Thursday, 3 December 2015

NaNoWriMo... complete!

All participants HAVE to write a blog post about their NaNoWriMo experience. It's the law! Isn't it? Yeah, it must be. No one will read it, but here goes anyway!

Final NaNoWriMo graph

First of all, I am really going to miss this graph! If you register on the NaNoWriMo site, then you can enter your word count each day and there's a graph that will show your progress. The brown bars show how many words you've done so far, and the grey line is your "par" line for the 50,000 word target.

And this graph is amazing!

For me, anyway, it was easily the strongest NaNoWriMo motivator (aka "tyrant"). If the bar graph was under the par line then I felt terrible! When I finally managed to get above the par line, it seemed to push me on.

If you feel the urge (!) you can click here to see my profile live on the NaNoWriMo site ... and if you're registered on the site then please do add me as a "buddy" - we all need more buddies! :-)

NaNoWriMo diary

This diary's just here for my own record. You're very welcome to read it if you wish, of course! :-)

13th Oct 4,583
I've written a few tests to try out some ideas. And everything seems okay so far, which means I've already got a manuscript word count of 4,583 words! Also, I've realised something: planning the novel has set my brain working, and so it feels dumb to wait for 1st Nov. After all, why would I stop myself writing when Brain is telling me it wants to write? I think I'll just crack on! :-)

15th-16th Oct 14,654
I did a test to see if I could manage to sit down and hammer out the requisite 1,667 words in a day. Two hours later, I'd added another 2,433 words to my manuscript and was feeling pretty pleased with myself! Nipped out to see Bumblywumbly Clunkersnatch in Hamlet ('twas good!), and then came home itching to push my day's total just a little higher. I really wanted to reach 2,500! 

Big mistake. 

Started just before midnight and kinda got lost in the writing. Being the wally that I am, I didn't stop until I realised my hands weren't responding any more. My wrists were literally collapsing on the keyboard. That was about 5:30am. Having struggled with M.E. for the last couple of years, this was a pretty dumb thing to do. So anyway, the word count is great (10,071)... but the late night completely wiped me out the next day and I got nothing done. D’oh. But it’s all good, because I'm really just testing to see what might go wrong in November. Lesson learned: remember to stop!

19th Oct 25,460
More words today! I'm starting to worry I'm shooting myself in the foot because by the time I hit November, I might have run out of ideas! Ah well, at least I'm writing.

Part of today was also taken up with a bit of (gulp!) programming. I wrote a VBA macro to calculate the word count of all my chapters so far. And - get this - it only counts the chapters! This means I can now safely have a ton of notes at the bottom of the file (things like "ideas", "chapter plans", "offcuts", and "rejects") without accidentally counting them towards the word count of the actual novel. Is that helpful? It feels helpful. Is it confusing? Maybe. But anyway, it's done!

I also managed to write a bit more. Not sure how long it took, but I had a really good day and produced another 12,599 words! However, that's including the notes, and from now on I'm ignoring the note sections at the bottom of the file... so if I remove the notes then the total novel-only word count today is 10,806. This means my current total is officially 25,460 words. Yay! *feeling pleased* :-)

20th Oct 28,127
Was away for a couple of days so thought I'd get nothing done, but did okay in the end. Me and my laptop found a quiet corner of Tooting Library. Two hours resulted in 2,667 words, so the novel total is now 28,127.

23rd Oct 31,870
Another successful day. Managed 3,743 words, which gives me a total of 31,870.

24th Oct 34,277
Another experiment: I tried writing in the morning! Brain never seems to wake up properly until the evening, so I wasn't feeling overly confident. And, as expected, it was like wringing blood from the proverbial stone. Have to admit though, I eventually did get going. The result was 2,407 words, giving me a total of 34,277.

25th Oct 39,473
Head was just not in the right place today... but I forced myself to keep typing and (just like yesterday) managed to (eventually) get going. Another 5,196 words! Total is now 39,473.

