My Writers Circle

Writing => Authors' Resource Centre => Topic started by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 12:38:00 PM

Title: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 12:38:00 PM
Okay, so you've decided to, or are maybe still thinking about, tackling the November 'Novel in a month challenge.  50,000 words in November.  

It's worth a go.  You'll learn things about yourself and your own capabilities that you'll never learn by just gently bumbling along at the keyboard.

Over the last few years I've dished out some advice along the way, much of it well buried in the archives by now.  So I've decided to extract some of it and post it here, in a few posts so as not to break the limit, for anyone who is tackling NANO for the first time.

If anyone wants to add to this, feel free.

Sorry I didn't get to this earlier in the month, but that bane of all writers, Real Life, got a grip on me and took some shaking off.

Here's the first bit.

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Here, in a nutshell, perhaps a coconut shell, are a few FAQs and answers.  None of these are hard and fast rules, what works for one won't always work for another, but some problems and solutions are fairly universal.

Q:  Is Nano more mental than physical?

A:  A lot of writers fail the Nano challenge because their bodies can't cope with the physical demands of writing every day.  Once you start to dread sitting down at the keyboard because of a sore back, aching neck, or whatever, it intrudes into what your brain should be doing.

For anyone who doesn't normally knock out at least 2000 words a day may I suggest you get some practice in before the start date, otherwise your body may react to the unusual physical demands by saying "Sod this for a game of soldiers" and shutting down.

Neck, shoulders, wrists, and fingers can become stiff and sore, and your back may join in as well.  But if you're used to them the physical demands aren't a problem, unless you sit glued to your seat for several hours at a stretch.  Much of this can be fixed by better working posture, but drastic changes now could also wreak havic until your body settles to a new regime.  (More on this later.)

Just remember to get off your bum for a while, stroll around every now and then, and loosen up the other joints.  Before it starts to hurt.  Maybe even take a walk outside.  Just to remind yourself that it's still there ;-)  I'm not  insisting you interact with 'outside' whilst in a creative fervour.  Especially if you're writing a first person story where you're a killer.  The boundaries can get a bit blurred at times ;-)  

Adjust the brightness - and possibly colour - of your computer screen as needed, otherwise your eyeballs will feel like a pair of fried eggs by the end of the first week, and worse still, may be just about as useful for seeing.

When you are only writing sporadically none of the above really become a problem.  When you are writing full time you need to get them right.  The difference in comfort when you have things set up just right is amazing, and can allow you to put in the occasional 10,000 word day [1] when things are zipping along in your mind and you don't want to stop.

NANO is an 'experience', not just a job to be done.  Go for it.

[1]Starving offspring, frustrated spouses, and the vagaries of the so-called 'real world' permitting.)

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Q:  Should I try and do a set number of words each day?
A:  Certainly try and write each day, even if some days are less productive than others.

There's a lot to be said for getting ahead of the average count in the first week at least, as it allows a little 'wriggle room' later if Real Life intrudes.  If you can get a third of it done in the first week it feels quite inspiring.

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Follow this link and definitely consider giving f.lux a trial over the next week.  It's free.

http://stereopsis.com/flux/

And here's a thread talking about it.  http://www.mywriterscircle.com/index.php/topic,39209.0.html

It automatically adjusts the brightness of your screen and can be a real eye-saver when you're working at night.  You need to set it properly for your geographical location, but as someone who finds himself writing at all hours I'd hate to be without it now.

Little things make a difference when you're spendings hours at the keyboard.

Well worth the experiment.

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More later ;-)
  
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 01:05:05 PM
Second tip.

Planned, or seat of the pants?

It's a 50/50 gamble until you learn what sort of writer you are.  Which is of course another reason you're entering NANO , isn't it?

If you already know you're the methodical type then get on with planning.  Planning beforehand isn't against the 'rules', and even if you have a sudden flight of inspiration part way through you'll still have your plan to fall back on.

The 'seat of the pants' writer is more of an adrenaline junkie, who gets a thrill - and their inspiration - from not knowing exactly what's going to happen next.  The novel is a journey of exploration for them as well as the readers.  Of course, what you write in November is just a fast first draft, not a polished pearl.

