NaNoWriMo Day 3: Riding The Wave Of Motivation

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We’re on day 3 of the Great Literary Journey. I’m well ahead of the average wordcount that the NaNo forums tells me I should be at by this stage, so I’m pretty proud of myself. Or I was until I actually read over Vampire Airship*, my budding steampunk dark romance noveil. Then I remembered I had spent the last two and a half days writing thousands of words of worthless junk.

It’s not really my fault- the NaNo website tools make it easy to get caught up in thinking your wordcount is a worthwhile achievement, what with all of the bars and graphs and numbers. I didn’t think there would be a way to fill me with burning anime passion about how many words I’m writing per day but it turns out there is, and that’s to give me what is essentially an XP bar. The only way it could be more insidiously addictive is if golden light burst out of my body every time I passed the 1000 word mark.

I guess before I get back to hypocritically criticizing NaNoWriMo despite taking part in NaNoWriMo I should say something nice about it. I’m having a lot of fun, for whatever that’s worth, and I’ve written way more way faster than I ever have before. None of it is good of course, but I don’t know whether it’s worse than what I would have churned out without doing NaNoWriMo. I actually think it’s improved over the first draft version of the beginning of the same story I have sitting on my hard drive, but I’ve written more stuff since then so maybe I’m just a bit more experienced.

Now to get the knives out.

Speaking of word-counts, I’ve been poking around the “over-achievers” section of the forums and some people are reporting frankly unbelievable numbers- as in writing two novels simultaneously, upwards of 60,000 words in less than 48 hours numbers. At least a few people supposedly achieved 100,000 words or more in the same time frame. You’re specifically banned from expressing disbelief or skepticism at people’s word-counts (gee I wonder why that might be) so I’m going to say here instead that I highly doubt people are writing that fast unless they’re literally just hammering out whatever random words come into their head stream of consciousness style.

There are some other odd features of the forum. One is the super-positive hugbox nature of the place. You can absolutely find real criticism but it seems to be mostly limited to specific threads. Everywhere else it’s a whole lot of “what a fantastic idea!” and “omg you’re so awesome!” and aren’t we all super great authors let’s squeal together in this big echo chamber. That might be the sort of environment conducive to motivating people to write a whole lot of words but it’s not going to make anyone a better writer.

The other thing I noticed was this thread, which made me wonder if a lot of people haven’t fundamentally missed the point in some way. It’s exactly what it sounds like- ways to artificially pad out your word count. Examples (which I swear I am not making up):

Songs!

I once had my characters sing ‘one hundred bottles of beer’ all the way down and all the way back up again because I needed words for the day, they were on a bus and I didn’t know where the story was going.

I also made all numbers ‘twenty (space) four’

[…]

Also, stick in a character who just rambles a lot about nothing and make them part of the plot and thst really boosts your word count, especially if its funny rambles and a character responds to them!

[…]

I definitely don’t use contractions at all in my book! I’ll occasionally use a characters full name for those extra two words. I’m also a big fan of having dialogue like this:

“Hey, I have something important to tell you,” said Jane.
“What did you say?” asked Dick.

“I said, ‘Hey, I have something important to tell you,'” she repeated.

[…]

One year, I was far behind, it was late in the month and I was desperate.

I went back and rounded up all the comments I had posted on the Forums and cut and pasted them into the beginning of my novel. Then I told myself that this would become the Foreword.

(reply to previous post)

That’s a really interesting idea. I may use that even if I’m not trying to up my word count. Thinking about it now, I would love it if all books came with a few pages of the author’s thought process while he was writing.

[…]

When I feel really behind, I will put random spaces in the middle of words.

[…]

a great way to boost word count is needless dialouge. Have characters make awkward small talk, especially if the characters are family or friends that hadn’t seen each other in a long time. And do NOT summarize anything that is done unless you’re absolutely stuck. Ohh, and no contractions are good too.

[…]

  • Include a character who only uses sign language and make them interact with a character who doesn’t know it, without an interpreter present
  • Add a character who loves to monologue
  • Add a character who repeates themselves a lot when nervous, then put them in lots of situations likely to trigger it
  • Characters who, like, use “like” as like a comma really like boost your wordcount

[…]

One year I had my characters play scrabble. They argued about what was allowed in the rules and what wasn’t. My story that year was set in Hawaii, so one character used a Hawaiian word and another character argued against it. It was good for a few hundred words.

