Posts Tagged ‘NaNoWriMo’
‘Tis nearly NaNoWriMo time-o again, folks. I’ve an idea and I’m putting together an outline, so I’m getting pretty excited.
But this post is for people who participate in NaNoWriMo Write-Ins.
One of the fun things about NaNoWriMo is community. NaNo writers can write in public, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups. The regional Municipal Liaisons arrange scheduled Write-Ins, and there is a special kind of ambiance when everyone is writing and the energy is paplable.
Anywhere any NaNo novelist works on a novel during the month of November can be considered a Write-In. In the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge region it has become traditional for NaNo writers to announce on the forums when they know they will be writing at this library or that coffee shop. The more advance notice, the more chance other NaNovelists will be able to join them in impromptu write-ins.
To make it easier for writers to recognize a Write-In, a few years ago I cobbled together a couple of NaNoWriMo graphics to make 4″ x 6″ stand-ups, which can be folded and placed on a table during a Write-In.
I seem to have gotten horribly behind on my NaNoWriMo manuscript. Heck, I haven’t even got cover art yet. (Irony: I had basic cover art for the contenders I decided to pass on. C’est la vie.)
If this was my first NaNoWriMo, when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to manage to write fifty thousand words in the month of November at all, that would have been serious cause for alarm. But for me in the here and now, I’m fine with it. Having done it twice, I am aware that I can do it, and in fact would be able to make the count if I devoted myself to it. So knowing that I may not make the 50k in during NaNovember is in the back of my mind, but just getting a good start on my third novel this year will be enough of a return for my 2011 NaNo participation.
I’ve been to a few write-ins and will attend a few more, and NaNoWriMo can certainly be a valuable experience even if you don’t finish it. This year my region’s ML’s have decided to help our Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge-Guelph mascot, Orwell the Piggy Bank, to try his hoof at writing a novel. So people are taking turns at writing bits of the chain story for the little oinker. So far, not me. I am so far behind that I can’t afford to write for Orwell, until/unless I manage to get my wordcount caught up. Hah. How’s *that* for motivation :)
There are just too many other things I have to do this year, particularly in regard to launching its predecessors. What is happening with the new book, “Sans Seraph,” is that the story is coming together and the characters are beginning to grow into their own voices, so that’s alright.
But the first November over-scheduling casualty was the Thursday special feature for the Inconstant Moon blog. Ouch!
That comes from having a too tight time budget, without any contingency to allow for sickness. Although it’s possible to write/blog with some illnesses, migraine is not one of them. So when my brain recovered enough to allow me to turn on a computer last night, I remembered that today was Remembrance Day but forgot my Inconstant Moon Special Feature! I could probably cobble one together in a rush, but since Friday’s half gone, I think I’ll just call it a miss, and undertake not to miss a deadline again.
Today’s email was cause for a happy dance; the New York Times best selling author of LEAST WANTED and IDENTITY CRISIS, hard boiled fiction writer Debbi Mack told me she enjoyed reading Inconstant Moon and has agreed to write a cover blurb! That is fabulous news. It will surely be a terrific addition to the cover art when I release the re-engineered versions (fingers crossed) of Inconstant Moon in December.
[Now I need to go write something on the order of six thousand words.... ]
Glyn Moody directed me to an article taking aim at non-commercial Creative Commons licenses, miscellaneous factZ: Creative Commons and the Commons.
Rufus Pollock makes some interesting arguments, and points out a possible problem in the Creative Commons organization: that it is an independent hierarchical organization, and unaccountable to anyone, really. Still, what was most ironic to me was his interest in removing data(base) material from the public domain (which impacts on his work) while advocating elimination of the noncommercial option from CC licenses (which impacts on mine).
As a writer about to self publish my first novel, I have considered carefully, and chosen to license it with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada, or CC by-nc-sa.
This license allows any type of remix desired save commercial. I think all cultural material should be absolutely free for personal use. Personal use must be sacrosanct for culture to grow.
Since I’ve been mulling over and learning about copyright over the past few years, I’ve become an advocate of free culture. I’ve learned a lot, beginning with the copyright consultation submissions made by thousands of Canadians (who were led to believe that the government was interested in what citizens felt to be important in any new copyright law*), and from reading, and having online discussions with many people.
