Lessons learnt from participating in this years NanoWriMo, and thoughts on staying with a creative moment for as long as possible.
Full show notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2020/12/04/301-2048-nanowrimover/
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It’s been a weird week for me. Oscillating wildly from intensive periods of focus and effort. Contrasted with two whole days where I did absolutely nothing. On those days, I struggled to even open a program/tool on my laptop that had the potential to be a space for productivity or creativity.
I spent yesterday beating myself up for not doing anything. The only thing I did do was binge on my backlog of ‘people exploring abandoned mines’ videos. Eve reminded me last night that I have just finished nanowrimo, I and haven’t had a day off since October. Which is fair enough actually.
I talked about Nanowrimo in Episode 20-44, and how its helped me come to terms with my dyslexia.
I completed it again this year, and now have about 2/3rds of a Solarpunk novel under my belt. It’s about smugglers in east Kent. Dealing with a plague, interpersonal BS, and ongoing climate shocks in the early 2100’s.
For the first time this year going into Nanowrimo I had a plan.
I used the classic 3 Act / 9 Block / 27 Chapter Outlining Method. I had a word count target for each chapter and a clear idea of scenes, the plot and character progression.
I’m quite pleased with how it the story is going. But finishing up November with 1 / 3 of the story still unwritten was surprising. And I’ve learnt a lot.
Off the top of my head here are some of my learnings:
Word count targeting chapter lengths is good for NanoWriMo.
But impractical for actually telling a story.
For example Chapter 15’s drama had been penciled in with the following line ‘The flood occurs’. The narrative grew to fit the concept. The idea that I would only spend 2k words writing about a devastating flood set in my hometown was naive. It wasn’t enough words to contain the drama at all.
On the other hand. Chapter 3 was drafted as ‘Goes to work the next day, everyone is subdued.’ This was barely a scene – let alone a whole chapter.
So some lessons around pacing vs word count.
I found sustaining a single POV / narrative for a whole novel really hard.
In fact there were times where even I thought my main character was actually quite boring.
So I introduced a new character quite early on writing in the form of email missive to an off screen entity. They attach a few PDFs from the ‘margate historical society. Which meant I unlocked a way of infodumping in a fun and interesting way.
I’m going to continue to write the book and finish the whole story from A-Z with the main character in January.
In the re-write I’m going to go back though and introduce more characters in a Mosaic style. Inspired by KSR’s recent The Ministry for the Future. With the whole narrative spine of the story already written. I’m hoping it will be easy add in more points of view.
A few days were a struggle creatively trying to get the words out and onto the page.
But the physical graft of sitting down and typing was not a blocker this year. I have however hurt my wrist.
I must have written something like 75-80k words this month. As a result – the RSI I first developed working in a shared service center during the noughties has flared up again. Doing Nanowrimo AND starting a blog series about the metaverse, dweb and the #supportnet, may or may not have been a mistake.
Word Counts, targets, and pacing work for me.
Nanowrimo reminds me every year. Then it dissolves away again as the weeks and months go by the learning drifts into a cloud of forgetting.
Thinking about the editing process
Lastly, this is the first year that I’ve been thinking about the editing process as I’ve been writing. Having planned it out, as I wrote the chapters dissolved down into scenes. For the first time, now understand the utility of scrivener as a writing tool. Particularly the Index Card view and the ability to move scenes around on the fly.
I think that feature will be invaluable in the second drafting process. As I try and reshape it from a single narrative POV to a Mosaic.
So yeah. November was pretty good.
Through the act of doing…
Through the act of doing, I am once again reminded that I’m one of those people who thrives on momentum and routine. The more effort I put into a single task, the more creative ideas seem to flare off into other areas and interests.
I once spoke to an artist whose work I admire about this creative phenomenon. They said that if you are in that spot you just have to let it all pour out. Stay with that effort, stay in the moment, and capture all the ideas with a net for as long as possible. Because if you lose momentum or set that moment aside even for a hot minute, it will escape you.
This feast of creativity in the last month or so resulted in some long days. Working and typing well after Eve had gone to bed.
But being in creative fugue state was a very pleasurable way to spend Lockdown 2. But deeply appreciate that this experience has not been the same for everyone.
I’m very thankful that I have the time and space to be able to do that.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.