8 October 2007

Especially for Gabriele

And others who are doing NaNoWriMo. The ultimate question is of course, how to write 50.000 words in one month.

And the answer is not 42. That's a completely different ultimate question ;)

Fact is, there isn't any answer. There are many. It depends on what you write, when you write, why you write, how you write and that sort of thing. But here are a couple of things that worked for me last year (I had 64 017 words at the end of November).

1. Sleep is overrated. Eight hours a night? Pshaw. Five is more than enough. Plenty of time to sleep in December!

2. Don't think. Just type. And type fast. Last year I wrote 2770 words the first day (one chapter). I reread it today and god, it's awful. It has Thiadulf and Geravan out hunting and squabbling about who's best at throwing spears and then Geravan tripping over his own feet (okay, so I liked that bit). The second chapter is even worse (that has Marcus complaining about the cold for 2000 words) but gradually it becomes better and better (at least I hope so, lol) once the revolt actually starts.
I could've spent half the month polishing these two first chapters until they shone but then it would take years before I could actually start writing about the revolt itself. And guess what? Now I have a couple of not-so-bad ideas for the start of the novel. Once I finish the first draft I'll put it in. For me at least, this "just write, dammit"-strategy works very well. If I just write whatever seems good at the moment, the rest will come later.

To sum it up, I'll quote Teciltur, one of my writing buddies: My strategy is now to fidget with the last few sentences I've written, but once I've gotten a few more lines in between, they're 'cemented'...

3. Chocolate and tea. 'Nuff said.

4. Ninjas, ninjas, ninjas, ninjas. Is your MC surrounded by hordes of evil barbarians with very sharp swords, while he himself is only armed with a butter knife *coughMarcuscough*, and you really can't let him be killed because he is a historical character and needs to be around for the Battle of Whatever? Send in the ninjas. Not only will your character be rescued, but you'll also get extra words, yaay!
Later you can edit the ninjas out and replace them with, well, Batavian riders. Roman legionaries. Orcs. Whatever. Or you can rewrite it slightly and turn the barbarian hordes into two barbarians to even the odds a little.
But that's later. Lots of emphasis on that last word.

5. Do some research in October and very, very, very little in November. Don't spend hours researching the political systems of cavemen in the Antarctic in the third millennium BC (good luck trying to find anything about that btw, lol) when you're already ten thousand words behind. Did these cavemen have presidents or kings? Who the hell cares. Just give him the title 'leader'. Problem solved.
I found last year that it was much easier to call my Frisians 'Bob' than research Frisian names in the first century AD. Also, when Thiadulf died, I gave him a Beowulf-style funeral pyre instead of spending hours trying to find out about Batavian funeral customs. I have a Word file called "Stuff that needs to be researched" where I write down, well, stuff that needs to be researched. The plan was that I'd do it this summer but I haven't finished writing the first draft yet so I'll do it next summer. Most of the things I need to research are just minor details, things that aren't important to the plot (like the colour of Geravan's cloak). So, if I find I was completely wrong about something it'll take fifteen minutes to correct it. No harm done.

6. Writer's block? Take a two-minute break. Not much longer than that. To get unblocked, have your MC run into a new character. Then see what happens. Remember Lucius the Annoying Walk-In? Guess how he came into the story...
Well, okay, so he was a git. But he got me extra words.

7. Very small notebooks. A5 or something. The kind you can stick in your pocket and take with you everywhere. Write while you're on the train, in the dentist's waiting room, or in the middle of class. Which brings us to point 8.

8. Do as much homework as you can in October, and work as hard as you can during breaks, free hours, whatever. Also, if a lecture is highly boring, take out your very small notebook (see point 7) and write! To ensure that the teachers don't suspect anything, you should have another notebook which looks exactly the same. This one should be filled with school stuff. Physics formulae, the titles of Ibsen plays, French verbs, etc. Go through your schoolbooks in October and scribble down a couple of notes for each subject (stuff you'll be learning in November).
If your teachers do become suspicious and ask what you are writing, show them this notebook. They'll be impressed, very impressed (mine are, at least).

9. I had a point 9 but I can't remember it.

10. Post-its are your friends! The more the better. Zulupad is good too.

So, these are my tips for NaNoWriMo. I might add some more later, though, when half my brain isn't occupied with figuring out the solubility product of Ca(OH)

Before I forget! The riddle!

I B 3 d V

It's Monday, so you'll get a hint. Gabriele, you should think along the lines of your obsession (and I'm not talking about chocolate :P )


Gabriele C. said...

Lol, when I was 17 I could do with five hours sleep as well. Now i'm close to 46 and need more sleep. It's no fun getting old. Next thing is I'll need glasses and then I will definitely look like an old shrew of a teacher.

I need to edit very little because I try to get it right the first time. That's why I can't type 2000 words a day.

Chocolate and tea. Definitely!

No ninjas for me. But what about some nice plotbunnies and a muse who's actually there in November instead of hanging around in pubs getting drunk?

Yes on the research. I do the main stuff now (and that includes picking some tribal names so I don't need to recur to Bob for the walk in characters). Last year I had a Via Look That Up somewhere in Rome. :)

A long walk or a hot bath may help against a writer's block. Not always, though.

I hate writing longhand. Fortunately, I can keep ideas in my brain. The only problems are perfect sentences that pop up and require to be written down Now. But a lady has a handbag (I wonder what the Queen carries around in hers, lol).

When I still was at school, I did that a lot. Maths was boring because I didn't get it, and the other subjects were boring because the others didn't get it and the teacher had to repeat the stuff three times over.

Ice cream, maybe?

I use index cards when reading non fiction books so I can jot down notes. I would prefer to do all work on the computer, but since I read sitting in my favourite recliner, I have to do without the laptop which needs a better surface than my knees to stand on.

The main point is To Have Fun, anyway. No matter how many words there will be. :)

Celedë Anthaas said...

I could never get stuff I write right the first time - my characters become bored, lol.

The only time perfect sentences pop up in my head is at 4 AM (usually when I have an important test the next day) and it's dark, the floor is cold, and there is no pencil on my bedside table. And then I have to get out of bed to find something to write with and scribble the sentence down in the dark, lol.

You know... it's not even November yet and I already have two characters called Bob.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, you should use your own links. I get my Batavians from the Dutch name list you gave me. :)

Celedë Anthaas said...

The Batavians aren't a problem anymore. I need Roman names, but worst of all are those mad Celts - Silures and Ordovices mainly. What I need is Welsh names from the first century. But those are, well, impossible to find so I thought I'd just pick random names from the Mabinogion.

Only I can't find it. My room is a mess :P

Any luck with the riddle yet? ;)