Drew Roberts is a multi-disciplinary creator who passionately champions free culture, going so far as to publish his NaNoWriMo novels as he writes. His credo is “Free the Art and Free the Artists.” Although I admire his bravery, for myself, no one reads a word I write until I am satisfied with it. In his inimitable way, the eminently reasonable Drew has gently encouraged me to release Inconstant Moon without the non-commercial restriction.
I’ve also had discussions with copyright abolitionist Crosbie Fitch, who naturally looks askance at the very idea of self publishing, as he feels that all art and creativity rightfully belongs to everyone, and should be firmly in the public domain. Not that he thinks artists should be denied the opportunity to make a living, just he thinks that they should be paid properly first, but once art is released into our culture, it should be free to copy.
Both Drew and Crosbie are highly intelligent, informed, committed and passionate about the issue, and I’ve learned a great deal from them both. But still, these are radical ideas. Change is difficult. It takes time for new ideas to be understood, and take root. So like many other independent creators today, I am feeling my way in an attempt to decide what combination works for me.
Yet I believe very strongly in the importance of the public domain and the commons.
I may at some point decide to venture the release of a novel without the noncommercial restriction, but not this time. The law of my land (Canada) places all IP under full copyright by default, and contrary to what our American neighbors contend with their absurd USTR propaganda, existing Canadian copyright law is both “stronger” and more restrictive than is good for our culture. Canadian culture is fighting its way to freedom from all the restrictions imposed by both corporate special interests and copyright collectives wanting to lock down our culture even further through the imposition of bad laws and DRM.
If creative commons licensing did not exist, the only choice available to me as a creator would be to publish my novel under full copyright restrictions. I don’t want that. But again, I am trying it on, seeing what’s what, whistling in the dark.
Lately there has been talk floating around that Creative Commons licensing is too confusing. It is certainly more confusing than outright copyright abolition would be. Some people feel more strongly about various elements of Creative Commons licenses. Like Rufus Pollock, many people think that the Noncommercial restriction should be dropped altogether. Others, like @openuniverse, believe there is no place in the Creative Commons for a “no derivatives” restriction. Others feel share-alike is too restrictive.
Rufus suggests that since most Creative Commons licenses are designated noncommercial, we should be dropping it altogether. He thinks people are dazzled by the Creative Commons “brand” and thinks that it should all be perfectly interoperable. But what Rufus doesn’t look at is the only way for all IP to be perfectly interoperable is Crosbie’s way: through the abolition of all forms of copyright. Crosbie is perfectly correct: the only perfect cultural interoperability is to be found in the Public Domain. Because for some, even a compulsion to provide attribution is too onerous.
[I confess I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into Crosbie's "The 18th Century Overture · A Crescendo of Copyright, Natural Finale and Reprise" as soon as this novel distraction is in hand.]
The point is, it shouldn’t be up to Rufus or anyone else to tell me how I can or cannot release my own creative work.
Existing copyright has long since ceased to be beneficial to creators (if it ever really was). And it is because existing copyright law is both dictatorial and stifling that creators have begun to reject it. Creative Commons licensing offers a work-around that allows creators to get free of the yoke of copyright.
The reason Creative Commons is so successful is precisely because it offers all these choices. It is the variations in licensing that gives creators the confidence to release our work in this fashion, in the way in which we feel most comfortable, rather than allow the status quo of full copyright.
Something to remember is that once work is licensed, the license can only be altered to make the work more free. So in many ways, it seems more natural to begin with a more restrictive license. After all, it can always be lightened later.
As beneficial as I believe Creative Commons licensing to be, my concern is that restrictive license provisions will remain in place as long as the current copyright terms. Which can only be a disaster for the Public Domain.
And one of the most harmful aspects of existing copyright law is the ridiculous terms. It shouldn’t outlive the creator, nor should it be transferable, particularly to inhuman corporations. That’s a large part of why copyright has become such a problem today; corporate interests do not coincide with creator interests.
So I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is. I really don’t know what will happen.
Although I believe it to be good, “Inconstant Moon” may or may not generate income.
