Author Topic: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.  (Read 15585 times)

Offline Gyppo

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Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« 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.

================================================================

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.

=====

More later ;-)
  
« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 05:45:15 PM by Maimi »
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Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #1 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.


=====

More later.
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Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #2 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...  
« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 01:24:00 PM by Gyppo »
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

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Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #3 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.

=====

More later...
« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 03:21:49 PM by Gyppo »
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #4 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.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #5 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...
« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 03:50:49 PM by Gyppo »
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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #6 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.

=====

More later.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 03:51:06 PM by Gyppo »
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2011, 05:01:03 PM »
This all terrific stuff Gyppo. Would you like it 'stickied' until Nano is over?

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #8 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
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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #9 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.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #10 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.

=====

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.

=====

More later...

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« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 07:19:14 PM by Gyppo »
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline thatollie

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #11 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/
Never make a decision standing up.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #12 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.
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #13 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.

=====

More later...

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In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Pre NANO advice for those who who will be competing this year.
« Reply #14 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.

=====

More later...

=====
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1