Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Why did I win last year?

Another post that spent far too much time in my drafts folder. The original title was "Why did I win this year?". Sorry 'bout that.

I am speaking of course, of my finally winning at NaNoWriMo. It was my third attempt last year and I think it would be quite a stretch to call my efforts in 2006 and 2007 "attempts" at all!

So what did I do differently? What made the difference?

Here's what I reckon (in no particular order):

  1. I got started straight away. In previous attempts, I fell behind on day 1. I don't think I need to explain this further :-)

  2. I got involved in the community. My primary community was the "Elsewhere in Australia" regional forum (we have even continued our association at the new Elsewhere Wrimos forum. The Fantasy Genre Longue was just too busy.

  3. A bit of competition. Had a month-long word war with my writing buddy Kamu. She got to 50K first, but I was never more that just a good day's work behind. It kept me motivated.

  4. Used my bread maker to keep me up. We eat home-made breadmaker bread at home. I set the bread to cook every night so that it finished at about midnight. Once that is done, I can't do to bed, otherwise the bread will be soggy in the morning. I have to stay up to get it out. This saved me from quitting early (for the night, not the month) on more than one occasion.

  5. Realised I can write 2000 words in a stretch without too much trouble. Once that clicked, I knew that I could do it. Good days could net me 4K or more, but I knew that on any one day I could the minimum required without any trouble

  6. Made and kept to a writing quota plan. I set up a spreadsheet table. Calculated how many days I had and how many words I had to write. Each day was given a weighting: either 1 for a normal day, 0 for a day I was not going to write at all or 0.5 for an easy day. It turned out a normal day was 2.5K (see above) and 1250 words for a lighter day and I had planned days off (eg Friday nights). I never fell behind in my total plan (I kept track of that too) though I did have a couple of days where I didn't quite make my required total for that day. But because I knew where I was (and I had a great day 1, see #1 above) I could do that safely.

  7. Almost killed myself in the first week due to lack of sleep (funny how the headaches went away during week 2).

  8. Listened to the podcasts. I even got my voice on one episode! I was always looking forward to the next one coming out.

  9. Plan. I'm a bit ambivalent about this one. It was good knowing where the story was supposed to go, but I think with all the other positive things that went right this time I might have managed without it. For this year I am tempted to start blank with the Mythic Game Master Emulator. Don't ask me to explain now, I've got a Mythic post in my drafts folder too!

  10. Jer's Novel Writer. To be fair, I used JNW in 2007 and yWriter in 2006 (when I was still a Microsoft slave), so this is not a new thing. But I could not have managed this without the appropriate software.

  11. Mini-goals with cheese. What? I set myself little goals through the night. "You can't have your first coffee until you hit 500". "No toilet break until you finish another 100". "You can listen to the podcast once you've done 1000". That sort of thing. The cheese was Blue Castello cheese. My favourite (actually, red is my favourite but no one sells it!) and I couldn't have any until I had done 2000 words.

Please don't take this as a how-to-win guide, you can find plenty of those around the place. This is simply a list of some of the things that gelled for me in 2008 and helped me win! Roll on NaNo '09.

Since November, I have finally read my novel and on reflection it is a lot less pathetic than I first thought. If there are any masochistic readers of derivative fantasy out there who would like a look, just leave a comment to that effect.