Some writers love to ride the wild steed of inspiration bareback until it either throws them off  before the finish, or canters over the line totally spent.  Others like to feel they have some control over the voices in their head.

I'm inclined towards the wild horses myself.  I always picture my 'horse of inspiration' as a spirited black stallion.  The either/or situation reminds me of something the writer John Braine said about over-organised people who insisted on having everything plotted our first, and who claimed the horse was easier to ride if you had a saddle and bridle.

"The saddle and bridle are there, okay.  But where's the bloody horse?"

I always remember this if I find myself getting bogged down in the technicalities too early on.


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More later.
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 01:21:55 PM
Tip Three:

Completing a thing like this is as much about psychology as effort.  Don't panic, I'm not about to unleash Freud and suggest that the length of your finished novel is related to your penis size or libido ;-)

I'm talking about little bits of practical psychology, like the everyday tricks you play on yourself anyway to get yourself through a trying day.  Here's one to keep you going.

In the old days one of the spurs to success, and a source of reassurance that you were getting somewhere, was the diminishing pile of blank sheets on one side of the typewriter and the growing pile of filled pages on the other.  A growing word count on the screen just doesn't have the same reassuring physical presence.

So, each day write up the day's total and the accumulated total on a sticky Post-It note.  Then stick it to the wall where you can see it.  Mine ran down the side of my year planner, and I had to scramble on my bed to reach it for the first week.

Each day stick the new note to the bottom of the previous one so you have a growing 'tail', as a physical reminder and prompt.  The first one will need to be quite high on the wall, and may need a strip of Sellotape as well to stop it pulling free under its own weight around day twenty.  If you have a window open and the tail flaps too much just tape it down part way along.

Every day, when you first sit down to write, you'll see the growing tail and feel inspired.  You could just do a long paper strip and write the numbers, but the little ritual of adding a new bit each night also helps you switch off until the next time ;-)

It won't work for everyone, but if it does, you'll like it.

Gyppo

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More later...  
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 03:13:51 PM
Tip 4

Q:  What about the dreaded 'hole in middle' slump?  Or the 'run out of gas a third of the way in' even though you know how it's going to end?

A:  This is where the planners generally have less problems than the raw adrenaline writers.

You're about a third of the way through.  One third jitters/disgust/irritation is quite common.  I'll vouch for this.  But it's not compulsory.  Don't feel left out if you just breeze through this roadblock.  Just press on regardless.

It may be that you are taking longer than you hoped to get into your stride with the story.  In that case later, when you've finished, you'll cut or rewrite a lot of the early stuff.  At the very worst you can look on it as warm-up material, which you need to get through to reach the real meat of your story.  Don't give up yet.

It happens to famous authors as well.

In an interview Neil Gaiman said he regularly rings up his agent to tell her his latest novel is a failure, it's not working out, that he hates it.  She just says "That's good, you must be about a third of the way through.  You always do this Neil.  Just get on and finish it."

He claims that each time this is a complete surprise to him.  It seems that once authors have a finished story, or the start of a new one bubbling in their head they wipe the 'labour pains' of previous literary offspring from their memories.

If you know what's going to happen in a later scene, go ahead and write it.  This will have two benefits.  1)  You'll have a scene done so you won't need to write it later ;-)  2)  More importantly, it will keep you writing until your jitters calm down.  Keeping going is important in Nano.  Even if you only write 200 words on a bad day, it's 200 less to be added to the next days target.  If you lose a couple of days through funk you will be sorely tempted to give up, so avoid the situation ..

A planned day off, or a real world emergency is a different beast entirely.

I'll expand on the possible benefits of writing out of sequence later.

But for now, just remember that jitters/nerves/blind funk are quite common, and most writers survive quite well once they realise they're not the first or last person it will happen to.

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More later...
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Silt on October 19, 2011, 03:31:34 PM
Have fun, ask for support if you feel the need. Remember 'Winner' is anyone who participates no matter what the end total.

