NaNoWriMo 2007: Last Minute Preparations

NaNoWriMo 2007 Participant
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National Novel Writing Month begins in a few short days, and I still haven’t decided which story I’m writing. I have two potential ideas:

  1. A supernatural detective story set in the mid-nineteenth century. The detective in question is one Bannister Proulx—a name I’m borrowing from last year’s incomplete NaNo effort, Yesterday’s Tomorrow—a police consultant, dabbler in the arcane and amateur magician. While investigating an unusual murder in Cleveland, Ohio, Bannister learns of similar killings in San Francisco, Boston and other far-flung cities across the United States. So similar are the slayings that Proulx can draw only one conclusion: as impossible as it may seem, the grisly crimes are the work of a single individual; a man or woman capable of transporting him or herself across thousands of miles in the span of a few short hours.
  2. A political thriller set in the near future, shortly following America’s triumphant return to the moon. In a whirlwind campaign, the commander of the moon mission gains a seat in the U.S. Senate and seems like a favored candidate for the upcoming Presidential race, until he dies under mysterious circumstances while on the campaign trail. The police detective assigned to the case digs a little deeper than her superiors would like, and finds herself involved in not one, but two far-reaching conspiracies that could very well alter mankind’s destiny on Earth.

That second idea was born out of an attempt to play Primetime Adventures several months ago. Chris Miller, Miscellaneous G™ and I fleshed out the basic premise over a couple of hours one evening, but the idea has been simmering in the back of my head ever since, and I’d love to fill in the details.

I’d definitely feel more comfortable writing in (or near to) the present day, but over the weekend I started mind-mapping the gas-lit detective story using Bubbl.us, a free online brainstorming tool. I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped, but it was cool to mess around with Bubbl.us for a couple of hours.

Then there’s the matter of word-processors. Last year I used yWriter for both Yesterday’s Tomorrow and the untitled superhero novel, and I loved it. Unfortunately, yWriter is a Windows application and this year I’ll probably be doing most of my writing in Linux. I’ve yet to identify a suitable substitute (at least as far as yWriter’s outlining and character tools are concerned), so I’ll probably be using OpenOffice.org or Google Docs. I’m leaning toward the former, as I’m not sure I’ll always have a reliable Internet connection when I’m writing and Google Docs is an online app.

I haven’t found a decent progress meter yet, either. The API for NaNoWriMo.org is nowhere to be found on the official website at present, so I may have to revert to the home-grown progress meter I made a couple of years ago.

So I’ve got two and a half days to decide what I’m going to write, how I’m going to write it and how I’m going to keep track of my progress here at KJToo.com. Oh, and did I mention the five-minute essays I need to write and record for The NaNoMonkeys? Yeah, there’s those, too.

14 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 2007: Last Minute Preparations”

  1. Here I come, to wreak havoc on your plans, ha ha. (Hope I didn’t post this twice, boy just hit a button on the keyboard and my first comment vanished.) Don’t bother measuring your progress using some fancy tool. Write your novel in the Linux version of Word and use the word count feature to track the number of words you write daily.

    None of this matters because you’re just not going to succeed. You’re going to fail, just as you have in the past. That sounds pretty nasty, doesn’t it? Well, consider this a slap in your face with my gauntlet: I CHALLENGE you to write that many words. I DARE you to write that many words. I don’t care if it’s the word “the” written that many times, I don’t think you can do it.

    Prove me wrong. I would love to be wrong. But you know what’s coming next . . . I seldom am, hee hee.

    Go with Story Idea #2 simply because typing either “Bannister” or “Proulx” that many times will drive a man insane.

  2. Well, I’ve done it in the past (50,003 words in 2005), so it’s not really a question of whether I can do it, but whether I can do it again.

  3. Can you sustain the pace with a plot you already put some tracks on last year? Familiarity might breed contempt, or more details for the setting and background of the protagonist.

    “Proulx” – where did that name come from? Etho/Geographically speaking, that is?

    I’m writing using Linux as well – OO.org is the only real option for me. Google Docs is nice, but doesn’t *feel* right to me.

    I’d love to hear what you choose!

  4. Can you sustain the pace with a plot you already put some tracks on last year? Familiarity might breed contempt, or more details for the setting and background of the protagonist.

    “Proulx” – where did that name come from? Etho/Geographically speaking, that is?

    I’m writing using Linux as well – OO.org is the only real option for me. Google Docs is nice, but doesn’t *feel* right to me.

