Monthly Archives: November 2011

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Nanowrimo Is Awesome

It’s November 30, which means all across the planet everywhere, butchers, bakers, candle-stick makers, and regular people like you and me are crossing the finish line and becoming novelists.  If you are one of them, MAJOR kudos, for realz.  In honor of my not writing a novel this year, I dedicate this short opposite-of-a-rant about me and NaNoWriMo.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo on Nov.1, 2009 when a friend facebooked a link to http://www.nanowrimo.org.  I instantly loved everything about it.  The idea that you could write a 175 page novel in a month.  The fact that anyone could do it.  The realization that there is no mojo involved – all it would take was about 2 hours of typing a day.  My noveling Everest was just there, and I had to take it down.  I started my novel the next day, and by Nov. 30 had proudly crossed the 50,000 word mark.

Big Winner with 50251 words!

The vast majority of what I wrote was total pants, as you would expect.  I was writing without a plan, a plot, or even well-defined characters.  But every day or two, or every 4000 words or so, I’d manage to actually write an interesting plot twist, a clever insult, an insightful metaphor.  My characters would start talking to each other without my intervention and fill themselves out.  The ridiculous deadline imposed by this totally-optional-but-once-you-start-you-don’t-want-to-fail activity had forced my brain into producing nuggets of almost-art simply by denying the self-conscious/editing/rational/fearful other part of my brain any time to do its thing.

By the end of the month, I realized that if you did this every day for long enough, eventually you could generate enough good material to piece together an actual (aka publishable) novel.  Just cut out the bad stuff, elaborate on the good, edit, edit, edit.  As it turns out, even a mammoth task like novel writing is really just a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other discipline like anything else.  I did some poking around on writers’ blogs and found out that in fact, writers just sit down and write. Every. Single. Day.

Nanowrimo 2010 winner

Won again in 2010! My novel was written entirely in the last 10 days, which encompassed a visit by my family, a trip to Vancouver, and three painfully long days of wedding dress shopping. Oddly enough, my second novel was better than my first. Better premise, better characters, better plot, better epic-ness. I credit late nights, early mornings, a doubled wpm, and the discovery of the best sandwich cafe ever: The Essential Bakery in Seattle.

In summary:
Less Thinking, More Typing.  Whatever it is, Just Do It y’all.

 

Quantity over Quality

At the risk of starting this post bluntly and non-entertainingly, I say the following: I generally value quality over quantity, and tend towards unnecessary crippling perfectionism at times.  This is good when you are doing P90x pullups or working on your guitar chords, but I suspect it isn’t so great when you are trying to increase your creative output.  For most things, a B effort delivered now is better than A+ delivered a month from now.

I’ve always been impressed by people who manage to update their blogs (or even their fb/twitter statii) daily.  These tasks take me an ungodly amount of time – x minutes for writing, and 10x+ minutes for editing.  Is it possible that all these people have such a natural ease with poetry and wit, that they don’t need editing?  I’m guessing that at least some of it is a result of all the extra practice they get from consistent, non-obsessively-self-conscious, efforts.

That said, I’m going to just post this post now (a world record 16 minutes after starting it).  Ignoring the evil internal editor telling me that what I’ve just written is both boring and pointless. . . . . . now.

Learning to say no: NoNoWriMo

I’m taking a stand, daring to say no. 1667 words and a 17 chapter outline later, I’m declaring this November to be Not Novel Writing Month.

Far and wide across the lands, hundreds of thousands of people are embarking on a noveling journey. Why? Because November is National Novel Writing Month – time to throw caution aside and recklessly write a novel in a month.

Nanowrimo.org explains it much sexier than I could:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To give yourself permission to write without obsessing over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To stop being one of those people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel,” and become one of those people who can say, “Oh, a novel? It’s such a funny story–I’ve written three.”

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins 12:00:01 November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at 11:59:59. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

What bookworm nerd girl could say no to all that?

Well, after writing my first novel in 2009, and a second in 2010, I’m putting my foot down. I have other goals this month, and to achieve them I’m going to have to learn to say no. It’s not really a matter of time – I could certainly carve out writing sessions throughout my day – it’s just that I (yes, even I) only have so many psychological resources. If I’m really going to start a business and/or work on my social skills and/or blog more, I need to say no to mentally draining activities like this. Maybe I could train for a triathlon or take up yoga, but NO NOVEL WRITING!

Can you tell that I’m trying to reinforce this to myself? You might think it’s too late for me since we are well into the month. But in November 2010, after 20 days of actively NOT writing a novel, I gave in to the gnawing anxiety that I was going to die with my music inside and thusly wrote the entire thing in 10 days. Not this year. This year I’m going to utterly dominate at SAYING NO!

(Coming soon, another post on why I love Nanowrimo and what it’s taught me about life.  Don’t worry though, I’m not writing a novel even if I remember how awesome it is.)

