Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 1

"There's a myth among amateurs, optimists, and fools that beyond a certain level of achievement, famous artists retire to some kind of Elysium where criticism no longer wounds and work materializes without their effort."
     -Mark Matousek
We're all in this together guys.
No HSM references, please.

And...we're off with NaNoWriMo 2011. Now with more kitties!

Right, so I should probably explain that.

My roommate is to blame, honestly. We were talking about blogging and he made an offhand comment about how "I would only ever get people to really start reading if I had pictures of cats." [Paraphrased]. Well, between that and another offhand comment about how some people could probably use a greater "cute cats" presence in their life -- for emotional sanity, y'know? -- I decided to take him up on that challenge.

So, for all of you who are stressed out about NaNo, school, work, family, friends, life, and whatever else, I hope that this can be a comforting place for you to come and release some of that emotional tension by looking at pictures of cats.

At least for the first glance. After that, we're back to concrete NaNo discussions.

Also, I'll try to share a quote about writing or creativity or perseverance or somesuch, just to make sure I fulfill my "Inspiring" quota for the year. (Yeah...don't expect it to last.)

Anyways. Let's begin now, shall we?

I wanna talk about beginnings. Not so much, "Where do I start the story?" so much as, "What are my goals when starting a project?" (Yeah, sorry, that's not a very catchy phrase.)

For starters, I'm doing something a bit new this year. I'm using Michael Stackpole's 20-chapter book structure that he explains in his podcast from a few years back (I talked about it yesterday, so go there for a link). The way this basically breaks down, for NaNoWriMo specifically, is like this:

-20 Chapter in the book.
-2500 words in each chapter.
-5 Chapter constitute the first act, or "setup" for the book.
-10 Chapters constitute the second act, or "action/development" of the book.
-5 Chapter constitute the third act, or "climax" of the book.

Now, this is a bit more structured than last year's NaNo. At least for me. However, I think it makes a lot of sense and will help me practice pacing and writing to a specific length and such. (All things that I've resolved to work on for next year.) So that's the goal.

What this means, on a daily level, is that I'm going to try to write a chapter each day. That's approximately 2500 words, or 10 pages in their word processor for most genre writers. (Times, 12-point font; double-spaced.) This is infinitely doable if I block out two solid hours each day and actually sit down doing the work during that time.

But, what am I doing today, specifically?

Well, my goals for today were twofold:

1. Begin getting a sense for how this character thinks and how I'm going to write from his perspective.
2. Begin introducing his core personal conflict in order to weave it into the external conflicts later on in the month.

Now, that sounds like it's all very clinical and that I've considered every angle of my story in order to approach it in "the best way" or something.

In practice, it went more like this:

Ok. Go! Two hours, Josh. You've got two hours. Wait, no. More like an hour and fifty minutes. I told you to stop looking at cat pictures!

Right, so, NaNo. It's been a while. How do we do this again? Words. Title. Good, we have a title. Character?

Name, career, close enough. Now, what is he doing? Um...

Words. Words words words, and...now what?

Huh. This is hard.

Where do I go next?


Conflict! I need conflict. Okay, how am I supposed to make things happen?

Let's try this: words,words,words GUNS! GANGSTERS! Get the money!

Great! Now, personal reflection. End chapter.

How much time do I have left? Ten minutes? Cool.

And after that, I had just under 2500 words. Did I succeed in my "clinical" goals? Yeah, I think so, for now. Was I thinking about them while I wrote? Heh. No. At least not consciously.

But I knew I needed two things: Conflict and 2500 words. And I knew what I had only two things to work with: a main character and a criminal underworld. Somewhere in the nebulous space between my resources and my goals existed a story, a plot, a scene. And keeping those things fixed in my mind helped me to focus in on where I would find the events that eventually filled my words for the day.

That's how I worked today. Today really was creation ex nihilo, at least as far as the events were concerned. Later on in the month, once I have some of the external conflicts and a few more of the supporting characters fleshed out, I'll likely have scenes in mind for various points in the novel. And I'll write those when I get there. And that'll be a completely different experience, with its own set of challenges.

But for now, I'm going into each day mostly blind, which means I need to find ways to motivate the story to come out of me.

Again, the above example is how I managed to pull it off today. Tomorrow, I'll have a jumping-off point as I explore some of the fallout of today's conflict, which means I'll have to find another way to explore the story as it unfolds before me.

Getting started is always the hard part, whether it's on the daily basis or in the context of a big project like a novel, moving past that initial resistance of "wow, I have no idea what to do," is the hardest part. Once you've got the boulder rolling, it'll become easier and easier to keep it going.

For now, though, the important thing is to focus on today. How do you get the work done today?

I did it be looking for immediate conflict. You might do it in another way. That's fine. The important thing is that you find a method that works for you. Do the work!

Until next time...
-josh k.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Progress
Today: 2,439/1,666 words.
So far: 2,439/1,666 words.
Overall: 2,439/50,000 words.

UPDATE -- Later that evening...
Made some more progress on the book today. Had a spurt of production during my afternoon class, and the teacher was totally okay with folks working on NaNo novels during class time. So...I did.
I'm up to 3,151 words now. See you tomorrow.


  1. Now wait just a minute.

    "Well, between that and another offhand comment about how some people could probably use a greater 'cute cats' presence in their life -- for emotional sanity, y'know?"

    I have no memory of this. Therefore, lies and slander.

  2. Again, paraphrased.

    You were talking about our mutual roommate's girlfriend. I didn't want to get into all of that in a blog post about NaNo. So...yeah, paraphrased.

  3. I enjoy cats. I do not enjoy busy websites.

  4. Kirby,

    If you could clarify "busy websites" for me, and maybe even offer some specific suggestions/criticisms, I would certainly consider incorporating them into the site. In case you can't tell, I'm a bit new at this. And I'm a writer, not a visual designer.