I recently switched to SpiderOak as my new backup solution for a lot of things, including everything I write. In this blog I want to give you some of my reasons for doing backups as well as my reasons for choosing SpiderOak. If you’re considering getting SpiderOak yourself you might want to use my referral link. This means I get 1GB extra storage when you sign up, and so do you (so you start with 3GB free instead of the normal 2GB SpiderOak gives you).
Well it’s that time of the year again – I mean of course the month of November – and as usual NaNoWriMo has me writing like a madman.
But nearly two weeks in, and already well past the target for the entire month, there’s time to do a bit of blogging. In many ways I have to admit I feel like I’m still recovering from the first two days of the month. Given the fact that my decision to attack my one day record – which had been just over 16k since 2008 – ended with me reaching 50k on November 2nd.
Yes, November is approaching once more, so it’s time for me to start worrying about NaNoWriMo. And the first major worry this year was finding a title for my NaNo project.
I’ve had characters and a story in mind for months now, but a title, even a working title, was proving illusive. Finally though I’ve settled on Pure Time as a working title. Both to reflect the time-travel aspects of the story (pure time is a timeline without any time-travel incursions) and to reflect the moral dilemma I’m about to inflict on one of my characters.
The origin of the idea of Pure Time as a title was Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. That got me to Critique of Pure Time. But that seemed slightly to elitist as a title. I may change my mind about that later, but for now Pure Time will do as a working title.
I haven’t been doing enough on the Gordian Knot edit lately, but today I took a fresh look at it. And though it’s taken me quite a while I’ve come to a decision: I’m going to break one of the rules I’ve set myself and not finish this draft.
I’ve been struggling with this for a while now, but after a lot of thought I’ve had to conclude that finishing this draft just wouldn’t be worth the time it would take. The edit has been an “off and on” project for too long, and my general writing style now isn’t what it was when I started the edit, so it would never truly read as one draft anyway.
On top of that I’ve been doing quite a bit of work on, and thinking about, the stories background recently. Adding in a lot of new worldbuilding, and rethinking some of the old. Once that process is complete it will need one or two major, and a lot more minor, changes to the narrative even in its second draft form.
All of which means that, all things considered, starting over from scratch once the worldbuilding is ready seems like the right thing to do. That will finally place my characters, and their actions, in the sort of rich universe I feel I’ve only been simulating thus far.
It will mean I need to put in more time to get a new draft ready, but I’m convinced it will be a better draft as a result. I’m hoping to map out a preliminary time-line with various targets on it tomorrow. And while I can’t guarantee I’ll keep to it, my current aim is to blog more actively about the project as it progresses.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I really need to return to pondering faster than light sensor technology…
While I managed to stay out of the black hole immediately after NaNoWriMo this year, it did manage to rear it’s ugly head later in December.
For a couple of months, let’s say the second half of December through to the first half of February, I did very little writing indeed. But the last couple of weekends I’ve managed to get some decent stretches of 500 words or more in. It’s not a lot, but it’s a new start after the post-NaNo black hole.
My goal for the coming week is to try and write at least 100 words per day. Which is very little in some ways, but balancing my time to do any writing at all during the week is enough of a challenge right now. I’ve also decided that, although I usually don’t work out my plots, I do need to sit down and work out at least a couple of chapters right now.
Balancing two story lines doesn’t seem like it ought to be complicated, but getting them to keep pace (at least roughly) in story time, is proving tricky right now. That might have something to do with the relatively small blocks of writing I’m putting in. Keeping track of how much time was spent in the last visit to the other story line gets tricky when that last visit was more than a week ago for the writer.
A post by Starstuff reminded me that I’d taken some pictures of my own setup during NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately, when I finally dug these out today, it turned out that the ones without the flash were all blurred, while the ones with the flash didn’t adequately display the setting. So I started playing with the lighting and taking some more pictures. There was more light when I took this picture than there usually is when I write, but you should get a good flavour of my setup.
The only real change since NaNo is that my PDA and PDA keyboard are on the desk far more often now. And the pages with character info for my NaNo, which were against the wall where the image of the wolf is, are now gone. Those used to be lit up by the tealights I’ve got there, which was just enough to be able to read them when I needed to look something up.
Now I have to admit this image was altered. No matter what I did with the lighting the screen ended up showing as almost completely white. So in the end I decided to go ahead and improve the image somewhat. What you’re actually seeing there is part screenshot and part photo. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I could do on short notice, and at least it conveys some sense of how I write.
I wrote this on my PDA yesterday, but never got around to transferring it to the blog. So here it goes, just one day late.
10:30 I almost regretted having a write-in to go to today when my alarm went this morning. I’ve gotten over the shock now, but it would have been nice to have been able to sleep in a bit more. Still there’s no helping that, and I know I’ll have a lot of fun once I get to the write in. Right now I have another 45 minutes to go before I change trains, and then after a wait, another 40 minutes or so on the second train of the day, so travel is the first order of business.
