Category Archives: 50K

That does it! NaNoWriMo 2014 is a Wrap!

This year I cut it closer than any other year. Instead of finishing a few days early, with bursts of productivity throughout the month and gaps where I fell behind, I kept a fairly steady pace. Plodding along (Ha! As if I just described 1,667 words a day as plodding!), until I crossed the line a few short minutes ago.
That’s right I’ve done it! I won NaNoWriMo (and I got this nice little banner to prove it, because we all know miscellaneous images from the internet proves things! Oh, and the banner is a link.)
Now. That said, there are likely some of you that didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, or perhaps some that did participate and didn’t cross the 50,000 word threshold. Well. You want to know the truth?
It doesn’t matter.
That’s right. I said it right here, and my word is law (on this blog anyway). 
NaNoWriMo isn’t really about writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Ok, well it is. Sort of. But not really. Nay! The point of NaNoWriMo is to (follow along with me here) build good writing habits.
Whether those habits are: 
250 words a day, 7 days a week
500 words a day, 5 days a week
1,667 words a day, 7 days a week
or Eleventy-bajillion words a day, 3 days a week
What matters is consistency and habit, and learning deep down, that if you chip away at something a little each day you can do it.
Let’s look at what a novel is at face value, and for the sake of argument I’ll throw away my usual target of ~100,000 words and go with NaNo’s 50,000 words.
50,000 is still a BIG number. There are roughly 250 words per printed page in a paperback novel. That means there are roughly 200 pages in a 50,000 word book. It’s not a door stop, but we’re not talking about a flimsy pamphlet either.
Starting at 0 words, putting together 50,000 of them seems nigh impossible. But, 1,667 (the daily goal of NaNoWriMo)? That’s not TOO bad. I can write that in a few hours (or less if I have a really good outline and no interruptions).
After day 2? I’ve got a little over 3,000 words. After day 9? I’ve got 15,000 words. That’s a BIG number right there, in a little over a week.

I likely never would have finished Crow’s Blood (the idea for which came out of a NaNo novel) were it not for NaNoWriMo teaching me that chipping away at the big number with a pile of little numbers would actually get me there. I learned that I could write a full length novel.

Now, that’s not to say that this year’s story is done (not by a long shot), or that the 50,000 words I’ve written are any good. It’s a Zero-draft, chances are a lot of those words are due to be scrapped and replaced with better ones in the first revision pass (and I’ll do MANY revision passes). But I find it a LOT easier to revise something that exists on the page, and it’s good writing habits that get them there in the first place.

Even if you don’t cross that 50,000 word line to “win” NaNoWriMo, as long as you worked consistently toward the goal of writing your novel, and learned some of those good writing habits, you’re still a winner.

So for everyone who partook in this month of writing dangerously and developed those good writing habits along the way.

Here. Have a Wordasaurus! You earned it.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? How did you do?

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Filed under 50K, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Revision, Word Count

A Few Quick Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

First, in case you’ve been living under a rock (or you’re someone who follows, or is visiting this blog, not because you want to mine it for amazing little golden wisdom and insight nuggets about writing, but because you know ME personally):
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a bit of a misnomer, but InNoWriMo (International Novel Writing Month) and GloNoWriMo (Global Novel Writing Month) don’t roll off the tongue as nicely… scratch that, GloNoWriMo is still kind of awesome! It takes place in the month of November every year and the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or ~1,667 words/~6.67 manuscript pages a day.

You don’t have to be some sort of mythical “writer” beast to be able to participate. Writing isn’t magical. Stories don’t burst forth from our heads fully formed and flapping their leathery wings. Writing is work. It starts with a cool idea, or a character, or a setting, or even as little as a really awesome one-liner. From there it’s a building process, one keystroke at a time.

This is my 4th year participating, and I’ve reached the 50,000 word goal every year. It takes me anywhere from an hour and a bit to three hours to write 1,667 words, mostly because I have a hard time shutting my internal editor out entirely.