If you write 200 a day x 31 days = 6200 words more than you had at the start.
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 03:40:07 PM
Silt is correct up to a point.  If the winner's certificate is important to you you'll need that 50,000+.

Many people who don't reach the total in the time carry on and finish their stories, and the finished length of most novels is more than 50,000 anyway.  

But from a learning point of view anything you didn't have at the start of the month is good.  It's only wasted if you don't learn from the experience.

Now on to Tip 5...
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 03:42:48 PM
Tip 5

The 25 day trick.

Tell yourself you're going to complete it in twenty five writing days.  Two thousand words a day, more on a good day.

Think what this means.  You'll have five spare days for a bit of slack if something goes wrong.  This is a priceless buffer zone.  If you're suffering from aches and pains and know a day off will help then take one.  But use them wisely.  If you've been feeling a bit jaded do something very different, like a trip to the sea, a visit to town, a day in the country, a classy dinner with your partner, stuff like that.  

You probably won't stop thinking about your novel, but don't actively pursue it.  Let the subconscious do some work while you play.

The psychology behind this is simple.  If you're on target, or even ahead, you're not wasting precious writing time, so your conscience won't nag at you and wear you down.

If you don't need any of your 'rest days' then you've got time to give it a very light edit, just for continuity and obvious gaps, before verifying your total.

PS:  Never settle for an exact 50,000.  All word-counters give slightly different results.  A spare thousand or so will make sure it verifies properly.  If that spare thousand are your notes for alterations and editing then fair enough.  It's all connected to the story.

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More later.
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: 510bhan on October 19, 2011, 05:01:03 PM
This all terrific stuff Gyppo. Would you like it 'stickied' until Nano is over?
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 05:28:40 PM
If you and the other mods think its a good idea then please go ahead and sticky it.

I'm on a bit of a roll tonight, so the output will probably slow down over the next few days ;-)

Gyppo
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Silt on October 19, 2011, 06:31:43 PM
But that was my point, Gyppo. If you have a Winner, then who are those who don't reach that goal? If you are there just for a win, well, for me it is not the same.

Competition is great, but the idea of Nano should never be a competition, even if for a word count.

For me though the achievement of 50000 words is great, that number shouldn't be considered a pass or fail, for that puts a negative on what should be positive - writing

I've lost my point - ah there it is.

Remember you are there to write - begin something - finish something - so don't worry about the Winner/Loser(?) aspect.

**

Very good points, Gyppo.

Something for everyone.
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 06:51:14 PM
Tip 6

The two document trick.

If you're an inspired writer there's a good chance ideas, or whole sections of dialogue or action, for other parts of the story will pop into your head whilst writing the current scene.  If you rely on remembering these they may be gone when you get back to them.

Most word processors allow you to have two or more documents open at the same time, so take advantage of this.  Two is plenty.  The one you're working on and a note-taker  for the other bits.

Don't forget to save both.  Regularly.  Once you get used to the idea you probably won't forget, but until then it's easy to save the main one and forget to save the 'note-taker' before turning off for the night.  

You'll curse if you lose something really good.

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More later...

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Tip 7

Save, save, save.

Save regularly.  Get into the habit.   If you lose a day's work you'll feel like quitting.

The only way to avoid loss is to SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.  Let it become an ingrained habit.  If you're a bit casual about these things then it's time to get real.  Shove a Post-It note on the monitor.  Another on your room door, so you'll see it whenever you leave the room.  Statistically the odds against a power cut while you have a pee or make a cup of coffee are remote, but the gods help those who help themselves.

But it's very easy to forget when things are flowing well so here's something you may not know.

Most processors have an 'auto save' somewhere in the settings, as well as saving manually.  Hunt this down, it's worth the time for the peace of mind. If you find this and set it for something ludicrously short like three minutes all you will notice, if anything, is a brief flicker on the screen as it saves.  This way the most you should ever lose is a few sentences.  Or maybe a paragraph or two if you're a real speed demon.

This won't help if you get tired or careless enough to hit [Delete] by mistake when doing a cut and paste or similar, but it provides a good general safety net.  But most processors have an [UNDO] facility if you stay calm and use it before adding more text.

