Tag: nanowrimo.2009

NaNoWriMo Day 9

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667 words/day
NaNoWriMo total: 15,000 words
Personal par: 2,000 words/day
Personal total: 19,917 words

Another good morning of writing.  I had a list of scenes to work off of and wrote two of those scenes, not quite completing the second.  The first scene ran around 800 words, the second 1,200 for a total of 2,061 words today.  The scenes that I have written these last two days are part of a continuous thread that runs through the novel.  They tell a story themselves, and could in some respect be read independently.  But I plan to have them spread out across the novel as interludes along the way.  They take place, primarily, in a separate time frame from the rest of the action in the story.

I don’t think these scenes were quite as good as a the one I wrote yesterday, but they are certain better than much of what has come before.  I like this way of putting together a novel.  It’s much more like writing novelettes and short stories.  I take a slice of a story focusing, on say, one character, write the whole thing, complete with all the scenes needed to tell that characters story, and then move onto the next.  In the final produce, I break them apart and interweave them, and I imagine, editing them some for appropriate drama and transition.

Iended up just shy of 20,000 words today.  I should it that mark withing the first few sentences tomorrow.  The longest piece of fiction I have ever written is 22,000 words and so if I keep to pace, I should break that mark sometime on Wednesday.

I’ll need to spend some time tonight listing out some more scenes to write over the next few days, as my supply has just about run dry.  But I look forward to doing that.  I am feeling pretty good that I have made it this far.

ETA: I checked my records.  For NaNoWriMo 2007,  I reached the 21,276 word mark on November 27.  That I will pass this mark on November 10 is a very good sign I think.

NaNoWriMo Day 8

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667 words/day
NaNoWriMo total: 13,336 words
Personal par: 2,000 words/day
Personal total: 17,856 words

Breakthrough!  While I didn’t really get a chance to do much of the planning I had written about yesterday, I did scribble down a list of related scenes that I feel need to be part of the story.  I decided to proceed by tackling those scenes and of the 6 I scribble down, I wrote two of them this morning.

The first scene was just under a thousand words, and definitely helped to get me warmed up.  I felt as if I had direction once again.  The second scene ended up as the longest single scene in my story, topping the 1,500 word mark.  I also think it is the single best piece of writing I have done in a long time.  In a way, the scene is, itself, a self-contained story.  But for first draft material, it is well-written and I think has a strong emotional impact.  As I wrote the end of the scene, I could feel tears coming to my eyes.  After I finished it, I read back through it and was almost breathless.  I actually printed out the scene and asked Kelly to read it.  She gives me direct, no-nonsense feedback and if she likes it, I can be sure I have something good.  If I can write like that consistently, I may end up with something really special.

I think giving myself a reorientation, a sense of direction, really helped today.  I got a late start because we were up late with friends last night, and I slept somewhat restlessly.  I started off a bit slowly this morning, but time disappeared once I started on that second scene.  I had a vague idea of what the resolution would be, but I was surprised by how potent it seemed.  And pleased.

All told, I wrote 2,532 words today between 8-10:30 am.  It’s only 40 words shy of my best session so far.  My total after 8 days stands at 17,856 words.  I’ve still got a couple of scenes to write off my list, and if I can maintain the kind of writing and pace I had today, I just might hit 20,000 words tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo Day 7 (Week 1 complete!)

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667 words/day
NaNoWriMo total: 11,667 words
Personal par: 2,000 words/day
Personal total: 15,324 words

Up at 7 am this morning and I wrote until about 9:30.  I was trying to see if I could hit 16,000 words by the end of week 1, but I didn’t quite make it.  I managed 2,089 words today, but it was the most difficult day yet.  Part of the reason, I think, is that which I know what the story is I am trying to tell, I am guessing at the scenes.  Having never written a novel before, I am doing what I think one does to write a novel–lots of character development and backstory, but the main story isn’t progressing.  I simply wasn’t well-prepared these last three days.  Unlike Day 1-3, I didn’t know what I wanted to write before I started.  I think that has to change.