Either way, it is my test case. Regardless of how well it does,
“Inconstant Moon” goes into the public domain 5 years after publication.
I want to do this for two reasons.
First: because I truly believe that a strong and healthy public domain is essential for all of our shared culture as human beings.
But my second reason for emancipating my work is far less altruistic: I want to give my creative works a fighting chance of surviving me.
* The later unveiling of Bill C-32 indicated a total disregard for the feedback provided by Canadians in the Copyright Consultation.
All Creative Commons logos licensed by Creative Commons with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
Inconstant Moon banner and cover art Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) lothlaurien.ca
When I decided to start writing my novel, “Inconstant Moon“, I bought a refurbished IBM Thinkpad to use exclusively for writing. This laptop came with a truncated version of Windows 98, because anything more recent wouldn’t fit on the tiny hard drive. Originally the machine would have came with a floppy drive, or perhaps a CD writer, but it has neither now.
Instead it’s got a DVD player and a slot for an Internet wireless card. I suspect the computer shop cobbled it together out of bits and pieces with the intent of creating a DVD watching laptop, though I’ve never even played a DVD in it. Today probably opt for a netbook, but for the moment, my laptop remains an excellent dedicated writing machine. And any technology we can keep out of the landfills is to the good.
I was relying on the USB port to be able to get documents in and out of the laptop. The problem is that Windows 98 didn’t recognize the USB port. Rather than mess around with Microsft patches, I decided to dump Windows and instead install Ubuntu, a gnu/linux free software operating system. [If you're interesting in finding out more about free software, Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, explains the four freedoms. here.]
So my my debut novel, “Inconstant Moon”, was written on a Linux machine, using the free OpenOffice Writer software.
But there was another problem with my laptop. I was unable to connect the wee beastie to the Internet. So when it came time to upload the novel, first to NaNoWriMo for the “win”, and then to CreateSpace for the proof, I hadn’t yet resolved the problems of connecting to the Internet with my laptop, so I used the USB thumbdrive to transfer my manuscript to my desktop machine, which was running Windows XP.
And transferring my novel into Windows meant the Ubuntu fonts didn’t work properly because Windows didn’t support the free software fonts (surprise). So transferring “Inconstant Moon” into Windows made it a visual disaster. But it was my only option. I had to replace the free fonts in Ubuntu with Windows proprietary fonts. It required reformatting, which was a great deal of work. But I did it and the whole thing looked good. All the subsequent editing on the desktop Windows machine for one reason only: I didn’t want to have to reformat every time I switched machines.
When the proof came back from Create Space it was gorgeous. I planned to proof read and then publish, but excellent new feedback from my beta readers transmogrified “proof reading” into “major editing”. The Windows fonts I had selected printed nicely in the proof, so I wanted to keep them. Nienke was quite taken with the look of the overall book design, which is a great compliment, and gratifying, as she is one of the people I look to as a natural arbiter of style. Everything in the proof looked so good I didn’t want to risk the book design by messing with the fonts.
And the next proof looked great, too. But again, proofing turned into editing, including the addition of several new scenes. Even so, this time through it was only a minor edit. The final rounds of editing “Inconstant Moon” took much longer than I thought, but I have to say I am very happy with the result.
@notveryalice has lately been exploring what makes art “good” in her blog. Personally, I find it extraordinarily difficult to tell if my own work is doing what I want it to without a lot of distance. I can read my own work with perfect objectivity… years after I’ve written it. First I have to get beyond remembering the writing with perfect clarity.
That’s why beta readers and/or editors are essential to the business of self publishing. Beta readers provide feedback and allow me to get a different perspective. Much of my confidence that I’ve written a good novel is from the feedback I’ve received. It is always a good sign when beta readers are so drawn in to the story they forget to flag the typos. The last rounds of editing have smoothed off the last rough edges and enriched the story. So I’m pleased.
The most important thing I’ve learned as a writer is when to stop. You can keep editing forever. That’s not what I want, I want my work to be out there. Anyway, although theoretically there is always room for improvement, once you go beyond the sweet spot, my experience tells me that the work generally goes downhill. With the final edit complete, the last bit of business before uploading “Inconstant Moon” to CreateSpace was research for an afterward “Notes on the Type” page.