Backup.  Backup.  Backup.  Get into the habit of backing up all the day's work onto a thumb drive before going to sleep. Or onto another drive on the same machine.  Not just another partition on the same drive, which is useless if the drive suddenly dies under the extra work you're heaping on it.  Great peace of mind there.

During Nano month I take to wearing the thumb drive on a thong around my neck.  Not only is it secure it keeps my mind focused.

(I also have a portable version of my processor on the drive, which allows me to temporarily take over another machine and make it mine (with all the familiar settings and tools) if the opportunity arises while I'm out and about.   All the work is done on the thumb drive, it leaves nothing on the borrowed machine.)

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More later...

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Tip 8

Don't , unless you absolutely have to, change to a different processor during Nano.  Whether you use Open Office Writer, Word, Word Perfect, Jarte, whatever.  Learning a new system is not a good mix with the creative process.

Even a clunky old system you know well is better than a new one with all the extra chances of data loss or some other screw-up.  Better the devil you know, even if a friend is singing the praises of his new choice.

December is early enough to play with new toys, and maybe drop hints about what you'd like for Christmas.

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More later...

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Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: thatollie on October 19, 2011, 08:08:43 PM
Y'know, this advice is as useful during the rest of the year as it is during November.

I do have something to add to tip number 1. This is something that helps me and may help others. I'm talking about timed writing sessions. Here's a few benefits; you don't have to check you're wordcount every five seconds (seriously, that's what I did the first time I nano'd) and can concentrate on getting the story down, you can have a natural break period after the timer goes, you can have several short writing sessions spread out during the day (which is better for your health). You can either invest in a kitchen timer (if you're fond of ticking clocks) or there's this nice silent timer I found recently.

http://www.online-stopwatch.com/countdown-timer/
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 08:50:51 PM
Good point, Ollie.  There's something about putting yourself under the clock which works wonders for some people.  If you just get on with it you'll be amazed how much you can do in a mere fifteen minutes for example..

Some writers are natural sloggers, and some are sprinters.  If you find you're a sprinter then a countdown timer is an excellent tool.  If it sounds when you're in full cry then just reset and carry on.  Once you can keep to self-imposed deadlines you'll find productivity nearly always increases, and outside deadlines seem far less threatening.

Another benefit is that even when your 'Real Life' is a mess you can 'turn on' The Writer with the clock in pre-defined sessions and feel the world slipping away as the clock starts to tick.  This ability to work under almost any conditions is well worth cultivating.  It may seem impossible at first, but it gets easier with experience.
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 08:54:51 PM
Tip 9

Don't save it as one huge document.   Partly for security reasons and partly for convenience.   Huge files load and save slowly.

Save it in chapters, if you're organised enough at this stage.  Or save each days input as a separate file.

The last one I did I saved as days, but within each day I numbered the individual scenes.  From one through to 120.

Why?  Because instead of writing it from start to finish as I normally would I leapt from scene to scene, often out of sequence.  By numbering the scenes it was easier to later  - a few months later - arrange them into a more coherent order.  A bit like a giant sliding tile puzzle ;-)   It was a mammoth cut and paste job, but it worked.  The object of the exercise was to get it written and as some research answers had to come from America I needed to do other bits whilst waiting.

This means that as an interim stage I did cut and paste it all into one huge document, but this was much later at the editing stage.  November is about writing, about getting the words down and keeping the imagination open and unfettered by too much editing and/or self doubt.

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More later...

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Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 08:57:24 PM
Tip 10

Another little psychological trap for the unwary.

Don't talk it to death with friends/family.  If you're a natural storyteller then once you've explained it to a few people your mind will feel its been dealt with and lose interest.  Seriously.  Once you've lost the impetus it's hard to get it back.

Remember you're supposed to be writing it.

Discussing bits of it, without giving too much away, with other Nano-ers is okay.  Throwing out a research question to your fellow writers will often enliven a sluggish section.  But don't get too bogged down in debate.  Just some selective brain-picking.

This next may smack of superstition, but even when I know exactly how a story is going to end I won't write the end until I get there.  A few notes to remind me, but nothing more.   Writing the end is a significant milestone in any story, short or long.  Often followed by a significant slump for a few days.  Keep it in its place.

