Monday, November 30, 2009

Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo

I learned...
  • +that I have the ability to write a novel-length piece of fiction.
  • +how to manage my time better, stop procrastinating, and just DO it already!
  • +that if I take a day off of writing, I have a much fresher, more active, more productive brain the following day.
  • +how to write even when I don't feel like it, at all.
  • +how to just truck through a story without stopping to edit every little thing the first time through.
  • +a few things about character and plot development.
  • +that I need a lot of practice with character and plot development.
  • +that I'm not as bad as I feared at character and plot development.
  • +that it's really, really hard to write well about places and things about which you know absolutely nothing, especially when you don't have the time to go research it.
  • +that I'd definitely prefer to write sci-fi or fantasy or something fictional and exciting instead of chick lit.
  • +how characters manage to do things without the author's permission...if you don't give them permission, they'll sit in a corner and pout until you write what they want you to write. It sounds crazy, but it's true.
  • +more from this month-long experience than I would have in some classes, and I didn't have to pay more than my time and sanity for this.
  • +that I can finish what I start, even if it isn't for payment or a grade.
  • +that dialogue is really, really easy to write if you know your characters, which makes long, unnecessary conversations really good for increasing word count.
  • +that I have it in me to write every day or almost every day, and could therefore become a professional writer after all.

I Finished NaNoWriMo 2009!!!

When I feel like writing again (hopefully tomorrow) I'll do a little blog about the things that I learned from this experience. Probably. ~_^

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Trying, Failing, and Remaining Content

So I find that if I have a class that's really hard (like calculus or something), and I put hours into the homework and studying and I do my absolute best on the test and I get a C, I actually find that more satisfying somehow than getting an A for a halfway effort. I feel proud of the work I put into it, and knowing that I did absolutely everything that I could possibly do. When you have done absolutely everything you could have done, and there was not a minute more your could have spent, not a moment where you could have given just a little more...I believe that brings the greatest satisfaction that can come from working.

If I fail this NaNoWriMo, I want to know that I at least stayed up late working on it some nights, that I at least tried...that I didn't fail out of laziness. If I fail my math modeling final, I want to know that I at least studied every hour possible, saw Dr. KV or Arup for office hours to clear up that which I did not understand, tried my best...and cannot look back and say, "Well, maybe if I'd only done more or tried harder I wouldn't be facing this grade."

I want to know that I have nothing to regret.

Unfortunately, it isn't easy to live that way, especially if you enjoy sleep, but it does make it easier to live with yourself after the work is complete.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Write What You Don't Know

They say "Write what you know," but with my NaNoWriMo I find there is a good corollary to that: Write what you don't know but conceivably could. I'm not talking about fantasy where you can make up pretty much anything as long as you stay consistent. This applies to writing about places you've never been, cars you've never driven, jobs and hobbies you've never had. This also applies to sci-fi stuff if you are trying to make your warp-drive vehicle convincing but haven't taken a physics class since high school. The obvious tool for this is Google. Use Google maps to discover whether any major tourist attractions are near the neighborhood wherein your character allegedly lives, find restaurant reviews to describe a restaurant where you have never eaten, use Wikipedia to find out more about one character's hobby or another one's job, and look at FreeTechBooks for some hints about scientific principles that would apply to your fictional spacecraft. The possibilities extend so much more than that, of course.

Once you have your information, don't spill all the details. For one thing, you're sure to bore your readers (though if you're doing NaNoWriMo, you might not care). More importantly, the more details you provide, the more likely you are to get something wrong. I have apartment complexes picked out for my characters, and they are down the street from each other and near a Thai place. However, I do not mention the names of any of the places, in case the Thai place has changed since those reviews were written, or in case I make a guess on some information that can't be found online and I turn out to be wrong. Suppose I mention my apartment complex having mailboxes, when letters are really pushed through a mail slot on the apartment door? Suppose I mention someone locking an apartment door, when they really lock on their own? So I leave out names, except for things like the Seattle Space Needle, where it is unavoidable. Being vague works for science fiction too. If you don't know a lot about physics, but you know from the Internet that your original design could never have worked, change it a bit but be really vague about the principles involved and why.

I would love to elaborate a bit on this, but I need to go give my writing attention to my own NaNoWriMo.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009

So, this year I am officially trying NaNoWriMo for the first time. I'm afraid it's going to turn out that I'm terrible at developing characters or plot or something, and that my dream of being a writer is going to be brutally disemboweled. Unnecessary fear is a great reason to do something, though, so here I am. Officially participating. You can find my NaNoWriMo site's user page here. I kind of want a word count widget, but they don't seem to be functional just yet. As of right now, I have 1045 words, out of 50000. Eek. I have an outline (thankfully) from a project that I was going to do until I changed my mind, so now I'm resurrecting it for this. I finished the outline yesterday, and am planning to more or less follow it. That should make my life far easier than if I were winging it.

Still, I am scared. I am also afraid I will not have any free time between this and school and the important people in my life. But, it'll be over in a month, and it'll be quite the interesting journey.

And I've wanted to do it since I first heard about it a couple years ago. So why not?