I was aware that fonts might be covered by copyright, but, self publishing noob that I am, I foolishly had the idea that “Windows XP Professional” would have licensed the fonts they made available to me so that I would be able to use them in desk top publishing. But now the novel is done, and I’m planning to finalize it.
Just to be certain, I wanted to check that I could use the selected fonts for a commercial project. So I tried to find out what the license was. I spent days jumping through Windows hoops trying to find out what the license was. I’d chosen four fonts in the manuscript and on the cover. Perhaps some or all might not allow for self publishing, which is, after all, a commercial use.
What a shocking concept: the possibility that I might not be legally entitled to use the fonts included with the software. All I need to know is whether or not I can legally use the the fonts I’ve chosen in my novel. Like most self publishers, I don’t have legal advice on tap.
After a week of trying unsuccessfully to find out from Microsoft if I could legally use the five fonts I’d selected, I decided instead to dump all the old fonts and find free alternatives. What it came down to is that I simply couldn’t find out. Microsoft is much tougher than I am. [I expect I'll blog the details later.]
For me, of special importance is the ability to have licensing that will allow me to release my novel “Inconstant Moon” under a Creative Commons license. There was a moment of weakness when I considered paying the license fees just to get it over with. But the language of the license was disturbing. Although I’m not a lawyer, it certainly made it sound as though the font licenses might restrict my ability to use the Creative Commons license I want. Most frustrating is the fact that Microsoft does not make this information available on one of their web pages.
But it is simply not worth risking a copyright infringement lawsuit. The amount of time invested in this wild goose chase was more than enough, and it was time to pull the plug and look into free fonts.
the world of free fonts
Because I didn’t want to risk the successful book design, I had put off making the full fledged migration to Ubuntu I planned so I could keep the Microsoft fonts. But when I began looking for alternatives, the irony is that the wider world offers better choices under free licenses, and makes what’s on offer from Microsoft look pitiful by comparison. I will blog more about my situation later, in hopes of trying to help others avoid the problems I’ve been having. But first I need to get my novel finished.
Libreleft Books logo
When I decided to self publish, I decided I wanted my own imprint, so I came up with a name, “Libreleft Books.” The logo I designed for it consisted of encircling the ‘Libreleft Books’ text with a wreath of laurel leaves. It seemed like a good idea, as my name is Laurel, after all. The Laurel wreath has long been used as an emblem of quality, a symbol of superiority. Or, as @CharlieSheen famously says, #winning.
But. A conversation with @notveryalice reminded me that the movie festival circuit has embraced the laurel wreath as a symbol of festival winning. Which means that using my laurel wreath design might open myself up to charges of copyright or trademark infringement.
I have read about the ways copyright and trademark law are being used to suppress creativity and competition. And while no one is likely to confuse a book with a movie festival, lately the law no longer seems to make such distinctions.
Back in the days I wrote for television I had learned it was always safest to name a character something terribly common, like John Smith, or incredibly uncommon, like John Dortmunder. The most dangerous in terms of lawsuits is a name that only one person has. The extrapolation is that the safest course would be the redesign of my lovely Libreleft Books logo.
The very definition of chilling effect.
For an eleventh hour change, instead of my wreath, it would be safer to use a book. I’m pretty sure that the most common book publisher logo going is some graphic representation of a book. And the very commonness of the symbol is in itself protection. So I after dumping my beautiful wreath graphic, I drew a picture of a book to be the background. It has entailed a huge amount of effort, and what is galling is that it has delayed my self publication. I like this one too, but not as much as my crown of laurel leaves. But between the Caslon font and the wreath… well. Chill.
“but if there’s any profit, pls make a donation to organizations like Doctors Without Borders.”
I’ve done a wee bit of modification, adding a copyleft arrow as a serif on the capital L, extending the serifs into swashes to join the letters k and s. But that’s the thing about free: I am legally free to make these alterations. I’m not sure I’m happy with it, but I don’t have time to second guess just now. Maybe it’ll grow on me, or maybe I’ll change it down the road. The point is that I can proceed. So, thank you, Manfred Klein — and all the other designers and digitizers — for making sure to populate the Internet with free fonts.
So. There is a happy ending.