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More later...

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Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 19, 2011, 08:59:27 PM
Tip 11

Remember it's supposed to be fun, no matter how serious the subject matter.  Especially the first draft.  That smug do-gooder Mary Poppins, although I hate to admit it, was right.  'In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.  Find that fun and snap, the job's a game.'

Yes, there can be a copyright problem with using quotes from songs in a novel.  Even just a few lines can be a sizeable chunk from a short song.  You are supposed to ask for permission.  But don't worry too much at first draft stage.  The rules apply to publication, so as long as what's on your computer stays on your computer you're not breaking any laws about copyright.  That's something else to be dealt with at the editing stage.

In my experience a song which seems terribly important to the plot whilst you're writing the book, for example something a couple see as 'their tune', can be reduced to nothing more than the title when you come to tidying up the tale, and there's no copyright on titles ;-)

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Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 20, 2011, 07:12:11 AM
Tip 12

Q:  Do you need a title before you start?

A:  It all depends.  Some people can cheerfully write a whole book and wait for the title to emerge from  some incident or phrase within the story.  Others find a title springs to mind in a flash and the story to go with it unfolds a little more slowly.

I have a short list of 'orphan' titles which as yet have no story.  But mine generally spring from the telling.

However...  I do like a working title because - yes, it's writers psychology again -  it makes the book seem more real in the early stages at least before it becomes a sizeable wad of words.  It gives you a handle on what can initially be a slippery and tenuous beast to pin down.

So how do you get a working title?  It's nothing more than a short description of what the book is about.  For example, How the crazy bastard down the road finally flipped one night, shot his neighbours, and was hunted by the police.

It won't be long before it becomes a more convenient shorter version, crazy bastard, in your mind.

The final title may draw on this and become One Crazy Night.  It still encapsulates the main thrust of the story and hopefully will entice a bookshop browser to pick it up and read the blurb on the back.

Publishers will often suggest changing a title, so don't get too attached.

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More later...

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Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Spell Chick on October 21, 2011, 07:03:50 AM
May I suggest saving it to the cloud as well?

I use Dropbox for cloud storage, but Google documents works as well.

It is ALWAYS better to store your stuff in more than one place. Since I have three different computers, for me it is essential to be able to access a current document from any or all of them. Storing a document in the cloud means you can get it from your laptop while at Starbucks or from your desktop while at home. Just always remember to CLOSE the document when you finish at that particular computer.
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 21, 2011, 07:56:09 AM
Thanks, SC.

Some useful extra input there.  I do nearly all my work on one machine so have never bothered to pursue the concept of 'cloud storage'.  But for those of you who dash around from one machine to another this sounds like excellent advice.

Gyppo
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 21, 2011, 06:55:10 PM

Tip 13

Q:  Does it matter if I just write any old rubbish in order to make the 50,000 word total?

A:  Matter to whom?  If you're just filling pages with utter nonsense then you will meet the total, but you won't have done much more than exercise your fingers.

You could cheat and just cut and paste 'I'm doing Nano this year' ten thousand times.  I'm sure a computer nerd could write a short programme to automate this.  The verification process won't detect your self-cheating.  But it won't do you any real good.

However...  If you write nonsense for the first hundred words each day rather than sitting there looking at a blank screen  and telling yourself you can't write, or can't think of anything to write, you will find that something rather wonderful happens. 

Often your subconscious will rebel against the mindless nonsense and you'll find useful stuff pouring from your fingertips.  It may take a few sessions like this before you learn to trust the subconscious, but it will deliver.  Experienced writers learn to trust this.  They know from practical experience that a few minutes of finger exercise at the keyboard summons the brain.

I sometimes feel there is a pressure switch in my bum which makes contact and turns on the full works as soon as I settle on the chair in front of my machine.  It also tends to turn off outside worries, but that may be the fruit of many years at the keyboard.

When writing by hand I definitely think more clearly with a pen or pencil in my hand.  A quick twiddle or perhaps a doodle on the pad seems to unlock extra circuits in my brain.

