Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TUESDAY TIP#Nanowrimo Bonus #iamwriting r u #reading ? @NaNoRDU

So I posted this morning with a few "getting started" tips on how to set yourself up on the Nanowrimo web site--at least, if you can get their servers to load the web pages (grin); however, as I went about other business today, I kept thinking, I didn't actually deliver any tips on writing. So I'm back, but this bonus post will be a quickie - just 3 tips.

One, before I forget, I meant to advise you on when and how to get onto the Nanowrimo web site.  I do not advise anyone to do this at work.

A lot of people (both in the US and in the UK) seem to think it's totally okay to use company resources to do personal activities (which nanowrimo is unless you are in a job which pays you to be a writer or professional reader). It's not okay. Don't do it.

Not only are you risking your job (it's grounds for termination in most employment contracts even if you didn't read the terms of your employment documents when you were hired--trust me, it's in there!) but it's also not the best time of day for you to access the Nanowrimo web site anyway.

Instead, I'd advise you to get up early, an hour or two earlier than you usually do, and plan to be online before 7am Eastern Time (USA). A lot of writers are night owls but force yourself to shift your sleep for this one month because you'll find that access to the Nanowrimo web site is sluggish in the evening. That because it's when both Americans and Europeans (mostly Britons) are online, talking in the forums or playing with the nano distractions.

When I did Nanowrimo in 2006, I actually switched myself to third shift. I got up at 2300 hrs and worked all night, getting offline by 9:00 am or 10:00 am Eastern Time (USA) because that's when the nano site got intolerably slow. I found that from about 3:00 am Eastern (which is 8:00 am (ish) in most of Europe) until about 8:00 am Eastern, the site was pretty good. Then by 8:00 or 9:00 am Eastern, the Europeans were hitting their lunch break and Americans started heading into the office (and west coasters/Pacific Time residents were just getting up) so it's a double whammy on the slow server performance. If you need access to the site (to upload your word count, forex), do it early in the day.

Okay, onto the tips. First of all, there is no "correct" way to write. Everyone has their own system and trying to use someone else's way of working may actually cause you problems where none need exist. For a few more quick tips on how to tackle your writing to make it exciting and energetic, click through the jump-break.

Begin With the End in Mind
This is a phrase I learned to internalize for just about everything in life way back in the 80s when I first read Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea is to know where you're going before you start. Otherwise, you end up struggling to make progress only to find that you missed a turn or took the wrong fork in the road. If you know where you're going before you start moving, you can recognize and correctly choose every fork and turn and twist in your journey.

For a writer, this can mean different things depending on how you approach writing. Some people like to have every little detail of their plot identified before they begin writing. I'm not one of those ^_^ I like to roughly know where I want the story to end up and then I just sit down at the keyboard and clack away until I get there. Then I edit. Or at least proofread and line-edit. I try not to really do any content editing until I'm completely done with a chapter or entire book (at which point I might delete entire chapters or even entire manuscripts--horrifying my friends and colleagues).  This is NOT what you do for Nanowrimo. It's not even what I did in 2006 when I did Nanowrimo myself. Why? Because of that dirty 4-letter word. Edit.

CAUTION: Nano Road Block Ahead
You do NOT edit during Nanowrimo. No editing. Do Not. At all. Ever. Repeat after me: I shall not edit anything, not even proofreading to correct typos.

If you're like me, and prefer to just "fly by the seat of your pants" when you compose a scene or snatch of dialog, then you probably also backtrack and correct typos and "line-edit" or "wordsmith" as you go.


You're going to have to really REALLY exert self-control to refrain from editing anything this month. Just don't worry about it. You'll come back to it. Remember, for Nanowrimo, you just need to write 50,000 words. They don't need to be the exact right words; there just need to be 50,000 of them! I can't repeat that enough.

Why am I forcing this issue of not editing? Because if you stop to edit, you have not only stopped writing new words, you're giving existing words additional time. You already created those words. Move on. Create more new words. Don't delete words you just spent minutes creating. Time is money--or at least nano points. If you spend five minutes creating ten words and then "tweak" the sentence for the next ten minutes so you can get it down to seven words, you've just wasted ten minutes AND reduced your progress towards the goal by 3 words. Why?

Okay, I'm sure you're sitting there thinking "Tighter writing is always a good thing so editing those 3 extra words out is the right thing to do." WRONG! Not for Nanowrimo! For the month of November, just write words--good words, bad words, right words, wrong words. Geez, I sound like my childhood idol, Dr. Seuss, huh? I wish! ^_^

Don't try to write the "perfect" words, just write 50,000 of them.

Executing According to Plan
So if you have only a rough idea of the story you want to tell and you are "not allowed" to edit, how do you keep yourself aligned with the right path? Well, you can delete but that's totally counter-productive. The secret I found in 2006 when I did Nanowrimo for the first, last and only time I've done it was that I could just keep on writing if I inserted little "note to self" place holders for me to deal with after Nanowrimo is over.

I found it easiest to just use brackets [like this] instead of having to touch the mouse and select and highlight or insert comments or do all kinds of other crap that required me to remove my fingers from the keys. I touch type (about 100wpm) so for me to move my fingers from the keys is totally counterproductive. Also, I didn't try to write out long, involved notes -- since this is a note to myself -- I just included sufficient detail that I would trigger a memory later of what it was that made me stumble. For instance, if I was chugging right along and wanted to mention where something was happening but didn't want to stop and do the research in GoogleEarth or wherever, I'd just stick something like this into the sentence: [location of secluded warehouse in Eastern Bloc country].

That's actually a real "note to self" I put into the Lacey / Rainey Story back in 2006 when I wanted Rainey to wake up after he'd been kidnapped and beaten. I needed him to recognize the blood stains on the wall (having put them there himself) and I knew vaguely he'd have to be somewhere that his captors could take him without having to show a passport--or at least be able to bribe their way across the border with him unconscious. I hadn't yet decided it would be in Sofia, but just saying "Eastern Bloc country" reminded me what I wanted and I chose Sofia, Bulgaria. I found out later it's part of the Schengen agreement (where passports are not required) and it's fairly well-known for corrupt officials who routinely take bribes from traffickers of people, drugs and arms.

Using the [note to self] system will let you keep on writing without losing your train of thought.  I'll have more tips next week (or maybe this weekend I'll do another bonus blog! :-)

Cya! Happy Nano'ing!

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