The good news, certain for this first stretch, is that I’ve managed to find a place in a special ‘silent’ carriage on the train. I’m still listening to my music most of the time, but these carriages are pretty nifty. They are marked on the windows with a band on the top. There’s a big “S” in the centre of this band, and the word silence on either side of it. Once in Dutch (stilte) and once in English. These carriages are meant to allow people to get some work done on the train, and I can attest to the fact that they work. I’ve written over 800 words already in the first 30 minutes or so of the journey. That of course puts me well clear of my 500 word daily goal, and is also a nice boost going into the write-in. For all that we like to complain about them, sometimes the railways do apparently get things right.
20:30 My plan to write a couple of entries in this file during the day didn’t really materialise. Once we got to the write-in we were having too much fun to really get into this file again. We – or at least I – didn’t do a terrible lot of writing while actually at the writein this time, by I still did some. And of course just being around other people as crazy as me – about writing – was a lot of fun as always.
Most of the writing for the day was/is being done on the train. I’m on my way back home now, and in the process of putting in another stretch of words. And my total for the journey to the write in was 1474 in the end. Not bad for a couple of hours on public transport. In fact my total for the day has just passed the 2614 words I did during the first 6 days of the month. That’s great of course, but it does give me a bit of a problem now: I have to find yet another goal to keep myself motivated for the rest of the journey. Beating the rest of the month was what kept me going through the last scene I wrote. The inspiration is there for the next one as well, but having a bit of an extra spark never hurt the writing progress. Maybe I’ll aim for a nicely rounded 3k, I can always see where I can go from there.
21:00 I’ve made it past 3k now. In fact I made it past 3k about ten minutes ago. Since then I’ve been working on another document. But I just realised I hadn’t blogged yet about the way I’m writing now. On the two trains this morning, and the first train tonight, I was lucky: I managed to get a seat with some form of table to work on. But on this train, covering the longer stretch of my journey tonight, there was no such luck. I did get a seat, which is always a good thing – this is a pretty busy train – but it doesn’t have a table.
Fortunately I’d planned for this eventuality. Brought along 2 ringbinders today. One with my printed manuscript, should I want to consult that, and just for situations like this. Not aimed specifically at the train journey, but at the write-in as well, where depending on seating arrangements I might have ended up having to do lap-top writing. It still imposes some limits on the way I can sit to have the keyboard on top of a ring binder in my lap, but it’s a lot better than sitting with my knees close together in order to sufficiently support the part of the keyboard holding the PDA while I type in my lap. I may eventually look into getting something specifically for this, like a piece of thin ply-wood roughly the same size as a sheet of A4 paper (slightly smaller than my ringbinder), just to have something thinner – and therefore even easier to carry – to support the keyboard on. But for the time being, the ringbinder does very nicely, and I’ve got enough of them stocked up to be able to take one along whenever I need one.
My writing performance these days is a mere shadow of its November self, but I have been writing ona daily basis. Most of the time it’s not all that much, but it’s still going. I’ve been keeping up a pretty steady 250 word minimum per day, trying to finish last year’s NaNoWriMo manuscript.
That’s not a lot of writing, but part of what I’ve been doing is reading back the manuscript, while writing at the same time. That’s going to come to a close tonight or tomorrow (depending on how soon I feel like sleep). So far I’ve actually quite enjoyed the read. And I’ve got a decent start on a list of the characters I’ve had appear so far. At least those not limited to now-closed sub-plots.
Anyway I just finished printing the pages I hadn’t previously printed – in blue because I’m currently out of black ink in my printer. Still this is just to hep with the read-through so the colour doesn’t really matter. And at least I’ve managed to avoid dropping into a complete black hole after NaNoWriMo this time. Once I’ve finished the re-read I think I can aim for at least 500 a day as a steady goal.
12:30 Well it’s about time I started this post. The Great Maker knows I have enough I want to cover in it. And as I’ve already been hit by yet another plotbunny (I wasn’t even showering this time, just reading the Babylon Lurker’s blog) so I guess it’s about time I did something creative. But first the ‘not so creative’ part of the post: some more numbers and statistics.
So I wrote 166,661 words. Which comes to just over 900k characters according to OpenOffice. Add in 12.5k words of blog posts, another 65k characters, and something similar to the blog in #dutchnano, and my suspicions are confirmed. Without even adding in blog-comments, forum posts, or typing at work (or for that matter corrections) November is already well over 1 million characters, which also means over 1 million keystrokes.
Even taking just 1 million, which is decidedly low, that means I’ve done just over 23 keystrokes a minute for the entire month. Or put it another way: if I’d stayed up all month, and stayed at the computer without sleeping, or eating (or strangely enough in the scenario: dropping dead) I would have had to hit a key once ever 2.6 seconds to make it this far.