Rubbish?  As long as the rubbish leads to better stuff don't be afraid to write it.  See it as clearing/preparing the workspace before starting a job.  Just as manure fertilises gardens so a little helping of written crap may fertilise your imagination.

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More later...

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Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: thatollie on October 21, 2011, 07:09:04 PM
That's essentially what I've been doing here for the last five years.
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: thatollie on October 22, 2011, 09:56:39 AM
Oliver's Tip #2

When you turn on your computer for a writing session, write the session before you do anything else. It is very easy to get lost in the labyrinth of the internet. Don't even come here, someone will post something interesting and in your writerly enthusiasm you'll head off to wikipedia to find out more, and then you'll search youtube for videos about it, and then you'll click a few linked videos and half an hour later you'll be watching random humour videos.

Seriously, here's a real example . . .

I started here: http://living-planit.com/default.htm

and ended here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtN1YnoL46Q

At the end of the day you'll have about half as much written as you could have, and that won't be too bad . . . 'til the very next day.
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 23, 2011, 11:35:33 AM
Tip 14

Ollie raises an excellent point...  Let's enlarge on it a little.

Go offline before you start.  I know, scary, isn't it?  You don't need a minute by minute or even an hourly update on your emails, personal messages, whatever.  Honestly.  The world won't come to a grinding halt if you're not connected to it.  Try it, even if you can't stand more than half an hour 'unplugged' at first.  You have a week to break yourself of this pernicious habit.

Twice a day is enough.  Midday and evening works quite well.  If anyone really, really, desperately, needs to get hold of you they'll phone, or in a busy office get off their fat arse and visit you at your desk.

Remember, the latest update for World Of ...... isn't a matter of life or death.  But...

Nano is only thirty days.   A mere 720 hours.  Doesn't sound so much when you think of it in hours, does it?  So why waste any of them looking at scam e-mails saying you've won contests you never even entered.

'Dear Gullible, you have won first prize in El Gordo, the Spanish National Lottery and have 37 million dead bulls waiting to flood into your bank account...'

Even an email from your boss saying you've been fired won't get any worse for being ignored for a few hours.  But it could spoil your 'flow' when you're writing well.

The Internet is an addiction , but rather than ask you to just give it up I'm suggesting you can change it for another addiction for November.

Fire up your word processing programme first thing and leave it on all day, with your Nano document open but minimised, so that whenever the spirit moves you all you need to do is click and get writing again.   Even the slowest of computers will handle this easily with all the 'webby stuff' turned off.

When you truly need to go online for research purposes set your timer for fifteen minutes.  If you can't find what your looking for in quarter of an hour either you're search parameters are naff, or you're being sidetracked too easily.  Probably the latter.  Web wandering is fun, but it's not writing, is it?

If there's a lot of reading which needs doing see if you can cut and paste a copy into that spare document you have open - you have remembered that trick, haven't you? - so you can read it later off-line and not be tempted into following spurious links.

To semi-quote Rudyard Kipling's If...

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute,
 with sixty second's worth of distance run.
 Yours is the world and everything that's in it,
 and Nano will be a piece of cake, Old Son."

(43,200 seconds to play with.)

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Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: thatollie on October 24, 2011, 08:47:01 PM
Oliver's Tip #3

Remember that there's more to nanowrimo than winning.

First, let's get something straight. Every time you write, you are gaining valuable experience whether you can use the piece or not. This is as true during Nano as it is during the rest of the year. But Nano has some other advantages as well . . .

It's fun, there I said it. National Novel Writing Month is fun, I've lost five consecutive times; not only have I gained valuable experience each time but I also had a heck of a lot of fun each time. That's why I go for it again and again and again . . .

It's also a chance to experiment, I'm trying out different planning methods this year. In the past I've tried out new genres, and ideas that don't seem to suit me, and techniques that are ouotside my comfort zone. It's really helped me become a better writer.
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Jane2011 on October 24, 2011, 08:59:46 PM
Have you participated in Nano while you were working on a project already? Is there an upside to this?
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 24, 2011, 09:06:42 PM
Sometimes the hyper-'buzz' of Nano will fuel your other writing as well.  Sometimes the opposite happens and you find yourself having to choose rather than burning out and doing both badly.  It's one of those judgement calls.  One thing Nano does teach most people is just how much they can do.

