08 December 2011

The Doubleheader -- Post-Event Update

Yes, I've been neglecting the blog a bit. 3,334 words a day was a little bit more difficult than I expected.

I also didn't expect the crash at the end of November. It felt like every energy reserve I had was sucked dry. (Coming down with a full-blown cold -- which I still have -- in Week Two didn't help though.)

It wasn't so much the fact that I was writing three thousand words a day -- it was switching between two entirely different plots that slowed me down. Within the first week and a half of the contest I'd started to put in three thousand words on one novel one day and three thousand words on the other novel the next day (I had started out writing 1,667 words per novel per day). I'd pick whichever novel I was most excited about and work on that one for the day, giving it a big enough lead that I could let it simmer for the next day while I worked on the other.

But though I was able to make it work this past month, I'm not trying that again anytime soon.

Writing 100,000 words in a month is a good challenge, and I'm willing to repeat it sometime, but I'm not spreading it across two books again. The stopping and starting of separate plots all the time really slowed me down. Often I ended up starting my writing session at 11pm and speed-typing anything, anything I could possibly think of to come reasonably close to three thousand words by midnight so I could update my word count accurately on the website. (And, incredibly, I actually managed three thousand words an hour a few times. I'm not exactly looking forward to rewriting those passages though.)

The end result?

Well, my perception is probably slightly warped from exhaustion, exhilaration, and diminished air supply through my plugged nose, but I think it was mostly worth it. Novel Two especially has some serious potential. I adore the characters in Novel One, but the plot, well... wasn't. I didn't actually wrap up the story, I just brought it past 50,000 words and dropped in favour of writing the ending to Novel Two.

My final count according to the website was 109,064, but taking the total of Novel One and adding it to the total of Novel Two gives me 108,670 words. Not too bad really, considering that I closed Day 29 at 98,506 with hardly any ideas for either novel.

Novel One ultimately ended up being (so far) 50,572 words. But like I mentioned, it's not technically finished.

Novel Two, thanks to a rather formidable burst of mad typing as I desperately tried to get my fingers to hurry up and keep pace with my idea for a (hopefully spectacular) final twist, reached the end at 58,098 words less than an hour before December.

This does break some personal records though (and that's always something to aim for). I broke my record for most words written in a month (previous record was 74,450 words, set November 2010), most words written in one day with 10,558 (previous record was 6,137 or something of that sort, also November 2010), fastest 50k (14 days 5 minutes; previous record was 20 days, November 2010), and, of course, most novels written in one month.

Something I found rather effective this time around was to structure my writing time around music.

I've always listened to music when I write, but this time I got into the habit of finding an album on iTunes and putting it on, then making myself write (no Facebook or blog) until the album finished. Then I could spend a few minutes checking Facebook and the blog and email and everything else before picking another album and doing it again.

And just when I was starting to get tired of most of the albums I already had, I was introduced to this Internet radio station.

Because I know a good third of the stuff they play on there, it was so easy just to sit down and say, 'Okay, I'm going to write until the next Petra song.' And if I wanted to narrow it down a little (because they play a lot of Petra), I would make it any Petra song from the album Back To The Street.

It worked beautifully. I was amazed.

I've always heard that in NaNoWriMo it's preferable to structure your writing time around blocks of time rather than word count (less distracting), but I'd never been able to do that -- I would spend the entire writing session glancing up at the clock and was never really able to settle into the story. Using the playtime of a complete album in iTunes really helped because then I knew when I was done and I was better able to tell myself 'no, you haven't actually been writing that long because this album's only forty-five minutes long and it isn't done yet. You can't go to Facebook yet.'

So that's what I learnt in this contest. Hopefully it helps some fellow writing music nerd.

Suffice to say I am now the author of eight novels -- even if they're all still rough drafts because I fail miserably at the rather-crucial big-picture aspect of rewriting. (But they all have impeccable spelling!)

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