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I reached the NaNoWriMo goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, making me a “winner”, in that I was able to reach the goal. The story itself is a long way from finished. I estimate that I’m about 2/3rds of the way through the first draft of the story. I consider myself lucky that I haven’t hit any real bumps in the road to building out the novel. It would be tempting to say this is fairly easy, but of course, I’m nowhere near done, and I don’t really know if the story itself is all that good or compelling. I think it is, but I’m obviously biased.

Easing Off, A Little

While I might take my foot off the gas a little (in that I may not do much writing on weekends, and focus on writing during the week only), the story’s not done. I’ve finished one of the main turning points in the plot, and now the story shifts in focus and purpose. I’m hoping that the different layers in the story, which feature theme’s I’m exploring, are coming through.

Tools and Rituals That Help

Part of what has helped in meeting this goal, and now knowing how much time writing will take for me during the day, is how I’ve used used technology, but also some “process” if you will. I’ve been using the focus feature available on the Mac and iDevices to remove the distractions that come from new emails, text messages, and news alerts. I make sure to hide all the other apps I have on my Mac, so I’m not tempted to glance over at Twitter, my texts, and other information sources.

The only thing I have up is Scrivener (the tool I use for writing), a Google search page in case I need to look something up, the NaNoWriMo page with my stats and the running stopwatch (which I start when I’m writing) and the app I’m working on, Writer’s Assistant, which helps me with things like generating made-up character names.

I have a playlist I’ve built that sets the tone for the story (this one features music from Andor, Blade Runner, The Expanse, and The Martian) that I kick off at the start of each writing session. All of the steps I need to take before I start writing are on a little checklist I have in front of me. I don’t want to forget to do something (like start the music or the stopwatch) in my eagerness to get words on the page.

Just Write The Story

Part of this first pass on the novel is concentrating on getting the story down, even though it is rough, there are gaps, and there are times where I’m sure I’ve written way too much, and need to be more succinct. But I’m avoiding any meaningful editing at this point. That’s the next step, to go through the work and start to sort through what I’ve created. It’s then I will focus on fixing any issues with inconsistency, culling parts that aren’t adding to the story, or putting some parts of the story on a diet, say what needs to be said in a more compact way. This is unlike writing software, even though both are creative endeavours. This is a topic I will explore in further pieces down the road.

I’m also going to write up some thoughts on technology and writing, although obviously being a rookie at this type of creative writing, I’m not exactly speaking with any authority. But that has never stopped me before from expressing an opinion.

To those still working away on their own NaNoWriMo projects: keep at it. If this is your first time, like it is mine, you’ll find it satisfying to reach your goal.

NaNoWriMo and the Halfway Point

I just passed the halfway point for NaNoWriMo 2022, and as with the previous week, so far so good. I’ve been able to meet or slightly exceed my personal objective of at least 2,000 words per day, and I’ve managed to write over 37,000 words so far. My story continues to grow, and I’m making notes to review when I go back to edit. The NaNoWriMo tool for tracking writing history and word counts estimates I’ll hit 50,000 words by the 21st. The actual first draft will certainly be a lot longer than that, and while I will probably stop trying to write every single day (maybe take a break on weekends), the work doesn’t stop at 50,000 words.

Just Write Something

For now, I’m focused on just getting something out, even though I know it needs a lot of work. The point is to get the first draft, rough as it will be, down. I have a bunch of ideas on how I want to mold and shape the finished story, and I’m making sure to write those down so I don’t forget. My main character has also transformed some, and some of the supporting cast are now getting their own stories, their own perspectives. They still don’t have enough of a unique voice. Their words and dialog are rather generic. But I feel good about having something to build on.

The story itself is growing deeper and more complex, more nuanced in a way. I feel pretty good about where it is, and where I think it will go.

The Writer’s Assistant

I’m glad I started working on an app I’m calling Writer’s Assistant. I’m using it as a way to collect some tools that will be useful to me for writing science fiction. I do expect that some of the features will eventually (and hopefully) be useful for other genres. I’ll also be adding to it as I find new features I think will help me or other writers. I haven’t decided if I’m going to charge for the app or give it away for free, assuming it goes on the Mac App Store at all.

The main feature I’m using is one that generates random strings of vowels and consonants (using simple, configurable rules) to help generate names for characters. There are other features that will follow, but having something that I can use to generate names that aren’t variants of “Bob” and “Jane”, to give the story a truly other-worldly vibe, has allowed me to focus on the story, instead of spending time trying to dream up names (and making sure they don’t all start with “Z” or some other pattern).

The Work Carries On

I’m going to keep on keeping on. I haven’t hit any bumps, or found myself stuck, and for that I consider myself fortunate. It helps that I have a sense of the story I want to tell, and that’s the planning side of me. But I keep my ‘plan’ just open-ended enough that the ‘seat of the pants’ writer can still blossom. I’m definitely in the middle of the “planner” vs. “panster” debate (which I had never heard of until I started this thing). This works for me. Other approaches work for other people. You do you. I’m going to carry on, happy with my approach so far.


NaNoWriMo Started Today

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) started today, and I’m participating. The goal of the event is to write at least 50,000 words of a first-draft novel in 30 days. You “win” by hitting the 50,000 word total. It’s basically an attempt to spur some people who think they want to be writers to commit to something. The entire event is meant to be upbeat and positive, and the NaNoWriMo organization has many different tools available for current and aspiring writers to join communities, and find support. There are local chapters (there’s one for Calgary) that hold virtual and in-person events.

I’m participating for the first time this year. My project is a science fiction novel titled Ashes of Outpost. It’s set on an old commercial, transportation, and mining facility on an asteroid in the Bohen system in my fictional Unimanse universe that I’m continually evolving. So far, I’m off to a good start, with over 3,700 words (and counting) on day one. Part of what makes writing easier for me, personally, is that I can type quickly and reasonably accurately. It means that my fingers can keep up with my thoughts and imagination as I craft the story, and I’m not fighting with the mechanical work of getting words down on the electronic page. But I’m not so foolish to think I can keep that pace up forever, and I’m going to hit snags and roadblocks. But so far, it’s encouraging.

We’ll see how this goes, but it does look promising. Once it’s done, I’ll have a better sense of whether I would recommend the event to current and aspiring writers (and I still fall very much in the “aspiring” category right now). I like the idea, though, and that’s a start.