Gyppo
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: thatollie on October 24, 2011, 09:14:44 PM
Have you participated in Nano while you were working on a project already? Is there an upside to this?

No, I always clear my schedule in October. I don't have any experience of this situation, so I don't have any advice.
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: thatollie on October 30, 2011, 12:48:06 AM
Oliver's Tip #4: Gambits

This is something to do if you get stuck, have the characters become proactive. Stories often get bogged down because characters are merely reacting to the last event rather than trying to make things happen. Your characters (all of them) should try to make things happen and resolve the plot in their favour.
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 30, 2011, 08:38:25 AM
Cheers, Ollie.

Some stories rely too heavily on 'The Hand Of God', which is the lucky coincidence.  Now, we all know that bizarre coincidences really do happen in real life, but in fiction these things seem too good to be true.  You can use them, but sparingly.  Very sparingly.

So yes, make your characters earn their luck.  If they're fighting for their life then they should damned well fight, not just stumble over a handy weapon.  They should not only seize opportunity but make it.  For example, in one of Lee Childs 'Reacher' novels the female character is locked away in a secure room within a room, but she breaks the tiles in the shower and ends up with two triangular ceramic 'weapons', small enough to be held in the hand but with a sharp edge protruding.

Some writers would stop there, but Lee has her carefully chipping away at the softer back of the tile fragments to further expose the hardened ceramic surface and make more of a 'blade'.

That's proactive plus ;-)

She improvises a few other things as well, but the extra step with the tile weapons impressed me and also boosted her character a few more notches.

Oh yes, she was crippled as well, with a damaged leg, which gave her an extra problem to overcome. On the other hand the crutch became an essential tool in aiding her escape.  But not in an obvious way.

Make your characters work.  If they have a set of built in advantages, either strip them away, or better still turn these against them so they have to think and improvise.  In another of the 'Reacher' books  Reacher, who is six five and built like the proverbial brick outhouse has to fight a much shorter man in a tunnel.  All his advantages of height and weight are taken away, but the dwarf, a powerful little chap also fighting for his life, can stand upright, dance around, and kick as well as punch with no problem.

Apart from 'Hand of God' solutions there is always the ever present risk of the 'Hand of Author' solution.  If you have created a character with too many aces in his hand you'll be tempted to always use them.  Sometimes, in fact more often than not,  your characters need to play a losing hand, in order to later rise above the consequences.

Let them have their advantages sometimes, but don't rely on them.  For example, I have a wealthy man in one of my stories who solves the Bank Holiday gridlock problem by simply pulling off the road and phoning for a helicopter air taxi.  I wanted to show that a man with money, who was prepared to use it, could sometimes turn problems into minor irritations.  But later in the book he faces problems which money can't solve.

The main mark of a storybook hero/heroine is they never give up .  A main character who is willing to roll over and die will kill the whole book.  They may even die, sometimes they have to.  But they die trying and achieve in the process.

Make them earn every word you devote to them.

=====

More later - maybe.  But time is running out.

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Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 30, 2011, 07:05:09 PM
Final thoughts.
 
Just a few obvious things to round off.

Nano Food.  We all know we shouldn't sit there and eat at the keyboard.  We also know that sooner or later we will.  Partly because we don't want to be away from our creations and lose the thread.  So...

If your crumbly biscuits, or cream crackers and cheese suddenly explode and shower the keyboard there are two steps you need to take.  The first is to turn away and finish eating whatever it is.

The second is to turn the keyboard upside down, or the whole laptop if you use one of those abominations, and tap it gently against something solid so all the debris falls out.

This is far better than just brushing it off, which will inevitably drive some bits down between the keys.  Some of these bits will then find their way under the keys and cause problems later.

Drink:  A drink spilled all over the keyboard can cause problems.  If possible keep your drink to one side and below the keyboard, so if you knock it over it causes less damage.