So, this weekend, I am going to put in a little extra time outside the normal writing windows, trying to establish what scenes tell the story. Storyboarding, if you will.  Once I’ve got an idea of the scenes that tell the overall story, I can write them in any order I want.  Today I wrote 2 completely disjointed scenes.  I didn’t think the writing was bad.  In fact, I thought I had some witty dialog going in one.  But they were simply disjointed and I was unprepared when I started.  I think I know where to start now, moving forward anyway.  Put I’d like to get it on paper, along with my character timeline.  It’s just how I think and work, and I feel like that will help.  Stay tuned.

Today marked the end of Week 1.  I wrote for a total of 15,324 words.  That’s 2,189 words/day, well above my personal goal of 2,000 words/day, and far above the NaNoWriMo par of 1,667 words/day.  Based on NaNoWriMo par, I am over 2 days ahead of schedule, which adds some comfort to the writing.  If it doesn’t come one day, or if circumstances prevent me from writing, I can miss a day or two without getting behind.

I estimate that I’ve spent about 14.5 hours writing this week.  That puts my pace at just over 1,000 words/hour.  That means 50 hours to "win" NaNoWriMo, and somewhere between 80-90 hours to complete the first draft of the novel.  Week 2 begins tomorrow morning, and I already feel like I have a better idea of what scenes to write and what threads to follow.  We’ll see how it goes.

NaNoWriMo Day 6

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667 words/day
NaNoWriMo total: 10,000 words
Personal par: 2,000 words/day
Personal total: 13,235 words

Today was the first day that I didn’t make my personal goal (although I still exceeded NaNoWriMo par).  I finished this morning with 1,839 words, 161 words short of my goal.  I suppose I could have prodded on for another 5 minutes and gotten the words, but this was a tough writing morning for me.

For one thing, I feltlike I was just writing "scenes" without any sense of where they fit into the story.  I spent a part of yesterday putting together an elaborate time-line to help me keep track of people and events (and their relative ages), since there are many characters and the novel spans 153 years or so.  The result was pretty impressive (in my mind), but it left me for the second day in a row, not thinking much about what to write the next day, and when that happens, I feel like I have no direction.  I’ve got my brain processing in the background, trying to work out where the story will go tomorrow so I don’t run into the same problem.

Still, I felt accomplished today, even if the write came more slowly.  For one thing, I’ve written nearly 2,000 words every day for 6 days in a row now.  For the last five of those six days, I’ve done my writing between 5-7am.  I find that I enjoy getting up at 5 am; that I look forward to it when I know I will be spending the first 2 hours of the day writing.  When the first draft of the novel is done, I see myself continuing this.  At this rate, I can produce a complete short story in about a week.  I certain don’t have any lack of ideas.  And it’s the writing that matters; it’s the only way you learn to improve.

These first six days have also helped to build my confidence.  For 6 days, now, the pattern has been about the same:  up at 5am, sit in front of the computer by 5:10 and start writing.  Two hours can seem daunting.  It’s my plan not to move from that spot, even if the writing isn’t coming (but fortunately, so far, that hasn’t happened).  The writing comes slowly at first, and for the first 10-20 minutes, I seem to write only a paragraph or two and I feel like I won’t even come close to making my goal.  (I definitely felt like that today.)  But things pick up, I get into a groove, and before I know it, nearly 2 hours have passed and I’ve hit my mark.

When I slow down, I find myself thinking it is because I’m not interesting in what is happening.  And if I am not interested, why would a reader be interested?  In those cases, I try to do something dramatic:  change the setting of the scene from, say, a boardroom, the cockpit of a spacecraft.  Or write the scene from a different character’s perspective; this morning, I started a scene that I thought would be tough (and perhaps boring) from the point of view of the feisty wife of one of the characters.  It definitely helped to make it more interesting to write, and it gave me some perspective on where that part of the story is going.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and Day 7.  The first week will be done.  On weekends I try to do my writing between 7-9 am.  I may push it a little longer tomorrow to see if I can’t make up the extra words I missed today.  As it stands, I am already a full 2 days above NaNoWriMo par–that is, I could not write for 2 days and still be on track–but my goal is higher and I want it to stay there.  Hopefully having a better idea of where things are going will help with that.  It would be nice to finish off the week with some 16,000 words written.