I’ve had varied reactions to doing NaNo this year. Writer folks have all cheered me on and talked about doing it themselves (which is cool), or why they’re not doing it (which is also cool). Non-Writer folks have been split. Those who don’t know me as well as they should simply ask “why?”, especially when they see my recent announcement. Those who know me well know that I LOVE the challenge and dabbling in the community that shared pressure and experience brings.

NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing the next Harry Potter. It’s about building good habits and reaching the stunning realization that YES, you can write a novel. 50,000 words is a big number. And NaNo is all about showing that it is possible to write that many words in a reasonable amount of time. It’s a few hours a day, tops, for a month.

And if you don’t reach 50,000 words? Big deal! The real key, the point behind this whole exercise, is to form good writing habits. Sit your ass down in front of a keyboard, find your head-space, shut down Twitter and Facebook, close your web browser, and write. If you can do that consistently for 30 days then word count be damned, you win!

A few caveats for you, my fellow writers:
Crossing that 50,000 word finish line on, or before, or even after the 30th feels fantastic. It’s a rush! But even if you’ve written “The End” you are not done your novel. DO NOT QUERY! DO NOT SELF-PUBLISH! That way lies ruination and heartache!

You see, 50,000 words used to be a novel. These days it’s a Novella, with the actual word count of a novel falling somewhere between 60,000 words (literary works, cozy mysteries, contemporary YA, romance, etc.) to 110,000 words, which is roughly the maximum you can get away with for a debut Epic Fantasy or Science Fiction novel.

For the sake of argument, let’s say you’ve typed “The End”, be it at the close of your 50,000 word Novella, or your 110,000 word Epic Fantasy. BOOM! That’s awesome. Now, before you send it off:

Step away from the keyboard!

Go get a drink, or take your family/friends/self out for dinner. You deserve it! You wrote a NOVEL(LA)!!!! Don’t worry, I’ll be here when you get back.

*****

Back? Fantastic! Now that you’ve had time to blow off some of the endorphins that had you rocketing to the moon it’s time to get real. What you have on your hands is (almost definitely) not ready to go out. It needs a good revision or two (or 5) to whip it into that sort of shape.

Provided your dinner break earlier wasn’t on the scale of days or weeks, you’re likely going to need some distance to do it right. Not every writer does, but most of us need to get away from a story and come back to it as a bit of a stranger to be able to sort the gold from the muck. Go work on a different story, or write vignettes, or character studies. Whatever you do though:

KEEP WRITING!

I’ll see you later, I have to go register GloNoWriMo.org and get some words written.

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Filed under 50K, NaNoWriMo, Query, Word Count

My NaNoWriMo Survival Kit or How I Won and Didn’t Lose My Mind

I promised this at the beginning of the month: A list of the tools and tricks I use to survive (and win, 3 years in a row) NaNoWriMo.

I want to be perfectly clear, I don’t work for any of the following (except perhaps the last), and I don’t make any money off promoting their products. They’re simply things that have become an essential and integral part of being able to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Could I do it without them? Sure. I absolutely could (except again, the last). I won my first year of NaNo using MS Word and nothing else. But I’ve built this arsenal and I intent to continue using it as I work to build and perfect my craft.

So here it is.

Literature & Latte‘s Scrivener and Scapple
I used Scrivener during NaNo last year, in fact I learned Scrivener during NaNo last year. It’s an incredibly robust piece of writing software that I now do 95% of all my writing in (even the technical documents I often write for work).

It has an easy to grasp interface with plenty of places for notes, synopsis, and tags, that all feeds into a neat little corkboard interface you can use to shift scenes about. It’s robust built-in tool-set can be overwhelming if you just dive in and try to use it all at once. Take some time and do the tutorials, and always remember: You don’t have to use EVERY feature. Use what works for you.

Just a note on Scrivener, the Manuscript Target display loses count somehow and will be short on words if you leave it open all the time. Use the “Project=>Project Statistics” count for a closer idea, it will also update the Manuscript Target count.

Scapple is new for me this year (it’s a fairly new product). Where Scrivener is robust and complex, Scapple is stark and simple. It’s a free-form mind-mapping tool that I’ve started to use for outlining (and taking notes at work…). I’m positive I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what Scapple can do.

