NaNoWriMo 2016 “Winner”!

NaNoWriMo graph to 70k words.
In another version of this post, I used mortal_kombat_flawless_victory.gif here.

I successfully “wrote” a “novel” in the month of November — at least per the rules of NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month): Written word-count of 50k in thirty days, which averages to at least 1,667 words per day. Since I was a little nervous about being able to consistently put out that quantity amount beyond my standard 750 target; I set myself a mental target to clear 2000 words a day, at least for the first days or week, to ensure I had a little buffer. Seemed reasonable enough given late-month distractions such as Thanksgiving break and all that, plus what if I just… ran out of shit to write about?

I ought to have known myself better — that “private stretch goal” became the goal in my mind, and I felt bound to clear that 2k mark every day. I ended up managing to succeed at that as well, finally landing just over 70k for the month. The whole premise of this novel (more details to come a little later on, maybe once I’ve had a chance to read the thing myself…) was based on a few scenes intended as a short story I started a while ago, and there’s a gap I left open in the novel where most of that original story can slip right into the exposition. The short story was drafted as part of a back-burner project I call Thirty Vignettes, though as of this writing, I haven’t yet published this short story draft over there.

A lot got sidelined during this time; I watched the time duration of my daily pages creep up from 20-40 minutes, (which I generally average when doing 750 if I have a plan) eventually creeping up over 2 hours, peaking at around 2h30m on a few days. Yikes! With this extra time commitment to a specific thing, a lot of the projects I was supposed to be working on got only perfunctory attention, and I left a few collaborators hanging :-\ (Sorry Rich… Josh… Cory)

That said, last month was an unmitigated success, aside from that. The Novel (working title “Momentum”) is drafted in it’s entirety, plot fully written down, and plays out from start to finish. So I have a work product to show for November’s effort. I also hit the word target that I accidentally committed to, every day, no matter what. Observationally from this, I think I can learn a few things from the exercise that I can apply elsewhere in my business’s projects, which can hopefully optimize some things and maybe make up any ground I lost while heads down on Momentum.

  1. Everyone always talks about how powerful it is to have one single focus. I finally believe them, and so while I still cling to the idea that occasionally my ADD tendencies can benefit from a context switch, I need to implement a better system for locking focus, at least over short scales of time. It was incredibly… easy… when I could get up every morning, and know exactly what I was supposed to do. All I had to do was sit down at the seat I frequently camp in the front of Ozo, open the laptop, and pick up where I left off, describing the travails of my characters. I love working on a smattering of things, but I never feel that sense of clarity around what to chip at when it’s time to get to work.
  2. In Crossfit, we use a lot of taxonomies to get specific about movements and their modalities. One of the designations Crossfit uses to describe a type of movement is monostructural. This describes things like running, biking, or skate skiing, because they’re a accomplished by means of a single repeated movement pattern. Writing, at least how I approach it (see notes below in Lesson 3), is a monostructural activity. The more time I spend doing it, the more of I can get done. Different days or different time slices may end up with different rates and therefore quantities of output, but across the average, output positively correlates with time. Time in = product out.
  3. I’ve long felt that my only two personal competitive advantages are ability to hold raw facts in my head (by no means photographically, but I can often repeat verbatim absurd details of long ago situations and experiences.) People also frequently referred to me as being ‘creative’ — a mantle I often take for granted; the ability to take a premise or starting place and riff on it indefinitely is so second nature, that I lose sight of the fact that it’s not universal. Last month, I realized that by starting with a story universe, a few interesting characters, and committing to memory a few important plot elements, all writing required each day was to continue making up whatever my characters might need to do in order to get from the final paragraph I’d pasted into Scrivener, along to the next plot point I needed them to hit. And that combo turned each morning into the monostructural activity I describe in #2. So as long as I kept plugging, the story kept happening. This process presenced for me how well these two ‘advantages’ pair, and that I need to be more cognizant of when I can really push on this combo to accomplish things. I know writing isn’t like this for everyone, so I appreciate that that part comes easily for me.
  4. A had a fourth lesson in mind when I started writing this post, but clearly my memory advantage per #3 isn’t flawless, as I’ve now lost it 🙂 Perhaps if it dawns on me in coming weeks, I’ll come back to this and edit to include whatever it was.

Not sure how to really wrap this up, since it reads more like a “three things I learned while…” bit of clickbait, but I will say that NaNo was a super worthwhile experience. Even if I never end up publishing Momentum (though I plan on taking a run at it), it was a great time-box for accomplishment; it came out well ahead of a baseline “learned a lot” experience, since one: I have a checkpoint work product, but also two: it was more than ‘learning how to do a thing by doing it’ but it also brought up these meta-learnings about how I might can be effective more broadly.