1st Nov 41,645
I think there's something about the concept of "and now you HAVE to do it" that kills the creative part of my brain! It was a real struggle today but I didn't want to miss the 1,667-word target on the very first day of NaNoWriMo! Final result was 2,172 words, giving me a total of 41,645.

2nd Nov 43,937
Another struggle, but a long break in the middle seemed to help. Managed to limp up to the 1,667 target in the morning session, then came back to it in the evening and pushed a little further, resulting in a daily total of 2,292. Total is now 43,937 words.

3rd Nov 43,937
Aargh, no words today! Had a bit of a blip! Got a bit sidetracked by a looming deadline on a flash fiction piece. In the end, the flash fic turned into a short story and kinda took over the day... so I managed to write 2,318 words, but none of them count towards NaNoWriMo, which means my total's still 43,937. Hey, at least I'm writing! :-) However, the NaNoWriMo site is extremely unforgiving: it now tells me I'm not due to finish my 50,000 words until 15th Dec! Oops!

4th Nov 46,720
Definitely feeling like the fun has been taken away from writing! I guess that's probably thanks to the pressure of knowing I have to hit 1,667 words per day. It's not a huge target, but there's something about knowing it's there which makes the creative side of my brain hide under a toadstool. Perhaps it's the difference between looking up at the top of the mountain versus looking down and concentrating on the next step. Anyway, I did get going eventually - admittedly via a lot of procrastination - and today's total was 2,783. Novel total is now 46,720 words.

5th Nov 54,544
Staying up all night destroys the next day but it really helps with the word count. Wrote from midnight all the way through to 6 a.m. and managed another 7,824 words. That means I've officially managed to hit 50k words in less than 30 days - woohoo! Shame the words written before November don't count towards the official NaNoWriMo total. Anyway, the novel is now 54,544 words long, and I'm back on track after my blip :-)

6th-7th Nov 55,473
The problem with an all-nighter is nothing gets done the next day! Or, apparently, the day after. Nov 6th and 7th have been two very "bitty" days - giving me 489 and 440 words respectively - so the total's now 55,473. And as a random point of interest, this means I've written exactly 16,000 words in November.

8th-9th Nov 56,590
A scrappy couple of days but I have an excuse: I was away! Managed 818 words on the Sunday before heading off, and then 299 very sleepy words on the Monday after getting back, giving me a total of 56,590.

10th Nov 58,738
Woke up feeling quite low because NaNoWriMo seems to be a bit of an uphill struggle. Pushed myself to crack on, however, and managed a very respectable 2,148 words! The total's now 58,738.

11th Nov 60,925
Another 2,187 words means I've now written 21,452 words in November (i.e. that's my "official" NaNoWriMo total). The actual novel was started in October and is now 60,925 words long. I'm trying to feel pleased about the word count, but Brain is rebelling! It's telling me I'm barely even halfway through my plot, so there's hell of a long way to go! Anyway, am trying to stay positive. Also managed 1,000 words on a first draft of a short story today, so that's a bonus!

12th-13th Nov 67,417
A successful couple of days gave me word counts of 4,257 and 2,235 respectively, which brings me to 67,417 words. My November words (the tally shown on the NaNoWriMo graph) is 27,944, which means I'm now more than halfway to winning NaNoWriMo!

Unfortunately this whole exercise has made me realise that I'm not motivated by word count... I'd much rather aim to get the novel finished by the end of November (i.e. get the whole plot written, regardless of word count). So my actual target is "the whole book" ... yikes.

14th Nov 77,284
Today was one of the Swindon NaNoWriMo "write-in" days where we all meet up in Swindon Central Library to chat and motivate each other... as well as (hopefully) drive up the word count.

Unfortunately, Brain finds it hard to work in a chatty environment (silly, unsociable Brain!) so I ignored the novel for most of today and just enjoyed the social. It's great meeting more writers - Swindon seems to be full of 'em!

