WN13 NaNoWriMo Review

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.

Focus

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.

Music

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.

I have found Dawn of MIDI’s Dysnomia, and Tim Hecker’s Virgins particularly good. And Cult of Luna has made a good change.

WN12 Memories of Witch House

📯 From the World

Last week, thejaymo paid a homage to the internet genre Witch House, after Salem released their second album after 10 yeas. I wasn’t big into Which House as a scene, but it did like some acts. White Ring was my jam. He goes on to talk about the feeling of potential through the early 2010s had and body memories of traveling. That sound definitely evokes a time and place for me.

💎 Rethinking

Twelve weeks of Weeknotes! That was my initial commitment. And actually I’ve really enjoyed this. There has been some weeks where I felt like I’ve had something to say going in. And there are other weeks where I’ve been having to search. After NaNoWriMo, I have some projects that I’d like to look into over the new year. And I think this would be a good place to share. I might mix up the format, and feel a bit freer and looser. A milestone and an update at the end of the week is a practice I’d like to take forward.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

This week of NaNoWriMo has been harder than I expected. I knew that as I got further into my word count, my outline would be less relevant, and that the energy of a fresh start would wear off. But I’ve been more exhausted than I expected, and finding the time and energy to put more than 500 words down at a time has been difficult. And I’ve been fighting diminishing returns.

There have been some strong days, but this last leg might have to take a different tack, with me taking a less linear approach to the progression, and focusing on getting some key scenes on paper. I wrote a vignette of the backstory that has potential to be a book in its own right. And I have a specific sticking point that could do with some research. That’s best done outside of November. So, not throwing in the towel, but I am paying attention to the conditions of the road.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Got a new desk. Built some furniture. Upstairs has been a mess all wekeend, as a result.

Croydon declared bankruptcy.

Cyberpunk Red

An anticlimactic end to the scenario, except for maybe D311B0i.

We spent time brainstorming how to take the drug lab from the gang. We tooled up with guns and looked to hire some mercs. In the meantime, we wanted to play it cool. We had a working economic arrangement. We give cash, get drugs and sell them at a markup. D311B0i didn’t see a reason to throw that away. Under the premise of recon, D311B0i set up another drop, and we could hit them when some people were off site.

We had spotted that Alex and Apogee had wanted posters of them, stuck around the area. But what we had forgotten, is that D311B0i had been seen with Apogee going into the gang’s clubhouse. So when he went in. He was immediately apprehended and questioned.

They were gonna take his cyber eyes as collateral. He fought. But there were too many of them, and they were too strong. He was taken to their on site surgery. Camden was in the car, oblivious to one of the brothers he doesn’t talk to setting explosives. Apogee and Alex were sorting out some disguises and D311B0i had a building collapse on top of him. That leaves the three of them with a landlord in critical condition.

And that’s the end of the jumpstart.

WN11 Scale Summit

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

This has been a week of productive procrastination. Midweek, I wrote and recorded a lightning talk for Scale Summit. My NaNoWriMo word count suffered the couple days after that. I’ve also been researching a couple of utility purchases for the house. Now I need to commit to them and move on. If not writing, this time could have been well spent fleshing out my outline, or reading in adjacent areas. That’s my plan for the next week, as I move into a more uncertain section of the novel.

💎 Rethinking

I’m sharing the ideas from Shape Up, that I discussed in WN08, with people at work, and we had a book club discussion. A couple members of the team were quite interested in exploring it further. I’m looking forward to having some follow-up conversations.

I was expecting much more resistance, since the process is so different to the SCRUM format we follow at the moment. It’s a good time for the discussion, as we’re in the middle of a year long re-platform and it’s highlighted different sticking points to the smaller projects we were doing before.

I’m up for going full Shape Up as an experiment, but that may come later. Now’s not the time to do something so disruptive to our process, with this being a high stakes project. So, we’re going to start with shaping. We’ve done a couple of projects this year that would fit into one or two six week cycles, but planning in two-week cycles has meant renegotiating our commitments more frequently than is needed. And, there’s a couple good candidates on the horizon.

📯 From the World

It was Le Guess Who last weekend. What counts are a music festival in 2020 is a video livestream. They had planned to do a much smaller in person event alongside the stream, but that had to be cancelled. Watching a curated playlist of music, documentaries and films has been great. It’s not the same as an in person event, though. Liquid Sky and a Sun Ra documentary have been my highlights of the reel.

A lot of the documentaries were topical, filmed in the last six months. Support your artists. It’s an uncertain time out there.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Cyberpunk Red

We managed to sabotage our own meeting with the gang. Alex got high and started shooting at their truck. D311B0i started shooting at Alex as some sort of bluff. This wasn’t the plan. This was meant to be a simple drop, with some recon on the sly.

Somehow we all got out of there alive, and D311B0i has kept us on good terms with the gang. He really does have a way with words

WN10 Over 9000

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

NaNoWriMo is going alright! I thought I might flame out by 5k words, but I’m over 11k and ready to pick it up tomorrow! Which means I’m about a day behind the cumulative word count. Since I deliberately didn’t write on Saturday I’m feeling positive about this. Spending more time writing twice a week still looks like a good strategy for flex and keeping up over the month.