NaNoWriMo Day 5

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667 words/day
NaNoWriMo total: 8,335 words
Personal par: 2,000 words/day
Personal total: 11,396 words

Please indulge me for a moment as I scream out CONGRATULATIONS to the World Champion New York Yankess!  (It’s been a long time coming.)

I stayed up to watch the entire game, of course, and the celebrations afterward, and it was well after midnight when I finally got to bed.  My mind was full of the Yankees victory and when I woke up this morning just before 5 am, I hadn’t really put much thought into what I would be writing today.

I think today was the most difficult day for me so far, in terms of getting stuff on the page.  I managed to write 2,165 words, still above my daily goal, but I feel as though I did it primarily through brute force.  I’m trying not to worry about it to much at this point.  I just keep on writing and I don’t really look back, but it’s in the back of my mind.  When the first draft is done, a lot of work will be required and the second draft may not look much like the first.  I surprised myself with brute force.  I felt like I wasn’t making forward progress, but in just under 2 hours, I hit the 2,000 word mark, and when I finished off at 7 am, I’d moved beyond it.

I did finish Chapter 1 today, which came in around 6,000 words all told.  That’s a pretty long chapter, but it’s broken into 8 parts, which probably average 800 words each.  I like short scenes in the novels that I read and I find that it also makes them easier to write.  The last part of the chapter had a lot of dialog though, and I felt like there wasn’t enough going on (even though the dialog seems important).  So I started Chapter 2 with a little more action and a little less dialog.  And I also have a better idea now of where chapter 2 is going.  I introduced a character from the prologue, and will introduce one or two other characters there.  There is a pretty big cast to this story, and I know that not everyone can be my "main" character, but I still haven’t decided yet which ones will end up as such.  I imagine they, and the story, will decide for me.

I passed a milestone sometime early this morning: 10,000 words.  I’ve got a little more than 20% of the 50,000 word goal completed.  It feels pretty good.

NaNoWriMo Day 4

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667 words/day
NaNoWriMo total: 6,667 words
Personal par: 2,000 words/day
Personal total: 9,227 words

Since the novel I am attempting to write is a science fiction novel, and since it is, specifically, a hard science fiction novel, there is a certain amount of technical information that has to be conveyed.  It has to be interesting and it has to be somewhat realistic, barring certain assumptions.  In the case of my story, these technical details have to do with a technology that allows people to travel to the stars at nearly the speed of light.  This is nothing new in science fiction, but I am trying to portray it realistically.  That means research, and that means getting it right, to the best of my ability.  It also means doing all of this without wordy exposition.  I figured today’s pace would be slower because it was the first part of the story that I was writing that had to provide some of this technical information.  As it turns out, I had my second best day so far, writing 2,444 words in 2 hours, and bringing my 4 day total to 9,227 words, some 2500 words above par.  I also passed the 9,000 word mark, which was nice and which virtually ensure my passing of the 10,000 word mark tomorrow.  In fact, at this pace, I should hit 15,000 by the end of the week.

Two things helped to make today better than I thought:

  1. I didn’t research while writing.  The technical research took place before I started my writing session.  My research was not exhaustive and there weren’t too many calculations.  Just some rough back of the envelop stuff.  (And using Mathematica’s Notebook feature for these notes works really well, as it turns out.).  I wanted a general sense of the technical details and challenges.  More details and accurate calculations will come later.
  2. In describing the technical problem, I didn’t get too detailed.  I am trying to follow the spirit of NaNoWriMo which is to write as much as I can, regardless of quality (or in this case, accuracy).  In this case,Scrivener, the tool in which I do my writing, helps out immensely.  I can keep notes separately, but what really helps is the annotations and ghost notes features.  In several places in today’s text, there are red annotations that contain phrases like, "look up technical details later," or "expand on this", or "less exposition here eventually.   Rather than getting bogged down, I made quick notes in the manuscript and pressed on.

I am still not quite finished with Chapter 1.  When all is said and done, I imagine it will be around 5,000 words long.  That’s a pretty long chapter, I suppose; I really don’t know since I’ve never written a novel before, but assuming that is the average length for a chapter in my book, then I’m looking at somewhere around 18 chapters when the first draft is complete.  That sounds about right to me.