In the end I got about 3,000 words done during the write-in, and then I stuck around in the library for a few hours and managed another 3k. Feeling flushed with success, I carried on at home. Final total for the day was 9,867 words, which means my NaNoWriMo total's now 37,811 and my "novel total" is 77,284.

I'm still not finding this easy... which, I admit, has come as a massive disappointment because I was naively hoping for a magical moment where I realise this all just comes naturally and writing for a living will be a breeze. However I am proving to myself that I can rack up the words when I need to. It's just a shame I still seem to be dropping into my usual habit of working in fits and starts (i.e. not much gets done for a few days and then - bang! - I have a hugely successful day to make up for the bad ones). I was hoping NaNoWriMo would help me develop a sane writing habit (one where I sit down each day and carefully knock out a few pages without too much stress) but that doesn't seem to be happening. Oh well. I guess Brain will work the way it wants :-)

15th Nov 88,156
It seems my best writing time is officially between midnight and 3 AM. Ouch. Feel pretty awful after all these late nights, but the word count's going up very nicely. Spurred on by yesterday's success, I managed another 10,872 words. Am really close to "winning" NaNoWriMo (less than 3k to go!), and the novel total's now 88,156.

16th-18th Nov 105,028
Being in sight of the finish line made me stay up late for several nights in a row. And when I say late, I mean that I saw 4 AM each time.

Am now absolutely knackered, but have definitely been doing well at drumming out the words. Three very productive days gave me 5,227, 6,813, and 4,832 words respectively, so the NaNoWriMo total is now 65,555 and the novel total is 105,028.

19th Nov 108,574
Another 3,546 words has me at 69,101 (NaNoWriMo) and 108,574 (full total).

Feels like things are starting to slow down. Lots of scenes have been written out of order, so I'm now trying to join them up. Sometimes this is easy - just a couple of lines do the job - and other times there's some major hacking to be done.

It's all good though - the plot seems to have gelled in my brain and the story actually comes full circle... so hopefully when I start editing I'll be able to produce a decent book!

20th Nov 111,152
The NaNoWriMo site allowed validations today, so my green progress bar on the site is now pink. Achievements don't get much more exciting than that! :-)

Did another 2,578 words today, so the totals are now 71,679 (NaNoWriMo) and 111,152 (full manuscript). I'd like to reach 100k on the NaNoWriMo graph, but I'm pretty knackered and am definitely slowing down. Am considering starting a different project... after all, there's no NaNoWriMo rule that says you can only write one story in November.

21st Nov 115,281
Tonight was the "Night of Daring Words" - a NaNoWriMo writers' gathering that involved fancy dress, lots of manic typing, and far too many naughty snacks. Forgot my headphones yet again (so found it hard to concentrate) but managed to knock out 4,129 words which has pushed me over the 75k mark on the all-important NaNoWriMo graph. Word counts are now 75,808 (NaNoWriMo) and 115,281 (full manuscript).

22nd Nov 126,503
Was meant to go out to a pub quiz today but no - it's NaNoWriMo time, and no socials are allowed! Well, they are, but I was on a good run so didn't want to break it. Managed 11,222 words today, so am on 87,030 (NaNoWriMo) and 126,503 (full manuscript).

Am pleased with the word count but have realised that, according to my plan, there are *loads* of chapters left to write. The NANoWriMo site has a graph that's very motivating and, once that vanishes (in December), I'm worried I'll lose the will to finish. (Brain is now suggesting I write my own spreadsheet for the task, but I suspect Brain is just coming up with inventive ways for me to procrastinate!)

23rd Nov 130,078
Have broken the 90k barrier on the NaNoWriMo graph! Another 3,575 words takes me to 90,605 (NaNoWriMo) and 130,078 (full manuscript).

