It’s the end of the month. So I thought I would take the opportunity to do a little reflection on NaNoWriMo. I’ve written 43,000 words, I have a story. With the beginning, middle and an end. There are scenes missing. The characters could do with more development and the world being bit more fleshing out. Still, I’ve gotten from zero words to a draft that I can edit.
This happened is because of focus. I spent an entire month writing almost daily with a target of 1667 words. There are days that I exceeded that and there are days that I didn’t not match it.
And having this focus pulled me back to the keyboard on days that I was feeling less enthusiastic. But, I could have been more focused. On that second week, my mind rebelled and I started researching desks, and gadgets and music gear. I could have spent this time researching the setting, or writing technique.
But I had a clear target, which allowed me to know when I’m done. And if I had either hit my word count, or my limit, the rest of my time was free to do with as I choose. By focusing, it allowed me to relax in without a nagging guilt. In theory, at least. There have been days where it’s challenging to strike the right balance. Especially, when I’ve had other commitment, or limited capacity.
Drafting is not Editing
There are many things that we call writing. And what we see is the end product of it; a blog post or a book, or even a scrawl in a notebook. Writing does not happen in isolation. And the artefact is not the process.
I continued to do iterative outlining and make notes on what to write next. I could have done more of this. Based on these notes, I wrote scenes. What I did not spend a lot of time doing is editing. Writing Weeknotes and the ScaleSummit talk was a good counter-point. They needed a tight loop of idea to draft to redraft to publish.
If we remove that from the workflow, writing is the act of putting pen to paper or digits to keyboard. But I found that there was also a lot of micro-editing, correcting typos and so on. There are apps that will delete your work if you stop typing. It’s extreme constraint, but an interesting drafting strategy. Being distracted by a typo takes focus away from the conveying the message. Those words that can be tightened up later.
Dictation while Walking
I’m already spending much of my time in front of a computer. Being able to work on the novel away from a computer definitely aided my word count. It’s been more effective than I expected. 30-50% of my word count was by dictation.
I’ve been using a tool called Otter.ai while walking around the green space near home. Walking, by itself, freshens the mind. Simply getting out of the house and seeing natural light has been good.
The transcript levels are not perfect, but are usable. My ability to form a narrative through dictation surprised me. The outlining and prep definitely helped keep me focused.
Show don’t Tell, but Don’t Sweat It
There are some scenes that have a good level of description. And there are others where it felt like I was writing the notes for the story. Which is enough. This as this allows later editing. Using those cues to put more texture to the narrative. But it has been a good balance to strike whilst remaining in flow.
I’ve done most of my writing with headphones on and the length of an album is a good writing session. For writing, I find lyrics distracting. And things that are complex work well.