    I’d love to hear what you choose!

    The prospect of doing a complete rewrite of last year’s superhero story—or even a mash-up of my 2005 and 2006 efforts—had crossed my mind, actually. I still have a day and a half to decide, I guess, but I should really spend some of that time outlining and plotting. I suck at outlining and plotting.

    I can’t speak to the ethnic or geographic origins of “Proulx”, I’m afraid. I stole it from Annie Proulx, who wrote Brokeback Mountain and The Shipping News.

    EDIT: A couple of Proulxs (wow, that just looks weird) on WikiPedia seem to be of French-Canadian origin, so that may be a possible source of the name.

  5. Well, I’m signing up for NaNoWriMo 2007 and the website seems a bit . . . harried (to use a non-technical term). Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll finish in style!

    Just read on Unquiet Desperation that Chris has decided to commit to NaNoWriMo this year (after a pass on it earlier). Here’s to all those writers out there!

    -more words, better words-

  6. Hmmm, 50,003 words, eh? Sounds to me like somebody may have written just enough to qualify. Ha ha. I find it a tad hard to believe that the story just naturally finished at 50,003 words. What good fortune that was!

    By the way, the hard part about the contest is not the 50,000 word limit. That’s really not that hard; it’s the time limit that does most people in. 50,000 words really isn’t a very big book at all. (Just for comparison, my book — which isn’t really that long — is 106,000 words.) When you put 50,000 words in true published format, you’re probably looking at a 110-page novel or thereabouts, depending upon the size of the final font and the size of the book. Definitely not a “big” book; nothing wrong with that, just pointing out that the number of words required by the contest doesn’t really lead to what most publishers would consider a decent-sized book.

    My main beef with this contest at all is that the point is to just spew out as many words as possible. I know, I know: they’re hoping to light a fire under people who want to write but need some additional impetus to get going. But the “spew out as many words in a rather short time frame” method of writing doesn’t lead to very good writing. I know, I know: you’re going to go back and edit all that when you’ve finished, right? Yeah, sure you are.

    I don’t enter the contest because I’m a very SLOW writer and I know it. I am curious and perhaps somebody here knows the answer: has the contest led to any published novels that were any good? I’m talking mainstream, here, like a book that most of us would have heard of in some fashion. It would be interesting to know just so I could check one out and see what I think.

    Good luck to all of you. My advice is a bit different: fewer words, better sentences. Write something you won’t have to spend the rest of your days fixing up, ha ha. I can’t wait to hear how everybody’s doing.

  7. Well, I’m signing up for NaNoWriMo 2007 and the website seems a bit . . . harried (to use a non-technical term). Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll finish in style!

    Just read on Unquiet Desperation that Chris has decided to commit to NaNoWriMo this year (after a pass on it earlier). Here’s to all those writers out there!

    -more words, better words-

    The website is certainly slow in the weeks leading up to November 1st, but they’re supposed to add at least one server to their cluster once the event kicks off, or so goes the rumor.

    Either the software they’re using this year isn’t as efficient as what they’ve used in the past (I’m certainly not thrilled with the forum’s seeming inability to properly track when the last message was posted in each individual forum) or they’ve got a ton of new participants this year. Given how much the event has grown in the five years I’ve been doing it, I wouldn’t be surprised if its the latter.

    Yes, Mr. Miller is joining the fray, which came as a pleasant surprise to me. I was tempted to call the whole thing off last night after a particularly nerve-wracking slog through recording my first NanoMonkeys essay, but the fact that folks like Chris and Gerall and Wesley and Charley are doing it helps to keep my spirits up.

  8. 50,003 words was, in fact, just enough to qualify as a “winner”, and the story ended with my protagonists fleeing Reno in a stolen Mitsubishi Galant. I have not returned to the story since 30 November, 2005, nor am I likely to. I may farm some ideas out of it in the future (there’s some interplay between the main protagonist and the primary antagonist that I quite liked, and one or two promising action sequences), but ultimately it is just a bad-to-mediocre story that I needed to dump out of my brain in order to make room for something new.

    Last year’s effort, on the other hand, contains a lot that I really enjoyed writing, and I will probably revive it in another format sometime in the future, though probably not a novel.

    Yes, 50,000 words is quite short as novels go (more of a novella), but 30 days is a very short time in which to write those words, especially for the amateur writer. I’m not looking to get a full-length, workable manuscript out of NaNoWriMo; I’m not even looking to write good fiction. I’m looking to write, and maybe eventually to develop a writing habit, so that when the good ideas eventually come to me I’ll be able to move them from my head to paper.