And so on, for 18 pages of forum posts. I tried pointing out that if you do stuff like this your story will be shit, but then people got mad and called me arrogant.

Back to writing, I guess.

*(Also a joke)

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27 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Day 3: Riding The Wave Of Motivation

  1. devilsjunkshop

    I don’t believe you have to write junk. Sure, you’ll probably be writing stuff that needs a bit (okay a lot) of polish, but there’s no rule says it has to be absolute bobbins.

    You’re probably right about the high-fast scorers though. Not really in the spirit of the challenge at all.

    Reply
  2. BTS

    I’m already in a love-hate relationship with NaNoWriMo.

    1) I dislike that to reach 50,000 that you’ve got to write junk (Though I admit its given me ideas to use in the final copy), and it has to be done in ONE month. With 30 days. Why couldn’t they pick a month with 31? And WHY in November, when people are getting ready for Thanksgiving?

    2) I’m not a fan of the mods. Don’t ask me why. Its just the vibe they give off.

    3) The only forums I like are the Adoption Society and Roleplay forums. Though I don’t get whats with some of the RPs. I tried to join one (Its called Fandom whatever because I don’t remember the name), but I’m pretty sure the rules say you have to get accepted to join the RP. And the creator of this RP ssems to not have been on in DAYS (Even before NaNo started). I just dropped out today because of him/her laziness. Darn.

    Also, for the people with a large wordcount, they may be NaNo Rebels. They start out from a certain number of words that they’ve already written, and then juat continue from there.

    Reply
  3. Signatus

    “One is the super-positive hugbox nature of the place.”

    When I was a kid, I started my writing career first, by writing trash on my computer (my dad’s a techno-craze, so while most my friends were lucky to have a calculator, we had a computer, and an old Lanccia Delta which had had 4 other drivers before). Then we discovered internet and Fanfiction dot Net, which has to be the biggest hugbox in the world of internet (and I frequent dog forums, I’m the evil dog behaviorist that likes to remind people dogs are dogs, not furry babies).
    I admit once I decided to constructively critizice someone, and I got a hoard of flamers that pretty much said my writing sucked. I admit to feeling more “¡¡¡¿¿WTF??!!!” than anything else.
    Anyways, my time there was a loss of time in that aspect. Aside from that episode, most of what I got was “OMG! You’re so good!”, on stories that were utter trash, but it did help me to get more experience, simply because I was able to vomit a short story once a week, and a bigger one every two months. Practice makes perfect. That, and having a sense of autocriticism that allowed me to find everything I write as pure trash, which impulsed a sense of unachievable perfection that keeps me always alert to unwanted praise.

    ““Hey, I have something important to tell you,” said Jane.
    “What did you say?” asked Dick.”

    OMG! O_O

    “I would love it if all books came with a few pages of the author’s thought process while he was writing.”

    No, that’s not a good idea. If an author failed to deliver the idea in the book I have in my hands, he’s failed as a writer, end of story.

    “a great way to boost word count is needless dialouge.”

    Are we sure Rothfuss’ books didn’t come from this place?

    “And so on, for 18 pages of forum posts. I tried pointing out that if you do stuff like this your story will be shit, but then people got mad and called me arrogant.”

    Ah, yeah. The magic of forums. People only like to hear what they want to hear.

    Reply
    1. Austin H. Williams

      “Are we sure Rothfuss’ books didn’t come from this place?”

      I was going to dismiss this initially, noting that it took Rothfuss seven years to write that first book, and not a month, but then I started thinking… With the massive padding, the disparate storylines, and the end product still being a turd despite all those years he was working on it, I have a new theory:

      Rothfuss didn’t take seven years to write The Name of the Wind – he took seven NaNoWriMos to do it, and then he threw them all together when he thought he could get a publishing contract!