I expect to finish Chapter 1 tomorrow.  Chapter 1 establishes some key characters, sets up the overarching problem of the story, and provides a direction in which the characters go to solve the problem.  There is a little back-story, but not much.  I expect to add more in second draft.  Chapter 2 will add more characters and start to build on the action and momentum of the story.  I am beginning to see a little more clearly where that chapter is heading.  I haven’t thought much about Chapter 3 yet, but I am really only thinking one chapter ahead at this point, so I think I’m okay.

Incidentally, I also started providing some of the background of the setting of the story (which begins some 200+ years in the future).  It is an Earth that has been stricken by global warming, which has changed the geographical landscape, political landscape, and washed away some 3 billion people.  Not the brightest future.  It’s the one area I’m not completely satisfied with yet, and which I will definitely have to come back to and weave that element into how it affects the characters, the problem of the story, and how it helps to shape the solution.

A good morning, over all.  I wake up eager to get started writing and I write steadily from about 5:10 – 7:10 am.  I feel accomplished when I finish up for the day.  Not pressing myself gives me time for my mind to fill up for the next days writing session.  I am really enjoying the routine at this point.  It feels great.

NaNoWriMo Day 3

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667 words/day
NaNoWriMo total: 5,000 words
Personal par: 2,000 words/day
Personal total: 6,783 words

I figured that today would be the first tough day of NaNoWriMo for me.  That’s because I knew well how to introduce the story and that the Prologue (which was written Sunday and Monday) would be almost like a self-contained short story.  Today I started Chapter 1 and I was less certain of how it would go.  That’s because I introduce 4 main characters in the chapter, provide some of their background details and also the purpose as to why they are gathering together.  In a short story, this could be done in a few paragraphs, but in a novel, it seems to me, more depth and back-story is required.  The tricky part for me is ensuring that the back-story is interesting, adds to the characters, and is relevant to the story as well.

I tackled it by assuming that my chapters would be long chapters, broken up by shorter sub-chapters.  In Chapter 1, therefore, there are 5 sub-chapters.  Four people are getting together for a meeting.  The first four sub-chapters introduce each of the four characters, as they wait for or arrive at the meeting site.  It gives some back-story and also illustrates (I hope) how the characters are interrelated.  The 5th sub-chapter will describe the meeting itself.  This has helped me frame some of the other chapters, too, which will introduce more characters, but also allows me to treat a chapter as a kind of short story (or novelette, or novella, as the case may be), with a specific theme, a beginning, middle, end, and carrying the overarching story forward one step at a time–while hopefully keeping the reader interested in both the story and the characters.

I was up at 5 am, after going to bed earlier than expected last night–after I decided that the Yankees probably would not win the series last night.  (They didn’t).  I got started around 5:10 am.  It was slow going at first, I think by 6 am, I had about 800 words, so that I wrote about 1,200 words in the last 70 minutes or so.  I wrote sub-chapters 1 and 2, and a few paragraphs of sub-chapter 3.  Just after 7 am, I finally checked my word count and found it to be 1,998 words.  So I added a few more sentences to give me a good start for tomorrow and finished the day off at 2,503 words, beating my personal goal for the third day in a row.  At 6,783 words, I am now 1,783 words above NaNoWriMo par for day 3, which means I could miss a full day of writing and still be on par.  I don’t plan on missing any days, however.  In fact, if I could manage it, I’d love to write more than 2,200 words tomorrow.  That would put me at the 9,000 word mark after just 4 days.

Incidentally, today I used my new Bose QuietComfort 15 Noise Canceling headphones while writing.  I bought them yesterday to use while I am writing.  Although the office I have at the new house is by far the biggest (and nicest) I’ve had yet, there is no door.  I researched headsets and these seemed to be the best.  They were amazing.  I couldn’t even hear the keys on the keyboard clicking.  All I could hear were my thoughts, clear and unfiltered.  I think part of the reason this morning’s session was easier than I thought it would be was because of this clarity of thought the headphones helped bring about.

As a funny side-note, as I was wrapping up at just after 7, I realized that Kelly was not yet up.  She’d wanted to head into work early today.  I figured I was going to head upstairs and find her and the baby still asleep.  I was about to do just that when they both came down, fully showered, dressed and ready to start the day.  The noise-canceling headset blocked out the noise from upstairs, including the shower.