I am finishing up the reformatting, and my novel “Inconstant Moon” will be uploaded to CreateSpace by tomorrow. The chilling effect for fonts and logos hasn’t stopped me, but it did slow me down. And I will share the information in an effort to try to help others avoid the same trap, because the ability for writers to self publish is a good thing. And important.
When I decided to get down to it and finally write a novel for NaNoWriMo last year, it was a last minute thing. I didn’t have much time to think about it, and so I pulled the title out of one of my favorite lines from Shakespeare. This line was important, because my debut novel is partly a coming of age story, and it’s a little bit crime fiction, with a look at relationships, and a bit of suspense, the real underlying theme for me has always been honesty.
Juliet cautions Romeo not to swear his love on anything as changeable — untrustworthy — as the moon. She’s telling him he bloody well better not lie to her.
Although I most certainly would have read Larry Niven’s story of the same name, and probably still have the paperback of his Inconstant Moon collection somewhere since I was a voracious science fiction reader and a big Niven fan back in the day, it was a huge surprise to be told that my debut novel inadvertently shares the title of a Larry Niven short story and collection. It’s been so long since I read it that I had forgotten Larry Niven used it as a title.
But of course, he will have swiped the phrase from the same source I did: “Romeo and Juliet”. Niven would have chosen the title because it references the physical moon, I chose it because Juliet’s speech from the balcony scene was wonderfully appropriate. Funny thing is that my big worry was that people would read my title and look at my book cover and think it was a vampire story.
My Inconstant Moon isn’t SF or a vampire story either…. at least not in the literal sense anyway. Not that I haven’t read my share of both, just that it’s not.
:D It’s amazing how many titles the Bard has provided.
I’m running behind. This self publishing racket requires a lot of work.
I’ve been working on the Inconstant Moon blog, although I may still change the theme…. we’ll see.
they make book trailers now?
Indeed they do. In today’s world, it is becoming more common to have a book trailer to help sell books. Like a movie trailer, only for books. Nobody seems sure if they help or not. But it shouldn’t be too hard, right? Not for me, anyway, with my media arts background. I’d love to would love to make a trailer for Inconstant Moon. Ideas dancing in my head quickly slammed into a brick wall of technical difficulties. Because I can’t see any of my video in Sony Vegas, since the Windows codec has become corrupted.
This is certainly some kind of DRM/proprietary software issue. But it ought to be fixable. So I burned days trying to work out a way to either get the Windows XP codec replaced/repaired or learning new gnu/linux editing software. The former was a bust (seems Windows thinks its working, so it won’t give me the option to replace it!) and the latter will take far too much time. Since I’m transitioning from Windows to Linux, I’m not about to upgrade proprietary Windows or Sony Vega software. Too bad.
my debut novel is *almost* ready to go
Except for a few changes to the Inconstant Moon manuscript itself before I launch, including an author photo. Who knew? But apparently a photo is an essential. Oh well. And I’ve a few changes to make from some last minute notes, and am waiting on a few more notes. Still, one way or another, I should be ready to upload it to CreateSpace by next weekend.
november is NaNoWriMo month
The plan was always that I’d be ready to start NaNoWriMo.
Well, I’ve got some ideas and I’m weaving the outline. I’m toying with the idea of appropriating the very cool title of one of my Dad’s early songs. But I may not, as it sounds fairly Stieg Larson-ous. It’s a great title though, and it could work. I’ll wait until the outline is done to decide though.
Tomorrow is the NaNoWriMo Kickoff Party. Since it’s on October 31st people are dressing up, so I’m contemplating swiping bits of costume from the great costumes I’ve made for my kid over the years. I could go as Captain Jack Sparrow…wear the wig, the gold teeth… certainly not going to shave my head to be Jean Luc Picard though. Maybe I’ll just dress up as an author. :D
It’s really irritating outlining without even having character names yet. Well, I can work on it after the party.
In my grand plan, I would have the research done, the plot worked out, bios for the the characters, any maps sketched. But no.
Because the blogs have been restless.