      If TNotW’s word count is, in fact, in the 350,000 range, I’m taking this as confirmation…

      /googles

      Nope. Scratch that. TNotW’s word count is closer to 260,000. And I thought we had a viable theory there for a second…

      Reply
      1. ronanwills Post author

        My personal theory is that the books were written over a very long time, longer even than seven years. I’m convinced at least some of the material we’re seeing was written when he was a teenager

        Reply
      2. Austin H. Williams

        In all earnestness, I don’t doubt that you’re right. Still, when confronted with certain maddening truths (e.g.: Patrick Rothfuss is a published and successful author) one grasps at whatever rationalisation one can to understand and process them.

        Reply
      3. Signatus

        Could have been 5 nanos, and some add on? Sounds like a nice enough theory. 😛

        Anyways, I agree with Ronan, most of the book seems slapped together from bits and pieces, and I think I read somewhere (probably it was here), that the lunatic girl from the sewers character is a late add-on which wasn’t on the original draft. It shows, those parts are so disjointed.
        A while ago, before I found this blog, I remember reading somewhere else (don’t remember where), that Rothfuss’ first publishing attempt was rejected, and then he added the interludes. Apparently, the book was originally about Qvothe’s life, the hero’s journey and so on, but the publishers found the material was not publish worthy, too generic, and so the dude slapped that on (probably his agent told him to do that).
        I don’t know if the story is true, tho.

        Reply
      4. braak

        One interesting thing about this that I noticed from Rothfuss wikipedia page (which I read because Ronan posted it, come on you guys), is that Rothfuss won the Writers of the Future award in 2002 — for story excerpt from The Wise Man’s Fear. So, the material that he was working on for seven years or more wasn’t just The Name of the Wind; it looks like it was probably the whole series.

        It also makes me suspect that there’s a lot of disparate stories that are pulled together; maybe some of them were not even originally about Kvothe at all.

        Reply
  4. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    So are you einexile or doktorbuk? And how incredible is it that people defend intentionally bad writing? I understand that they want to people to get to write but if you’re just going to slap 50,000 words together and just ignore the work after November then what’s the point?

    It seems that all some of the NaNoers want is to win something and be part of a group that will recognize them for their victory. It’s just one step up from making up something that you then win by default. And some of them are at least aware enough to know that they will have to trim the fat after November, but then why do they write all that pointless shit in the first place? Why get to 50,000 words if you’re then going to delete most of them after you pass your arbitrary deadline? What they should be doing is coming up with a thread that is designed to help people get past the desire to type out fluff by giving them writing advice that is actually useful. Even if you want to write silly shit that makes no sense, you should at least want to do a good job of it, there isn’t a divide between good writing and fun writing.

    And of course they attack anyone who criticizes the process as being some sort of saboteur who is really good at writing and just wants to tear down their fun because you’re a selfish asshole who doesn’t understand that some people aren’t as great as you, so stop persecuting them. And if you don’t like it don’t read it. How I hate that response.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      I like it even more when you dislike a book, and people question you about what you’ve published to be entitled to critizice that book.
      Makes me wonder what they’ve written and published to be entitled to praise that book.

      Reply
  5. Fibinachi

    Vampire Airship*, my budding steampunk dark romance noveil.

    Woah now, Mr. Clearly, you stole my idea straight out of the voluminous aether and condensed it into crud in your hard drive. There is no way you can surpass the sheer gear grinding genius of my own masterpiece: “Dawn of Mechnically-Assisted Vampire Airships: Being Part The Firste of The Unknown Enigmatic Names of Elemental Mystery Decade “.

    I increase my word count by having every character speak a different language, thus necessitating the use of several other characters to act as translators for the first characters. Then, sometimes, those characters die off because they get fed to the Blood Engines of Korvablal, because I read A Game of Thrones once and was told that was the way to go about things, so everyone is forced to spend pages trying to guess what someone is saying until they finally learn the language. Entire paragraphs is really just me copy pasting the same words into Google Translate and putting them in the book. It’s genius!

    The NaNoWriMo forum is an odd place. It’s a weird focus on getting to the specific word count. On the other hand, it’s my hope that once people get there, and look at their 50.000 words, they realize it wasn’t that hard. And then, suddenly, wonder what they could write with 5000. Or 500. Or 50.

    http://fiftywordstories.com/

    Reply
    1. Tim Sevenhuysen

      Thanks for the link to FiftyWordStories.com!