Nuance Mobile‘s Swype for Android with Dragon Dictation
If it weren’t for this software I’m positive I would have lost my mind. I spend ~3 hours a day, 4 days a week commuting from my day job. That’s 12 hours of potential writing time I waste in my car. At the same time, driving is boring, which also makes it one of the best times to have epiphanies about plot points, scenes, and character interactions.

Before using the Dragon Dictation piece of Swype I would do my best to remember all the little ideas I had while driving, and I’d inevitably fail.

That said, Dragon Dictation is FAR from perfect in a car with a great deal of road noise (I drive a 2012 Civic that I’m positive is made out of aluminium foil). Not to mention it might be less than optimal that I’m dealing with a Hidden History/Fantasy story with words that people just don’t use on a daily basis.

Still, even with the clean-up I had to do on what it scratched out for me, it was a great help in not losing my mind.

Mur Lafferty‘s I Should Be Writing NaNoWriMo Specials
I listen to the ISBW Podcast regularly (well, as regularly as Mur gets them out there, but she’s a busy writerly type person, with books coming out and deadlines and whatnot so I harbour no ill will). This year she’s done a series of podcasts dedicated solely to NaNoWriMo. I found them to be a nice break, and at times a good reminder that other people suffer from the same problems and blocks I do while writing.

Clementine Player’s “Rain” Extra.
This one’s a little different. On my Mac I use Clementine Player instead of iTunes, mainly because iTunes doesn’t support FLAC or some of the formats I’ve purchased or ripped music into. I write in a room adjacent to where the rest of my family watches TV, and frankly, I think they’re all going deaf.

Sometimes if I’m writing something challenging where I need to concentrate the sounds from the TV just don’t help. I need something without words to distract me and send me off on tangents. Sometimes that means classical music, instrumental, or even house/club/trance/techno.

Then there are the times where even having something with a regular beat, or discernible patterns causes problems. That’s where the “Rain” feature under “Extras” comes in. It’s a generated thunderstorm, where the thunder and rain patterns are random and non-repeating. It’s perfect.

ZeFrank‘s “An Invocation for Beginnings”
If you ever needed a kick in the pants to get something started, whether it’s the project on the whole, writing a particular scene, or just getting your butt in the chair, Ze’s Invocation is just what the doctor ordered.

I listen to it when I start out. I listen to it when I hit a wall. I listen to it when I just don’t feel like writing. It hasn’t failed me yet.

My Wife
She holds all the loose pieces on that seem ready to fly off at any given moment. Not only does she give me the time (time she loses) to write, she supplies encouragement and support, and most important of all, she sometimes even brings me caffeine!

She tolerates my cranky moods when things are going well. She kicks me in the ass when I whine too much. And she doesn’t make me sleep on the couch if I’m up ’til 1am “just finishing one more paragraph”.

Out of all the things that make winning NaNo possible, she’s the one I couldn’t do it without. Oh… and a word processor, because writing 50,000 words out by hand or on a typewriter would suck.

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Filed under 50K, Learning, MacBook Pro, NaNoWriMo, Real Life™, Scrivener, Word Count

And then some.

It’s the Saturday before Hallowe’en, time for parties and costumes and mistakenly bedding the wrong kangaroo costume clad spouse at drunken parties.  Good thing I don’t drink or go to parties, and my wife doesn’t dress as a kangaroo (most of the time).

What did I do on the Saturday evening before Hallowe’en?  I bashed out enough words to put this draft of BookB at 50,000 words.  That’s right, I sat in a chair at my kitchen table and played pretend in my head with my fingers flying across the well worn keyboard of my MacBook.

I did it to music of course.  Not the music you’d traditionally get at a Hallowe’en party, tonight it was Radiohead’s In Rainbows, which I bought during their blitz “pay what you want” sale for $8.  It did roll over into Kid A at some point, but I was too engrossed in my own little world to notice.

Speaking of Hallowe’en, or better still All Hallow’s Read, check out yesterday’s blog post for links and information on getting a free audiobook written and narrated by Neil Gaiman while supporting charity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and religiously following Kevin J Anderson’s blog for great tips for any writer, even if they aren’t participating in NaNo.  The goal for NaNo is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, a worthy goal for any writer who holds down a day job.