President Obama is pushing hard for ACTA signatures before the election… Tuesday is it? So I’ve done some more anti-ACTA blogs. Although ACTA did not end with consensus, they are trying to spin it as though it’s been agreed. This is not only disturbing, but wrong, so I’ve spent even more time blogging about it in both my StopUBB: Did ACTA pass? and in my Oh! Canada: ACTA W5, Oh! Canada: Memo to World: Stop ACTA Now!.
Still, just now I’m trying to step back from politics at the moment. The problem is all this political foolishness with copyright law. It’s important to me on many levels, as a parent, a citizen, as well as both a consumer/creator of the cultural arts. On the one hand the technology is making it possible for creators to disseminate their works online, and on the other the “content industry” is struggling to strip us of our natural rights to share culture. So I felt the need to blog about copyright since the government is pushing ahead with their dreadful Copyright Law Bill C-32. Paying no attention to the apparently universal opposition to C-32, it’s been scheduled it for second reading, this week I think. And I had to blog about the Minister of Heritage holding yet another “public Consultation” without, it seems, doing very much about inviting the public, and since the consultation was a Federal Government Book Policy Review naturally I had a few cents to put in.
I’ve recently learned about Toronto activist Byron Sonne’s incarceration, which of course necessitated blogging. Byron is a computer security expert with concerns about government threats to citizen privacy and human rights issues for the Toronto G20 Summit. He was arrested and jailed before the G20 even began, and he has been denied bail. It may be years before the trial, and it certainly appears that Byron Sonne’s incarceration is purely punitive, which makes him a political prisoner. This is not a good thing for Canada.
And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, the CRTC seems to have renegged on the conditions they set before Bell can implement Usage Based Billing, so that’s coming down the pike in 90 days. Or maybe it won’t. If there is an appeal period, as Industry Minister Tony Clement indicated, if may be 90 days + 90 days. Having an entire blog devoted to Stopping Usage Based Billing, of course I’ve blogged about that. Okay… I can see this could easily get out of hand so I’m shutting up on that score for now. (See how easy it is!)
The political scene will have to make do without me for November.
Because NaNoWriMo takes precedence
At least until after I’ve made my daily wordcount requirement. And done what I need to do to launch Inconstant Moon.
If I’m still conscious at the end of the day, then I can blog.
Like any good writer I am a firm believer in procrastination.
Blogs can be supremely helpful in that they provide a wide variety of features just begging to distract us. Not only can blogging itself provide a choice procrastination activity, but all the related bits can lead to hours of procrastinating fun. Links, and blogrolls and pages– oh my!
For instance, instead of working on my 2010 NaNoWriMo outline today I’ve added a new page to the sidebar, called CC Licensed. It’s sort of a companion page to the free culture page, which lists material I’ve found online that qualifies as free/libre under Richard Stallman’s definition.
These pages are my little contributions to helping people find and share content online. Legally. Actually Book Resources has some good stuff too.
And also a great form of procrastination. All good things must come to an end, though, so now it’s back to the outline. :D
I was writing an email to my friend Cindy when it occurred to me it might valuable to share, so here goes. I will be participating in NaNoWriMo again in 2010.
NaNoWriMo means “National Novel Writing Month”,
and the month is November.
NaNoWriMo began as a small group of people who wanted to try their hands at writing a novel, but it quickly exploded into an International Internet novel writing extravaganza. Now it is a very large group of people all over the world who want to try their hand at writing a novel. (Love that Internet!)
. . . whatever you want it to be
You don’t have to devote every waking moment of the month of November to writing a 50,000 word manuscript (unless you expect to get their winner goodies). You don’t even have to write 50,000 words. You can use as much or as little of the official NaNoWriMo to suit your needs.
I was telling my friend Cindy that even if she doesn’t think she has any hope of completing it this year, participating is valuable even if you don’t use it as intended.
Because NaNoWriMo is flexible.
The NaNoWriMo children’s program doesn’t expect kids to write 50,000 words. Kids are encouraged to pick a word count that’s more appropriate for their age and experience.
And there’s no reason why anyone else can’t do the same. You can participate in NaNo any way you want. You don’t have to go to a live Write-In or participate on a forum. You don’t need to tweet about it or anything else. Maybe all you want is the word counter to help spur your writing on.
