Tuesday 3 December 2013

Thirteen things I learned (or was reminded of) during Nanowrimo this year

1. I have my best writing sessions with the PC off. In previous years it was writing on the Alphasmart that saved my bacon. This year it was Daedalus Touch on the iPad, and then Pages. Small screens for the win.

2. Backing up daily is essential, because things always go wrong.

3. Updating writing apps during November is a bad idea. I updated Daedalus Touch five or six days from the end, and it completely stopped working. Luckily I’d been emailing the chapters to my PC to go into Scrivener every day. I had to switch over to Pages, which crashed a fair few times itself.

4. Sixteen picture playing cards laid out face down in a four by four grid make a nice series of treats for finishing each hundred words, and provide a useful visual representation of your progress. (I’ve got Judge Dredd, Doctor Who, James Bond and NME packs of cards, which all took a turn this month.) Micro-encouragements like that work well for me.

5. Being behind from the beginning (thanks to an early morning trip to Brighton on the first weekend) can be rather helpful, much as I hated it. At no point was I thinking, 49,500 words to go. I was chasing a target that was always just a few thousand words ahead.

6. I think best with my fingers. Thinking about my writing too much doesn’t sem to suit me very well, because it leads me to prevaricate. I can never get all the thinking done. What worked well this year was setting my timer going and starting to write my way in. Sometimes that meant circling back to the first paragraph to add extra details, but that just added to the word count.

7. It’s not a good idea to start your Nanowrimo novel with all your characters flying through a featureless landscape with no way to talk to each other. Makes it so much harder than it has to be!

8. Nanowrimo novels get much easier towards the end. You know who your characters are, and they have a lot more to talk about.

9. A frequent change of setting makes Nanowrimo easier. There’s only so many ways to describe the same rooms, and that’s not your friend if you’re writing at speed. If your characters are in a different location every chapter, it’s easier to find a little something to say about each one.

10. I find myself really funny. I’ve been in stitches reading some of the stuff I wrote this month.

11. How clever other writers are. Writing my silly, pulp, nonsensical and very short novel was a great deal of fun, but it was still hard work. I’m in awe of the novelists who write books that are actually good.

12. There’s no excuse for how long I’ve taken to finish off some old writing projects. I just need to set my timer going and get on with writing them.

13. Nanowrimo is quite a forgiving challenge. 1667 words isn’t that much – a couple of hours’ work. So even if you miss three days, there’s a chance of catching up if you put all of the fourth day into it. I only wrote on 23 of the 30 days last month, and only reached the regulation daily 1667 words on 14 of those days.

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