I plan to finish up Chapter 1 tomorrow if I can.  I think there is at least 2,200 words left in that chapter and so I think it is a pretty reasonable goal.  I’m already starting to think about what Chapter 2 will be about, and I probably need to makes some more notes on that.  I also need to work on my story time line.  The story spans over a long period of time, in part because of relativistic space travel and the effects of time dilation.  I have a spreadsheet to help me keep track of some of this, but I realize now that it requires some updating.  There’s no World Series game tonight so I may be able to squeeze some of it in then.

Incidentally, my Kindle wirelessly received my pre-ordered copy of Jack McDevitt’s Time Traveler’s Never Die, and I am excited to get started on that.  I am close to finishing Stephen King’s Night Shift, so I will hopefully start on Jack’s new book soon.  I’m really looking forward to it.

NaNoWriMo Day 2

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667 words
NaNoWriMo total: 3,334 words
Personal par: 2,000 words
Personal total: 4,725 words

Up at 5 am (after going to be at close to midnight last night, having watched the Yankees go up 3-1 against the Phillies) and came into the office to do my writing for the day.  I started from where I left off yesterday, and spent the entire two hours complete the Prologue.  I felt like I started slowly once again, but by the time I finished (9 total scenes within the prologue) I’d written 2,572 words, which is more than 500 words better than my goal, and nearly 1,000 words better than NaNoWriMo par.

This is what I expected for the first few days.  I knew exactly how I wanted the prologue to go, and it helped that it was almost like write a short story, complete with beginning, middle and end.  In fact, the prologue is 3,747 words long.  I expect things will get a little harder tomorrow when I start writing Chapter 1, which is not as firmly fixed in my head yet.  Still, I’m very pleased with my progress over the first two days, and I’m going to do my best to keep it up.

Back again tomorrow for Day 3 between 5-7 am.

NaNoWriMo Day 1

NaNoWriMo par: 1,667
NaNoWriMo total: 1,667
Personal par: 2,000
Personal total: 2,153

NaNoWriMo officially began today at midnight, but since I was still watching the Yankees beat the Phillies, I didn’t get started until 7 am this morning. I was up just before 7 am, showered, and came down to the new office, and sat in my new desk chair which I picked up yesterday from Target. After checking over a few notes I made, I got started on the novel. I wrote the "Introduction" (the novel is presented as a book that is written by one of the characters) and then started on the Prologue, which I managed to get about halfway through before stopping. All told, on day 1 I wrote 2,153 words, which is not only better than NaNoWriMo par of 1,667 words, but better than the goal I set for myself of 2,000 words/day.

It took me a few minutes to get started, but other than that, today was a pretty easy day. I imagine this was because I was eager to get started and had a good idea in my head of how things would open in the story. I didn’t struggle at any point, and when I finally stopped (just after 9 am) I was surprised to see I had written more than 2,000 words.

Tomorrow I’ll be writing between 5-7 am.  I plan on finishing up the Prologue and then started on Chapter 1.  Finishing the Prologue should go pretty smoothly, but I’m not yet sure where Chapter 1 will start (or take me).


Preparing for NaNoWriMo

First, for those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  It begins November 1 and ends November 30 and the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.

My first attempt at NaNoWriMo was in November 2007.  During that 30 days I managed to write 22,000 words, which is probably the most I’ve written in a single month, but still less than half of the mark to successfully complete the event.  Even so, what I wrote was expanding upon a short story that I’d already written and so I had a boost, so to speak.  This time, while I think I have a good idea for a novel, I have nothing on paper yet (except a few notes) so I am really starting this year from scratch.

50,000 words is not really a novel.  Most publishers (at least, most science fiction and fantasy publishers) wouldn’t look at a manuscript that is less that 80,000 words.  Typically, the novels you buy on bookstore shelves are somewhat longer (especially fantasy).  So 50,000 words gets you half a novel.  But for someone like me who is a short story writer, and who has had trouble writing anything longer than 20,000 words, it gets you some experience dealing with the longer form, which is a completely different beast than a short story.