    If NaNoWriMo proves nothing else, it proves that I am resistant to changes in my routine. In four years of doing this every November, I’ve yet to develop any real writing habits or routines. I don’t sit down for an hour every day or every other day or even once a week just to write. I should, but I don’t. NaNoWriMo at least provides some motivation to write every day, and if I can turn that into a habit that extends beyond the month of November, then it will be worth it.

  9. I don’t enter the contest because I’m a very SLOW writer and I know it. I am curious and perhaps somebody here knows the answer: has the contest led to any published novels that were any good? I’m talking mainstream, here, like a book that most of us would have heard of in some fashion. It would be interesting to know just so I could check one out and see what I think.

    I don’t think this is entirely the point of the exercise. While creating good, marketable fiction is certainly a fine goal, I know of many participants who just want to get themselves into the habit of writing.

    Good luck to all of you. My advice is a bit different: fewer words, better sentences. Write something you won’t have to spend the rest of your days fixing up, ha ha. I can’t wait to hear how everybody’s doing.

    Thanks – it’s my first foray into this, so I’ll take what I can get.

  10. Here is another really good collaborative web-based mind mapping tool that might be worth looking at for outlining stories comapping.com.

    Comapping looks interesting, but it’s not quite cheap as free. Still there’s a 30-day free trial and it could be a good tool to utilize through November.

  11. In a way, Mr. Johnson proves my point. If you’re looking to become a writer or develop good writing patterns, this contest is NOT the way to go about it. This contest is supposed to light your creative spark and suddenly lead to a regular method of sitting down and writing each night? Even though you’re already trying to figure out the minimum number of words you need to write per hour, per minute, per day? I have my doubts that engaging in a staccato, thirty-day burst of writing will lead to the sustained fermata of effort needed to write on a regular basis.

    I can only say what Stephen King and numerous other authors have said about their writing: you do it because you WANT to or you feel you HAVE to write. If you’re doing it simply to complete a contest and you don’t really care about the end result enough to edit it, polish it, and try to get it published, I’m not sure why it would be worth doing.

    Of course, entering a contest for the fun of it is perfectly fine and I hope everybody ENJOYS it. Writing should be fun. I just think that if you’re actually counting words and trying to write a certain number of words per day regardless of the QUALITY of those words, you’re not really writing. You’re just counting to 50,000 using words instead of numbers.

    Again, good luck to everybody and have fun. I really mean that. I’m just offering a different perspective, having completed one novel and working on a second. I urge you to write because you have a great story to tell and you want to tell it. Write to the story, not to the number of words in it.

  12. And here’s where I think you’re missing the point, Rob. Many of us who have a desire to write often feel that we simply don’t have the time to do so, what with full-time (or more than full-time) jobs, families and other obligations. Thus, without any real impetus (surely the odds of our first novel being published and selling enough to qualify as a financial incentive are slim) to set aside time to write, days and weeks and months go by and we simply do not write.

    This isn’t limited to writing, either. How many people have a list of a ten or twenty or fifty or even a hundred things they want to do (or places they want to see) before they die, yet years go by and that list never gets any shorter because there’s just no time to do it all or because the things on that list are hard to do.

    Now along comes November and NaNoWriMo with its challenge: write 50,000 words in 30 days. You can certainly argue that there’s no financial incentive to do so, but there is the very public challenge, and sometimes that’s just the sort of motivation we need to tell ourselves that yes, we can set aside 30 minutes or an hour of our day to sit down and write (as I just did on my lunch hour), and we can get those ideas that we’ve wanted to write about out of our heads and see how they look on paper (or in a word processing document).

    And so we do it, and maybe—just maybe—at the end of November we’ll be able to shorten that list by one item, and maybe we’ll have realized that we have a little more time to do the things we want to do after all, if we really put our minds to making that time.

    At the end of November, thousands of people around the world will have a first draft of something that might or might not become a novel someday, and they will have created that first draft in thirty days (of the nearly 60,000 people that participated in 2005, nearly 10,000 won). Perhaps they’ll spend the next year editing and rewriting their first draft, or perhaps they’ll drop it in a drawer and move on to something else, but they will have written and by the simple act of doing so will better writers.

    Because I don’t believe anyone ever became a better writer by not writing.

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