      I’d love to see some NaNoWriMo people try their hands at crafting 30 fifty-word stories (one each day), instead of trying to write 50,000 words in a month. There’s certainly a sense of accomplishment to completing a first draft of a novel, but I think there are some writers who would benefit more, creatively, by trying to cram their stories into the 50-word limit. There’s a ton of value to learning how to pick each word and each sentence carefully.

      Reply
  6. braak

    “Then I remembered I had spent the last two and a half days writing thousands of words of worthless junk.”

    Well, one thing that even professional writers say is that you’ve got to shovel sand into the sandbox before you can build a sandcastle. if the choice were between writing a shitty novel and writing a great novel, everyone would probably pick writing a great novel — but generally the choice is between writing a shitty novel and not writing any novel at all. And the thing is, you know, you can always edit a shitty novel.

    Whatever you do man, don’t read it. It’s not Novel Reading Month, for god’s sake.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      That’s a great observation. I remember I wrote a novel, somewhere between 10 years ago. I thought; “This one is good”.
      Then I went to write something else, some stupid bet I’ve made with a friend about what would happen if Twilight had a plot. That thing was trash.
      Then I went back to read the old novel and thought… impossible, how can this thing be so bad? All the main character does is whine!

      Don’t know if you guys have seen Futurama, where Fry wants to be a comic writer. I felt so identified with Fry in that chapter I couldn’t stop laughing. 😄

      Reply
  7. Andrea Harris (@SpinsterAndCat)

    Maybe one purpose nanowrimo serves is to keep these people at home in front of their keyboards instead of out in the street doing god knows what. On the other hand, they could be doing something useful instead, like charity work or something.

    This, and so many other aspects of online forums, remind me of E.M. Forster’s prescient short story “The Machine Stops.” Basically he predicted the existence of internet forums before people even had radio in their homes (the story was published in 1909).

    Reply
  8. Reveen

    I think if you were in a meatspace writing class and tried to foist one of those wordcount tricks on an actual teacher they would knock you off your chair and beat you with his shoes. At least the one I had in high school would.

    Reply
  9. Austin H. Williams

    There are some other odd features of the forum. One is the super-positive hugbox nature of the place. You can absolutely find real criticism but it seems to be mostly limited to specific threads. Everywhere else it’s a whole lot of “what a fantastic idea!” and “omg you’re so awesome!” and aren’t we all super great authors let’s squeal together in this big echo chamber.

    So, it’s mainstream fandom?

    Also, stick in a character who just rambles a lot about nothing and make them part of the plot and thst really boosts your word count, especially if its funny rambles and a character responds to them!

    a great way to boost word count is needless dialouge. Have characters make awkward small talk, especially if the characters are family or friends that hadn’t seen each other in a long time. And do NOT summarize anything that is done unless you’re absolutely stuck. Ohh, and no contractions are good too.

    I’ve run into examples of this before in published books, but I can’t quite put my finger on where though.

    Reply
  10. devilsjunkshop

    I’m in two minds about the nanowrimo thing. I’ve done it twice before, I’m doing it again this year although I’ve started very slow this time out. All the forum stuff is news to me as I never really engaged with any of the ‘community’ stuff – especially not the “hey, let’s all meet up in some Belfast coffee shop and write together!”. Err, no. One of the great things about writing is it gives you a perfect excuse to sit indoors and not be bothered by anyone for hours at a time 🙂
    Anyway, yes, people can write utter trash. But then they can write utter trash any time of the year, and maybe this way gets it over and done quick, and perhaps now and again one of them will look at what they’ve done and think “actually, I could have done this way better, maybe if I…”
    Then again, one of them could be the next Patrick Rothfuss and two hundred drafts won’t save it.
    Personally, I use nano more as a focus for getting a quick first pass done without horrendous amounts of overthinking.
    The thing I don’t understand about all the forum/community stuff is… aren’t all those people supposed to be writing?

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      Yeah, to be honest I think the forum mainly exists so people can talk about their story instead of actually writing it.

      Reply

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