I have gotten comfortable with the short story form.  And I really enjoy it.  I like packing a lot into a short amount of space.  The two stories I have sold to professional markets with both short fiction: one, at 9,000 words, technically a novelette, the other, at 2,200 words, a genuine short story.  In a short story, the trick is to pick the part of the story that conveys everything that came before and everything that will come after.  You can go into back-story, but it has to be relevant and tight.  In a novel, you’ve got a lot more space.  To someone like me who thinks of himself as a short story writer, attempting to write a novel is like attempting to run a marathon after spending the lasts few years jogging around the block.

read a lot of novels, but that doesn’t mean I can write one.  My biggest challenge, I think, is providing the kind of character detail, back-story and actionto keep the story interesting, despite its length.  Anyone can write a novel, but as a professional writer, I want to write what I would consider to be a good novel.  I don’t want to just get 50,000 words on the page to say I did it.  I want to be able to take those 50,000 words and in December turn them into 80,000 words that keep the reader turning the pages.  I’m not sure I know how to do that.  Writers I know say that the hardest part of writing a novel is writing the "middle".  The middle is about where I’ll be come November 30.

To write 50,000 words in 30 days requires writing 1,667 words per day, every day.  That’s about 7 or 8 manuscript pages, or roughly the length of a college-level essay, every day, Saturdays and Sundays included,  rain or shine.  I’m aiming a little higher: 2,000 words a day, which would give me an extra 10,000 words come November 30.  But with a 4-1/2 month old baby, a family, and a full-time job, how is this possible?  I’ve never been able to write that consistently before.  I think that is one of the biggest values of the NaNoWriMo challenge:  to demonstrate to yourself that you can write consistently day in and day out, even with everything else you have going on.  So how am I going to approach this challenge?  Well…

The office/library is just about set up in the new house.  By tomorrow, it should be fully functional and in order.  My plan for making time to write each day is fairly simple:  I’m going to get up at 5 am and spend the two hours between 5 and 7 am writing, while the family sleeps.  This is not as difficult as it may sound.  I am a morning person by nature and getting up early holds no difficulty for me.  What will be interesting is to see how quickly I can get started each morning.  On the weekends, I’ll likely sleep until 7 am and then work from 7-9 am.  The added benefit is that I don’t really lose family time.

But can I get started right away?  Can I sit for 2 hours everyday and write?  Will I have enough to write about?  I hope that I have the reverse problem:  not enough time to write what I want each day.  When I am in the zone, I can write close to 2,000 words in 2 hours.  That’s not often the case, but I’ve done it before.  I suspect that the first couple of days will go pretty smoothly because I have all of the starting point ideas in mind and know generally where things are going.  After the first few days, however, I suppose things will become more difficult and I’ll find it harder and harder to make 2,000 words/day.  That’s where strategy and patience may help.  If I can write 2,000 words/day for the first 5 days, that’s 10,000 words, when par is actually 8,300 words; so in essence, I’ve bought myself an extra day.  I could write nothing for a day and stil be "on par".  I don’t suspect that will happen, but I do imagine I will slow down a bit.  Eventually, though, I’ll get used to the pace of 2,000 words a day and after the first 10 days or so, I expect to be comfortable with the pace and things will move better (I hope).

2,000 words a day (or 1,677) is a lot and I’m not sure if non-writers realize how draining this can be; after all, it’s not like I’m running a marathon, I’m sitting behind the blue glow of a monitor with my fingers dancing across a keyboard, and little else is going on.  The thing is, I come away from these sessions feeling the way I feel after a good workout:  exhausted and exhilarated.  Writing is hard work, at least for me, and trying to write well, to tell an interesting story that someone other than me and my close friends will want to keep reading is even harder.  Words of encouragement are always welcome.

I will post updates as I go along so anyone interesting in how I’m doing can follow along.  If I run into problems, I’ll try my best to describe what those problems are.  And in December or January, when I have a completed novel in my hands, I may even ask for some early "beta" readers.

So what’s the novel called?  Well, I only have a working title at the moment, but it will do.  For now, I’m calling it, Far Away Places.  It’s a good title, an appropriate title for a daunting task as this one.  November 30 seems like a far away place to me right now.  On the other hand, it seems like it’s just around the corner.