Since about day 3 I’ve felt like I must be half way through this story, but that’s down the level of detail in my outline. I started with a much better idea of an opening, and I have some idea of where it will end up. Having built up some notes in October has been useful, but not day to day. Ending each scene or writing session thinking what needs to happen next, and cross-referencing it with the original ideas has been enough to get me to start typing again. Everytime I’m thinking there’s no way I can write more than 200 words based on this 1-3 sentence description, yet somehow a scene unfolds. I may be 50% through my planning while still being 20% through the story. Scene for scene, I have much less idea what I’m writing this coming week. Let’s find out!

💎 Rethinking

I’m exploring the idea of a narrative non-sequitur, and meaning making through contrast. We watched the 1993 version of The Secret Garden, and the arc could be divided up like this:

  1. Mary comes to terms with new surroundings

  2. Mary finds out about the family and garden

  3. Colin learns to take control of their own wellbeing

  4. The garden doesn’t need to be a secret anymore

Mary’s character development begins by exposition, but it continues by interaction. The wilful young thing catalyses change in the household, and through that change is transformed herself.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

  • Caught up with some old friends for an overdue group chat
  • Cyberpunk: Decided tricking rather than kidnapping someone from the heavy cyberwear gang was a better idea

📯 From the World

It happened again.

WN09 Kishōtenketsu

💎 Rethinking

Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.

Kishōtenketsu contains four acts: introduction, development, twist and reconciliation. The basics of the story–characters, setting, etc.–are established in the first act and developed in the second. No major changes occur until the third act, in which a new, often surprising element is introduced. The third act is the core of the plot, and it may be thought of as a kind of structural non sequitur. The fourth act draws a conclusion from the contrast between the first two “straight” acts and the disconnected third, thereby reconciling them into a coherent whole. — still eating oranges

As if I wasn’t having enough trouble working out what the structure for my NaNoWriMo idea…

I don’t know much about narrative, but this sounds like a pop song structure to me. Verse, Chorus (Act 1), Verse, Chorus (Act 2), Middle-eight or B-Section (Act 3), Chorus, Out (Act 4). Sometimes the B-Section is so different you could mistake it for another song out of context.

📯 From the World

  • I’ve been compulsively watching the Reedsy Youtube channel in prep for NaNoWriMo. Their NaNoWriMo page has been a good jumping off point for prep.
  • The Dresden Dolls turn 20! They have a new live set out. I enjoyed the bonus Q&A. Particularly the section on building a scene, inclusivity, and DIY. Brian talked about being inspired by Another State of Mind show what it’s like on a low budget tour in the 80s the punk scene.
  • I’d forgotten how good Deloused in the Comatorium is.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

NaNoWriMo day one! So far so good. Plan is to get ahead of word count on Sundays and Wednesdays so I have some buffer. Four acts, four weeks? What I hear the 30k mark is the hardest. Let’s see how my writing dramatic arc goes. I have a sketch of an outline, and some scene ideas, mostly for the first half. Is this enough for me to use writing one scene to prep the next? Tune in next week.

My plan hasn’t become much more detailed since last week, but I’ve chewed on some different ideas. I may not have agreed on much more, but I’ve discarded some ideas. Focus by subtraction has been useful. I’ve read the advice "don’t write the boring bits". Which is all well and good, but what’s interesting for a period romance is going to be different than for a cyberpunk thriller. (Or, maybe it isn’t!) I might have to write the boring bits to discover my characters and setting more. Maintaining interest can come in editing.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

It was good to be able to do a colleague’s leaving drinks face to face! Another week later and we wouldn’t.

Cyberpunk Red

I’m not giving much of an update this week. We’ve been playing through the Jumpstart, so I don’t want to spoiler the campaign. The visual wizardry of our GM using Roll20 and the blowback of our street-level incompetence has been fun to share. But this session came straight out of the book. You’re going to have to caption competition this one yourself.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

NaNoWriMo day one! So far so good. Plan is to get ahead of word count on Sundays and Wednesdays so I have some buffer. Four acts, four weeks? What I hear the 30k mark is the hardest. Let’s see how my writing dramatic arc goes. I have a sketch of an outline, and some scene ideas, mostly for the first half. Is this enough for me to use writing one scene to prep the next? Tune in next week.

My plan hasn’t become much more detailed since last week, but I’ve chewed on some different ideas. I may not have agreed on much more, but I’ve discarded some ideas. Focus by subtraction has been useful. I’ve read the advice "don’t write the boring bits". Which is all well and good, but what’s interesting for a period romance is going to be different than for a cyberpunk thriller. (Or, maybe it isn’t!) I might have to write the boring bits to discover my characters and setting more. Maintaining interest can come in editing.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

It was good to be able to do a colleague’s leaving drinks face to face! Another week later and we wouldn’t.

Cyberpunk Red

I’m not giving much of an update this week. We’ve been playing through the Jumpstart, so I don’t want to spoiler the campaign. The visual wizardry of our GM using Roll20 and the blowback of our street-level incompetence has been fun to share. But this session came straight out of the book. You’re going to have to caption competition this one yourself.