Some writers are verbose, some write fewer words. I always found Theodore Sturgeon to be one of the more accomplished science fiction writers, yet his stories were very short, his volumes slim, but so beautifully constructed and richly written. NaNoWriMo probably wouldn’t have been for him unless he decided he didn’t have to make the 50,000 words.
Adults have different things ongoing. People have family obligations, work obligations. Sickness and other unforseeable things rise up and smite us when we least expect it. I know a teacher who longs to participate but her schedule doesn’t allow. [Yes I'm talkin' to you Elin!]
Maybe pick 10,000 words. Maybe don’t even set a wordcount at all. Just do it.
If you’re going to fail, fail gloriously.”
—Gord Davis, high school drama teacher
It’s easy to be too cautious. If you’re a student of Yoda, you might come to the conclusion that its better not to try at all if there is little or no chance for success. But if you don’t try, you certainly won’t do.
Back in the day, Mr. Davis wasn’t counseling us to expect failure, he was encouraging us to give it our all. To aim for the stars. And I think he was right. A spectacular failure is much better than a mediocre success. Perhaps I’m weird, but I have always learned best from my most spectacular failures, and least from my successes.
Even if there is no reasonable chance of success for any reason, you can still participate in NaNoWriMo.
If you have pressing engagements like small children or a multi-week trip to another continent, tailor your NaNoWriMo expectations to fit. Life isn’t one-size-fits-all, and NaNaNoWriMo doesn’t have to be either.
If all you want to do is see if you can write a novel, that works too.
Writing is by its very nature one of the lonliest arts, which is probably why there are probably more writers than anything else holding live chats on Twitter. Participating in naNoWriMo can give you access to both a virtual and real world writing community if you’re interested. Or not. You don’t have to post a word on a forum or attend a single write-in. Even so, you can visit the NaNoWriMo site and cruise around and use the resources. Even if you don’t want to connect with the community, the pep talks alone can make visiting the NaNo site worth while. I’ll suggest the same thing they do though, if you get something out of it, put something back.
NaNaoWriMo can be whatever you need it to be. My only regret is that I didn’t sign up for NaNoWriMo sooner, in one of those years that I just “didn’t have the time.” Don’t make the same mistake I did. Get out there and have fun with it.
One last quote, one that got me through college:
It isn’t a learning experience if you can’t make a mistake.*”
— David Gerrold, author of “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “Martian Child”
Even though I have a background as a professional writer, NaNoWriMo offers me the one thing an Independent Self Publishing author can have a really hard time getting anywhere else at all:
Stuff I’ve learned about NaNoWriMo
[note: if you're a veteran WriMo you might want to give this bit a miss :D ]
If you decide to be an official NaNoWriMo participant register on the NaNoWriMo website. You’ll find a wealth of helpful information on the NaNo site. You can make yourself a profile and participate on the forums, which allows you to connect with other writers. You can find forum groups for whatever genre you wish to write, or just get tips and what not from old hands. NaNoWriMo offers an ever growing quantity of novel writing resources. NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty has written a book people can buy called “No Plot, No Problem.” There are guides to novel writing for young writers (that can be used just as easily for older writers.)
Through the website you can probably also find a geographically local NaNoWriMo group. These form up in many locations around the world in time for NaNoWriMo. Experienced (and brave) NaNoWriMo participants volunteer to be the local ML (or municipal liaison) for the municipal location. The ML is your NaNo guide and organizer. Our ML wore a neon orange hat, so we could always find her in any venue. In addition to writing 50,000 NaNo words of their own, these volunteers organize real world NaNoWRiMo events.
I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but our group also had three non-writing events. The first was a kick-off party for everyone to get acquainted, in the middle there was a half-way party, and after the dust settles a wrap-up party at the end. The ML also organizes weekly physical “Write-Ins” so area Wrimos can come together to write their novels in the same place.
This year our kickoff party (no writing allowed) is happening on the afternoon of the 31st, so dressing up is an option. How cool is that?
You can do as little or as much preparation as you like before November. You can decide what you’re going to write. You can make an outline, create characters, make up the back story, decide what grisly crime you want to try out, or what planet you’ll be visiting, invent your universe, do research, and then assemble the music you want to write to. You can even create the cover art you want for your novel.