They classify 50K words as a novel, and at ~200 manuscript pages (205 with my style setup) I suppose it is.  But having hit that mark a few times now I’m not sure I could fit this novel into such a tight constraint.  Granted, the outline sits around 19,000 words, but I’m a heavy outliner.  I’m shooting for just shy of 100,000 words, and looking at my outline versus what I’ve written, that’s about spot on.

For those of you who follow my blog, or who have randomly jumped around and read that I’ve just entered the Third Act of the draft, you might wonder how I could possibly only be at 50K words.  Well, fear not my friends (and potential enemies looking for weaknesses via my blog), I have a fair number of chapters that still need to be written further back in the draft, and a good number of small re-writes to do.

If you recall (or care to search), I re-jigged the entire outline and dropped a number of viewpoint characters to rein in the story to something a little more manageable and character focused.  I’m still on track to finish the draft by the end of the year, and if I succeed for the second straight year in NaNoWriMo, possibly by the end of November.  Tack on a few months for edits and polish and I could be submitting by February.

Then again, I could be working on the next revision to clean up any major holes I leave this time 🙂

We’ll see soon enough.  Either way, I intend to enjoy the ride more than any possible accidental and mistaken pseudo-marsupial encounters I could be having.

– Grimm

P.S. Kat Ellis retweeted my Blog update announcement on Twitter (cause that’s where you retweet things) and my readership for last night’s blog post tripled!  For any of you who stick around, it’s good to have you.  There will be free explosions for words for all.

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Filed under 50K, BookB, family, MacBook Pro, music, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Real Life™, Twitter, Word Count

That’s a LOT of words.


50,000, 50K, fifty-thousand.  No matter how you write it, it’s a big number, well, as long as you’re not talking sports salaries anyway.  I crossed the finish line of NaNoWriMo this evening at 10:43PM EST.

This being my first ever NaNoWriMo, I didn’t have a clue what to expect. When I started out, I didn’t even know if I’d finish, and crossing that line tonight, I didn’t know what I’d feel when it happened.  You know what I feel?  Elated, satisfied, exhausted, surprised, and most of all, confident that I can do this if I really stick with it.  You see, even though 50,000 words is a lot of words, and it really is, it’s ~200 pages in a standard print paperback, I still have a LOT of work ahead of me.

I’m about half-way through my outline, which has had some major revisions as I went along, and I don’t want to cop out on the ending either, so I can’t just make one up and tack it on.  I built this story backwards from the ending so all the pieces would fit, and I can’t, in good conscience cheat myself of that effort.  Not at this stage where I’m still working on the process of how I’m going to do things.

Once I have the story completed, I have to start making it readable by other people.  There’s a few pieces here and there that turned out ok in what’s done of the first draft, but a lot of it needs some heavy revision, and back-filling of details and descriptions.  Something tells me “They Fight” isn’t going to get anyone’s heart racing.  Oh, and some of my dialog is dreadful!

So I mentioned that this was my first year doing NaNoWriMo, well, it certainly won’t be the last if I have anything to say about it.  I’ve learned SO MUCH from this endeavor that I can’t imagine not doing it again next year to learn some more.

Working with the deadline of 50,000 words in 30 days means you have to get ~1,667 words written per day.  That means you have to either find a few really great days for writing, or do what I did and set aside an hour or two each evening to work on it.  That process, that dedication of time and forming the habit of pushing forward was the biggest step forward for me.

My biggest problem before this event was the endless revisions I would do on the first 2-3 chapters of the book, all the while expanding and expanding on the world building and outlining.  While self revision is a great thing, nothing I ever write would be anything but eye-bleedingly bad without it, if I had kept allowing myself to do it, I would never have come close to 50,000 words.  It was the first hurdle I had to cross, and it took me nearly a week to get past it and get my butt in gear on the rest of the story.

I’ll try to do more blog posts as I go about this process, to let you know what I’m learning along the way.  As for this blog post being a bit of a train wreck.  Tonight I’m ok with that, I can always come back and revise it later 😉

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Filed under 50K, BookB, deadlines, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Word Count, World Building