KATN – 2 week check-in

2 weeks and 1 day ago today I woke up determined to kick ass and take names, all the time. So how have I been doing?

 

Start a business:
  • I have a product-based business idea that I’ve gotten stuck on, so contacted San Francisco SCORE and got a mentor. I meet her next Monday, so hopefully that will help me get rolling on the next steps.
  • Been consuming all info within my grasp regarding starting a freelance consulting business. Decided on an idea and finally posted a craiglist ad up today for a mock tech interview service. Goal is to get one paying client by next week. #quickwins
  • Going around in psychological circles: “Yes-I can totally work for myself-I’ve got tons to offer” to “Nobody is ever going to pay you-You crazy hyped up little lady-Just go get a job like a sane person”. Honestly, this is the biggest challenge/time suck of them all
Front a band:
  • Researched singing teachers and set up an audition with one on Sunday. This is only indirectly related to starting a band, but it’s a first step into the musician community.
Organize social events:
  • Contacted a friend and had brunch over the weekend. Baby steps, people.
Conversational superstar:
  • Realized that if this goal is the only thing I accomplish in the next year, it will probably be the best spent year of my life thus far.
  • Attended a Halloween party and tested out variations of answers to “What do you do?”.  Spent rest of night failing on pretty much all other conversational fronts.

                                    

  • Applied “small talk” tricks from above-mentionned awesome book on 4-5 strangers on 2 separate occasions.
  • Went to first Toastmasters meeting and gave extemporaneous 2:03 speech on “my creative outlet”.  Singlehandedly took 10 years off the group’s average age :)
Author inspirational and useful blog:
  • Does this one count?
Microfinance lending:
  • Nada

Over time, I’ve started to lose that extra oomph I felt in the morning 2 weeks ago.  Maybe it’s time to paint my mantra on the ceiling?  Set my alarm to play my theme song (TBD)?  How do you keep the passion alive?!?

How to work a party even though you’re scared, Step 1

If you are anything like me, you dread parties of the wine-cheese-mingle variety, especially when you don’t know many people there.  You avoid eye contact with strangers and slither around the room hoping to look busy, avoid notice, and make it out of there in one piece.  If you are lucky, you’ll find a slightly boisterous group of 4 or more people that you can latch on to without ever having to introduce yourself.

Oddly enough, you have no problem whatsoever with dance parties or public speaking.  So it seems your shyness paralysis is limited to unrehearsed conversation.

As I mentioned last time, one of my primary goals is to become a conversational superstar.  I was heading to a Halloween party this weekend – my first in the KATN era – and realized I had a big opportunity here.  I thought about what made parties and strangers so bad, and I realized it came down to these 2 questions:

1) What do you do?
2) What’s been happening?

I dread this line of small talk because I never feel great about my stammering answers and it makes me feel like the most boring person alive or dead.  I see people yucking it up all around me, but my conversations always seem to start with these duds and then die.  What’s a girl to do?

REHEARSE
As much as you might like to avoid these questions (by slithering around the room, etc.), you know they are coming so you may as well be prepared.  I went scientific this weekend and started varying my answers and observing the results.  “I’m a software engineer/software developer/computer programmer” = instant snoozefest.  “I’m a software person and I create websites” – much better response and recovery on to the next topic (this was a group of non-techies).  Next time I’ll try something like “I write software and I’m training for a half marathon/starting a blog/working on kicking ass all the time”.  I’m guessing that once I’ve mastered answering these questions through deliberate testing, parties will be at least 82% better.

HAVE A LIST OF CONVERSATION STARTERS
I actually had a number of these at the ready in college, but at some point I stopped refreshing them and forgot this principle entirely.  Somehow, “Do you or do you not think Ludacris is a lyrical genius” doesn’t belong in this decade, and I’ve also outgrown “Hey, so did you actually enjoy your senior prom?”  But it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with 4 or 5 topics that interest you and that anyone can discuss.  Potentials include

  •  interesting recent news
  • weather (but be prepared to move to the next topic quickly)
  • viral videos (read your audience first)
  • admiring Halloween costumes, plus story about best/funniest/worst one you’ve ever seen (timely)
  • funny, SHORT anecdotes (short because we are only on How to Work a Party: Step 1, and stand-up comedy is at least step 4)

If you are ready with enough topics that you can confidently discuss, you’ll likely be able to fill the time and hedge against entering unrehearsed territory.  Heck, maybe you’ll even enjoy yourself.

EXIT STRATEGY
I haven’t yet managed to gracefully extract myself from a conversation, but I see it being done all the time.  Must try testing out “I’m gonna get a drink/refill, want anything?”, or even just a simple “be right back”.  I’d recommend coming up with at least 4 exit strategies so you can always leave on a high note.

Goals for November: Prepare answers, conversation starters, and exit strategies.  Rock em with at least 1 stranger.  Report back.