If it's just water, or non-sugary tea or coffee turn the keyboard upside down over something absorbent and let the liquid drain back out.  Then wipe it over.

Sugary drinks will make the keys feel sticky, which is quite disconcerting, and may dry inside and gum up the works.  So quickly mop off the worst, and then allow it to drain upside down.  You may need to give them another wipe over later to clear any residual stickiness.

All of this can be a pain when your story is on full flow, but prompt action can save you a heap of trouble later.

If your keyboard is already sticky and crumby then give it a damn good clean up before starting Nano.  It will feel all the better for it and so will you.

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Are you sitting comfortably.  If not, why not?  Would you drive your car for hour after hour in an uncomfortable position?  Probably not.

Even if your position feels perfectly comfortable you still ought to get up and stretch a bit every hour or so.  You don't have to stop thinking about your story.  Your muse can still be in full cry as you stretch out your arms, roll your shoulders, or bend and straighten your back a few times.  If your joints crack and pop then you should probably be doing it more often.

While you're doing this look away from the screen and focus your eyes on something in the distance for a while.  If it feels as if your eyeballs are un-cramping themselves then don't leave it so long next time.  The muscles which change the focus by thinning or expanding the lenses of your eyes do get cramped if they stay in one position too long.

Blink:  Blink a bit as well, which helps to moisten your eyeballs.  People normally blink quite regularly, but will stare unblinkingly at a screen for hours.  If your eyes are starting to burn or feel gritty you need to blink more often.

Clothing:  Be comfortable.  If your work space is a bit chilly  then sometimes slipping a jumper on makes more sense than fiddling with heaters.  When the only thing which is really moving, possibly for hours on end,  is your fingers the rest of you can get quite chilly.  Especially down the middle of your back, which will eventually stiffen your shoulders, your arms, and your fingers.  A good compromise here is a jumper draped down your back, the sleeves just hanging down your front to keep it in place.

My ex used to say this was how she knew I was in 'serious writer' mode ;-)

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Clean your screen.  Thoroughly, and once you've got it looking clear keep it that way.  It gives you something to do during those blank times when you don't really want to stop but the ideas slow down to a trickle for while.  It can take a few minutes to do this thoroughly, rather than just a quick wipe which moves the dust around and leaves streaks.

Glasses:  Same for your glasses if you wear them.  Starting the day with clean glasses and a clean screen means you can go a lot longer before you find yourself peering through a fog.

Take them off when you stop to drink something hot and steamy.  That way you won't be looking through a mist when you start typing again.

I know, this is all small stuff, but it adds up over the course of a day.  The difference to ease and comfort over the whole month is really noticeable.

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If I don't get to add any more, which is quite possible, I hope some of the previous posts have been helpful to you.

Finally...

Have a good Nano.  Better still, have a great one.

Gyppo
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Suemcb on October 30, 2011, 08:05:45 PM
I've finally done it. No going back now I have registered. My chicken side is frantically clucking and calling me an idiot but its too late!
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 30, 2011, 08:19:51 PM
You'll love it ;-)
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Jane2011 on October 30, 2011, 10:12:25 PM
Soots, I did too. I am now thinking "What the heck have I done". I already have a project going on. YIKES! :o
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Suemcb on October 31, 2011, 03:05:34 PM
I have an outline ready to start with but I also have another book that I am half way through and stuck on. So this seemed to be a way to get me moving again. I look at it as whatever number I get to it means I have at least written something. I am looking forward to starting something new just as soon as I get off here ;D

If anyone wants to buddy up my user name on Nano is suziewong.
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 31, 2011, 06:23:00 PM
With a little over one and a half hours to the Nano start I'd just like to say thank you to the various people who have read this topic over 550 times in its fairly short life.

It's good to know it was interesting, and hopefully useful as well.

Gyppo
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: thatollie on October 31, 2011, 07:37:28 PM
I have one last tip.

Enthusiasm is a superpower, use it.
Title: Re: Sticky: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Gyppo on October 31, 2011, 07:58:54 PM
Absolutely.
Title: Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
Post by: Dawn on October 23, 2012, 09:31:35 AM
Fantastic thread for nano