Translate that (again roughly) into words, and I would have had to write over 4 words a minute to get everything I wrote for the month typed out. Even if we reduce it to just the novel, I would still have had to write 3.9 words per minute for the entire 43,200 minute long month. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but again that doesn’t leave any time to sleep, work, eat, bathe, or actually do anything other than type. When you take all those into account, you start to realise just how much of a strain writing for a month puts on you.
15:15 The day is going pretty much as expected so far. Not a lot done yet. I’ll try to the the kitchen sorted out a little later. And about the only truly useful thing I’ve done so far has been to convert a beautiful burned out candle into a tealight holder, which seems to be working surprisingly well.
I’ve also decided to upload my wordcount sheet for this NaNo, in order to save myself from having to retype any more numbers. It’s available both in the original OpenDocument format, and in Excel. I’ll freely admit I haven’t checked how well my formulas have converted to Excel, so ymmv on that one.
Finally, and perhaps the most important thing I’ve done today: I’ve added the NaNoWriMo 2008 icon to my front page, and to the My NaNo History page. The other pages will have to wait, and so will the retrospective for the History page. There are too many other things I should probably be doing right now. So I’ll take another break from this post before coming back with my final thoughts on the month.
17:15 Well I haven’t done many of the things I’d planned to do after writing the last little instalment of this post. Instead I’ve been dealing with some email, hanging out in the chat, and playing lemmings, because that’s pretty much the only speed my brain seems to want to operate at right now.
I’m not sure I’m terribly upset about that either. It’s a pretty natural place to be after doing NaNo for a month, and the fact that I didn’t want to have to force myself to do much more than that was one of the reasons I took today off.
Still, looking back on NaNo, what is there to be said. I’m tempted to just say “go read the 47 posts I did last month” but there is a bit more to it than that for this retrospective. I had a lot of fun this year, and I wrote a staggering (even for me) number of words. Where I’d thought I might struggle to get to 50k, with everything else going on this year, I did more than 3 times that.
I think that all the other things happening may actually have had something to do with that. When you have to make time to write, it also forces you to spend that time writing. You can’t get away with thinking “I’ll do that bit tomorrow morning” when you know you have to be at work tomorrow morning.
Something else that may have a lot to do with it is that I haven’t been writing enough this year. Even with the 166,661 I put in for NaNo I’m pretty sure my total ‘words written’ for the year is under 200k. I’ve had 300k years in the past, so that figure is just a little bit of a let down in some ways. But more to the point for this post, I’m pretty sure that figure means there was a lot of pent-up inspiration waiting to come out last month.
The trick now is going to be avoid the biggest pitfall in doing NaNoWriMo: the post-NaNo dip. Of course you can’t avoid it entirely, and I’m still pretty sure I won’t be doing any writing or editing today. But I want to get going again pretty soon this time.
At least I have a write-in scheduled next weekend to help me get started again, so I guess I should be all right. Even in a worst case scenario it shouldn’t be a multi-month drag to get back into the groove this time – I hope.
So, finally, looking back, I’m very happy about this NaNo. I went in not looking for much more than 50k, and came out with over 160k. And what’s more, for only the second time in my 6 NaNoWriMos I got to write “The End” as my last two words during November. And for all the speed I don’t think my writing quality suffered too much.
That if anything is the worrying thing about this NaNo, I’m pretty sure this is a pretty normal – for me – first draft. And one thing I know about my own first drafts: I’m always light on description. Chances are this going to gain more words than it loses in any edit.
Of course the other worrying thing is just what I put my body through this month. As you can read nearer the start of this post I did over 1 million keystrokes in a month. I’m pretty sure that’s another record. But my body seems to have held up pretty well, with only the occasional slight twinge or ache to show for all the strain. So even there it seems I do have cause to be content.
And in a final bit of news, something I did shortly after midnight last night. I updated my NaNoWriMo countdown script to count down to NaNoWriMo 2009. Because that’s the real joy of NaNo: we get to go through this insanity again in a year’s time.
NaNo is just about over now. And mine is done. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few musings left. I’ll probably have a few more of them over the next few days, but here’s one I wanted to get in before the month is out. And no, the title of this post isn’t a Tolkien reference.
What this post is about is something I’m doing right now, and something I have been doing once or twice the last few days: I’m wearing rings. Now I’m not generally much of a ring wearer, but I do own exactly two of them. And for some reason putting one, or both of them, on occasionally helps to get the words going. It also seems to help keep my hands feeling good.
The rings mean I have to hold my hands just a little differently as I type. And that seems to serve as a good way to take some of the strain off them. I’m not sure I can tell why, but somehow having them on also seems to help keep the inspiration going. Possibly because the feeling of wearing them reminds me that I’m supposed to be writing.
This may not, strictly speaking, count as magic, but well, while it’s not a Tolkien reference I just couldn’t resist the fantasy feeling. What can I say, it’s late at night, and I’ve finished 166,661 words in the last 43,200 minutes. I’m entitled to make some weird references, right?