24th Nov 134,873
One of the NaNoWriMo challenges is to do some writing somewhere that you probably shouldn't; I think tonight qualifies. Was due to meet a pal at the pub, so I arrived early in order to hammer out my daily word count. But (oh no!) the laptop battery ran out! And could I find a plug to steal a sneaky charge? No, I flipping couldn't :-( But desperate times call for desperate acts, so I sneaked behind the bar (ok, it's a quiet pub so there wasn't too much sneaking involved!) and managed to find a socket. So there I am, standing at the bar, typing away, when the bartender comes over and gives me a funny look.

"My back was hurting so I'm just using the bar as a standing work station," I told him, while carefully trying to angle my body to hide the laptop lead.

Anyway, I got away with it and managed another 4,795 words. Now at 95,400 (NaNoWriMo) and 134,873 (full manuscript).

25th Nov 138,102
Had a bad day with life swooping in to cause a bit of grief. When that sort of thing happens, the creative part of my brain seems to shut down and it's incredibly difficult to get started again. However, in the end I managed to force another 3,229 words. Bit disappointed as I'd hoped to hit 100k on the NaNoWriMo graph today, but it's all right - I'm nearly there! Final word tally today is 98,629 (NaNoWriMo) and 138,102 (full manuscript).

26th Nov 141,399
The last few chapters are complete! The first chapters are written too! So it seems I'm attacking the middle of the novel in a sort of pincer movement. This could cause problems, but so far it seems okay.

Well, there was a slight disaster: I'd planned to kill a character in the middle of the book (no, the weapon of choice was not the traditional NaNoWriMo "shovel of death"), but suddenly realised I'd just written about him being alive in the final few chapters. So he was going to be alive, then get killed, then be alive again.


But it's a happy accident - the plot works better if he survives!

So all is well: my not-getting-killed character breathes a sigh of relief (not a huge one though as he now gets horribly scarred instead of killed), and I'm ploughing on with the writing! :-)

Today's word count was 3,297, which means the totals are 101,926 (NaNoWriMo) and 141,399 (full manuscript).

27th-29th Nov 156,393
Blimey, the final few days of November are just seeming to vanish. Word counts for 27th-29th were 5,222, 6,302 and 3,470... which has me heading into the last day with word counts of 116,920 (NaNoWriMo) and 156,393 (full manuscript).

30th Nov 176,744
Was hoping to hit 120k on the NaNoWriMo site graph, so I tried the "tell the world your plans" technique (i.e. "Hey world, I'm going to do X today"). Apparently the fear of having to admit that you failed is, allegedly, a great motivator! Here's what I put out there:

Apparently you're more likely to get stuff done if you tell the world you're going to do it. So here goes:

Dear Facebook (aka "The World"),

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo and I'm going to write 4,000 words.

I will not look at any cute kitten videos.

Love and hugs,
Mark xx

So I said I was going to write 4k words... but actually had a brilliant run (seriously - I'm so chuffed!) and hit a personal best of 20k words in a single day :-) Pretty much wrote all day long and forgot to eat! Managed to do 20,351 words, and so the final NaNoWriMo word count is 137,271.

Other random numbers, just for the record:

Full manuscript is now 176,744 and the total word count of the whole document (including notes) is 185,623. I like Microsoft Word as an editor, but it's amusing to watch it struggle now the document has reached this size :-)

... and just for completeness, here's the actual word count figures from the NaNoWriMo site. Fascinating, eh? :-)

Word counts for 2015 NaNoWriMo

The story isn't quite finished, but there's only a few more chapters to write, and all of them occur in the middle of the book. I'm planning to relax for a few days (need to catch up on sleep!) and then finish the first draft. After that, I'll do a quick tidy-up edit before Christmas, then let the manuscript hibernate for a week or two... with the idea being that I'll come back to it with fresh eyes in the new year.

I've heard that quite a few NaNoWriMo novels get put aside and forgotten about... and this seems such a shame after sooooo much work! I'm determined not to fall into that trap! Things are quite manic at home at the moment (various health issues; selling the house; moving home etc.) but I'm going to get this book edited down to 90,000 words by March. There. I said it. It has to happen! :-)