Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NaNo Training Report

BEWARE … this is a very long post …

NaNo is about writing a 50,000 words novel in 30 days time. As the organizer stresses that it’s all about QUANTITY and not quality.

This works out to be 1700 words per day. I don’t know about my fellow writers, but to me this is a very, very tall order.

My current daily word count is about 200 per day and it takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to get it. Main reason that I keep such low word count is to ensure that I have no excuse not to do it on a daily basis. This is how I have managed to keep writing 6 days a week since Jan this year.

My “intuitive” way of writing contributes to the hour which I need to get to the 200 mark. That is to say that I don’t plan or plot. I start writing with a vague sense of the story. First draft to me is always about “discovery”.

Now, if I’m to stick to my existing writing schedule for NaNo, I’ll need to write (at least) 8 hours / day for 30 days to get to the 50K mark. This is not really practical, I mean, unless I’m to take a month’s off my work. (I work 4-days a week.) I need to find a way to up my word count.

This is where “training” comes in my mind. Well, obviously, I dramatize it! :) It is more about me finding ways to write up to 1900 words a day, how many hours (in real time) I need and if I can cope, especially during my work day.

From 01/09, I included a +10% rule to my daily word count. That is to use the previous day’s word count as a base, I require myself to up 10% from it for each day’s output. According to my plan, I’m to reach 1700 mark on 23/09, but I hit 1901 on 17/09! It took me about 4+ hours (during work day) to get to 1901.

A few things I learn about getting 1901 words in a day:

1) Allow yourself to write crap

Every time I hesitated or felt that the Internal Editor was about to appear, I said to myself: “You’re allowed to write crap! You’re to write crap! You’re writing crap!” I know this might sound a bit extremes, but the point was I somehow (re)gained a sense of absolute freedom for creating.

2) Overwriting

When I’m writing up a scene, event or even dialogue in the story, my aim is to exhaust that scene, event or dialogue. I only finish the scene when I have nothing else to say about it. Then I move onto the next part of the story. A tell tale sign for me to gauge this is when I begin to repeat the same description, details etc.

3) Mind Games

Because I got so used to 200 words a day, I realize my mind is using the 200 as a unit count. So when I feel resistance coming up, I just tell myself: “Just another 200 words!”

And when I find 1900 words an overwhelming number, I tell myself: “Just 9 sets of 200.” From this re-wording, my mind find the entire writing process easier to handle.

4+ hours of writing time:

Unless I decide to become a plotter, if I stick to my “discovery” way of writing, I just have to (pardon my language) suck it up!

The trick here is to split the 4 hours into sustainable sessions. My maximum concentration span is about 2 to 2.5 hours, so I splits the sessions from min. 1 hour per session to 2.5 hours per session.


On the one hand I’m tired, tense and stress most of the time. But on the other hand, I had a strong sense of achievement and satisfaction which I had missed from my writing for a long time.


With such extensive overwriting, I know I’ll pay a huge price when come time for rewriting. But that’s part of the deal. I’m also trying to remember it’s always easier to trim and cut than to grow something.

Now, I won’t lie to you, so far I’ve only done this once (i.e. 1900 words in 1 day). Can I repeat it for 30 days? I don’t know. But I believe that it’s not a good idea to drill myself like that through out Oct. I need to conserve both creative and physical energy for the grand final.

For now, I’ll turn my attention to develop story idea for NaNo. However to keep the writing muscle supple for NaNo, I’m thinking to use STOS #5 to do an “advance training” (i.e. 1900 words per day for 6 consecutive days) around mid Oct. What do you think?

P.S. - STOS #4 (draft) was finished at 10,162 words in 12 days and ahead of original schedule all because of overwriting. (Since the writing of STOS from Jan, average word count of each STOS draft is about 5,000 words and takes about 1 month to finish.)


Leone said...

All you can do is your best and from what I gather from you blog, you always do do your best. Good luck, I hope you reach your goal, but if you don't, you know you did your best and you will have written way more than you ever have before so it's a win/win challenge. Take care.

Pamela Sweet said...

You'll do just fine because you obviously want to succeed at this. Just remember...we will write crap! We must write crap to finish! Oh, and there are tricks, like giving your characters two word names like Bobby Sue or Tammy Jo. :D

Seriously, I do believe it is a good idea to not burn yourself out ahead of time by planning too much or overthinking things. We'll just go with the flow and see what works, okay writing buddy? :)

WrightStuff said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's given me a bit of a kick up the backside. I was going to fly by the seat of my pants and just launch in, but you are right, perhaps a little training would be a good idea!!

Veena said...

Thanks for sharing your process.. this is really insightful. You seem to be on the right path, the hard one! Wishing you all the best! (You have a great attitude)

miruspeg said...

Hybrid you are going to look back on this blog post one day when you are a published writer and have a big smile on your face.

I am so sure you will succeed. Just keep one step ahead of your subconscious negative thoughts and you will do fine. You have the ability to counteract any negative thoughts with positive ones.


Hybrid J said...

Hi Everyone,

Thank you sooo much for your support and encouragement! This is what keep me going. :D

Leone said...

I am happy to inspire and wish you the best of luck in winning NaNo. I retyped my first chapter today because it was originally in a very old computer. I typed 1700 and realize it is quite a lot if you are making it up as you go along. It will be interesting.

Barbara/myth maker said...

It's encouraging to read your way of writing. It's a great list of points you have there; I find them very helpful.
Part of me wants to hurry up and get started; another part of me is fearing the whole process.
Right now I'm just working on a loose plot. I hope that the writing process will fill in the holes.
Good luck to us!