delimited into orbital periods of the planet we happen to be on, to spur people into action on something they should care to do anyway?

    Because humans think in patterns, which is absolutely fundamental to their understanding of the world. This doesn’t mean that it is necessary to start things on particular dates or in particular ways, merely easier. I agree with you entirely on the whole affair, and I find New Year’s Resolutions depressing for the same reasons. The difference here is that yes, any human could pick any arbitary length of time to undertake a challenging writing project – “100,000 words between May 24th, 7:10am and July 6th, 9:24pm” – but there are benefits to it being the way it is: first and foremost, multiple people doing such a challenge together provides a morale boost to many of those involved, inspiring them to achieve what they otherwise might not, and therefore allowing folks like me the feeling that we might just succeed! Secondly, exactly one calendar month is easy for pretty much any human to measure, and exactly 50,000 words is a fair target for this amount of time for many people, and an easy number to multiply into 1,000 word (2%) blocks, which provides focus.

    The point is that just because, like me, you find these arbitary measurements of effort depressing doesn’t mean that you should protest against them through non-participation in associated effort-related events: human pattern-matching means it’s still useful for being able to quickly gauge progress, and even if you’ll find no inspiration in the simultaneous efforts of others (either through impressive work or simple competition) you can surely appreciate that you will be helping others who are affected in these ways.

    No personal insults were meant, but at the time of writing, I didn’t care either way – really – whether you understood or not, and even now, I don’t know how I’d help you to do so. In the end, you seem to be unable to comprehend why others and I are doing this activity, and I don’t know what I can do to solve that. The “anticipated questions” I answered in the original post were targetted at readers who would be misunderstanding from entirely the opposite perspective from you, and not one I’d fully considered when I wrote the post.

  11. Indeed, rapidly isn’t the opposite of badly. But it’s not an excuse for it, either. You’ll get to the end of the month and say “yeah, it’s crap/not even long enough and therefore doesn’t even satisfy my own criterion for success, but I did it fast, so that’s okay”. Why not do something well and be proud of it rather than do it quickly as an excuse?

    And don’t think I’m protesting through non-participation: the reason I’m not participating is because the end result will be, in my opinion, utterly devoid of worth! As a pattern-matching human myself, I can see the appeal, but think it would be a colossal misuse of resources.

    And you really shouldn’t waste at least two hours an evening on average just to help others in their capacity as NaNoWriMoers!

    However, it appears that in my small mission to allow you all to do two hours more good a day than you will do given that you’re NaNoWriMoing, I have failed. I know you’ll all say that you’d only have spent the time watching TV, but there’s still opportunity to embrace another November Target which will, if chosen well, be more useful, more original and equally challenging. Let’s hope that in that last sentence I haven’t spawned a new breed of new year’s resolution.

  12. I know you’ll all say that you’d only have spent the time watching TV…

    As somebody who never watches TV anyway, I find that very unlikely. If I ever have sufficient free time to watch TV, I’ll know I’m doing too little. NaNoWriMo helps ensure this doesn’t happen.

    However, over November and December I do have a particularly large project for a national charity which would drive me insane if I didn’t have other projects to work on alongside it, which is something I considered carefully before comitting to NaNoWriMo.

    You still haven’t suggested a better use of my resources.

  13. […] You’re probably already familiar with the concept of a drabble (if not, where were you in Febuary?), a piece of fiction of exactly one hundred words. Today, I was introduced to the concept of a hemi-demi-semi-drabble: that is, a piece of fiction totalling exactly twelve-and-a-half words. Seeing as, no matter how I try, I can’t ever seem to write a piece of fiction totalling more than seven or eight thousand words, this appeals to me. Surely I can manage twelve-and-a-half? […]

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