So the dust has settled and I can see through the haze now. What was that all about, eh?
I finished a day early, after a marathon session of about 4,000 words. Really I wasn’t going into this thing with the expectation of coming out with a novel: I wanted a learning experience instead. So what did I learn?
That sounds obvious, and it was a lesson I thought I’d learned years ago, but I gained a whole new understanding. All through writing Titans, Magocracy and Apostate I had the approach that the best time to write for me was morning and later on in the evening. This was fine when I worked in a coffee shop or was a student and my schedule was flexible, but now I’m in a 9-5 working as a programmer that tactic just doesn’t work – this is why I fell behind in the first half of the month.
The solution was to sprint – to sit down a write 500 words every hour from the moment I got home. It wasn’t always perfect, but I did end up with words on a page (well, in a file).
I’m finding reward systems more and more beneficial for anything involving self discipline. I put a cookie on a plate, and put the plate in my eyeline while I wrote. I found this useful whenwriting at a coffee shop as well – a Latte in my eyeline, a sip every hundred words, and suddenly I developed laser-sharp focus.
Having a community to support me was really, really useful during the process. I didn’t join any writing groups or write-ins this year (I was busy moving house and working my first month at a new job), but I did join in online. Being able to vent during the writing process is really helpful, and something I’m going to put more of an emphasis on in the future.
I am a gigantic nerd – as such, I really like graphs, and metrics, and things like that. It’s slightly OCD, but it also ties in to the reward thing, as a graph is persistent and more satisfying than a cookie.
5. Write fast
Every now and again I’ll be writing and think ‘wow, that’s actually pretty good’. My natural self editor normally kicks in, but for that briefest of windows I’m happy with my work. This has happened a number of times before, but Nanowrimo really crystallized the conditions for me – it happens when I write fast. If I write slowly, there’s potential for my self editor to kick in, and it has a chance to edit before the words come out – and these words end up stilted and awkward. But once I’m in a real flow state they come more easily, and in better shape.
What about the book?
With regards the actual book itself, I’m largely happy with it as an extended brainstorm-y outline. I’ve thought about writing books like this before – doing a splurge-draft, much of it in narrative summary, to try out the ideas before distilling them into a more detailed outline. Of course I don’t actually do that, because mining through fifty thousand words of diseased mumblings is a lot of work, but it’ll be interesting to see what I come out of at the end of it, right after I’ve finished doing all the other stuff I want to get done. Which is a lot.