The only thing you can’t do is write a word of your novel until “the flag drops” on November 1st.
November 1sts begins whenever it does in your time zone. Even if it’s November 1st somewhere else in the world, if it’s still October 31st where you are, you have to wait for it. Like the second or third heat in the Indy 500.
The main NaNoWriMo goal is to write a 50,000 word novel.
That is about right for a small novel, a good starter size. Your novel does not have to be finished at 50,000 words. The 50,000 words is simply the arbitrary NaNo objective. It’s a reasonable amount for the dedicated NaNo to write over the 30 day period. People have managed this over the years whilst getting their university degree, holding down full time employment, or raising kids. Looking at it one day at a time, if you write 1,667 words each day, you’ll have succeeded in meeting the challenge.
You can decide to write a Tom Clancy sized novels, but even so, you still only have to write 50,000 words in the month of November to be a NaNoWriMo “winner”. Your novel: does not have to be coherent. It doesn’t have to be complete. It doesn’t have to be publishable or even make sense at the end. There is no room for writers block. The goal is simply to see if you can write 50,000 fictional words.
The best way to do it would be to make sure you write something every day. One of my favorite tools available on the NaNoWriMo website was the wordcounter. After you’re done writing for the day you log onto the site and log your word count. Most any program you chose to write your novel in will happily provide you with that information.
But of course there is no rule that says you have to write it on a computer. You can use a typewriter or even do it longhand. (I’m not quite sure what you would do about word counts in this case, but your ML will probably b able to tell you. Or know where to go to find out.
You can write in the privacy of your own home, but if you decide to connect up with your local group, there will be NaNoWriMo Write-Ins. It sounds absolutely crazed, and I don’t know what it looks like on the outside, but as a writer I found it exceedingly helpful to sit in a room full of strangers who are all following their dream. I was amazed how productive the Write-Ins were.
These gatherings take place wherever your ML can find a space big enough to accommodate the group. So a write-in can happen anywhere from a coffee bar to a public library, just so long as the WriMos can plug in their computers and ignore each other while they quietly work on their individual novels. Pretty much you need places to sit, places to plug in your laptops (and perhaps power bars) and if you’re really lucky you’ll have some kind of WiFi connection so people can log their wordcounts.
Often the ML will announce a “word war” so the writers in the group who thrive under pressure compete to see who can write the most words over a five minute period. Even if you don’t ‘win’ you win, because you have that many more words logged in your manuscript. But mostly people sit in the same room and write. Chatting and socializing take place before and after, and if the write-in is being held at a commercial food venue, it is generally expected that everyone will purchase at least a beverage from the commercial establishment in lieu of rent. Apparently some libraries are very hospitable as well. Our group is fairly new, so we’re just looking into that for this year.
To my way of thinking the chief benefit of both the writing forums and the physical get-togethers is the shared experience and the moral support. It helps just knowing other people are writing novels too. Because the main thrust is achieving your wordcount, there is discussion and comparison of tips and angst.
Towards the end there will be a “Night of Writing Dangerously” where an overnight venue is arranged and WriMos gather together for a Write-In all-nighter. If you’re really far behind this is often a means to catch up, but the human element is certainly important here too. Because writing is solitary work.
Last year there was also an IRC Chatroom, so Write-ins could happen online either according to schedule, or on an impromptu basis. That’s the thing with Write-Ins; throughout the month, quite often people will post a notice that they are going to be writing in a corner of this or that coffee shop at such and such a time, which results in unofficial Write-Ins.
NaNoWriMo has an account on Twitter, where the organizers occasionally post interesting stats, like how many words all the WriMos in the world have written to date. Or the URL to the NaNoWriMo music video someone who dropped out made instead and posted to YouTube. For Identi.ca users there is alos a NaNoWriMo group where participants can also log their status, wordcount, trials and tribulations. This was only a small group, but a few of us kept it going long after NaNo as we struggled with editing our novels.
There are also pep talk emails that are sent out to those who want them.
It all helps.
When you hit your 50,000 words you upload your manuscript for validation. I suggest doing this as soon as you hit the number, because that way you immediately become a winner. Computer programs always work better when everyone isn’t trying to do the same thing at the same time. If you’re like me and end up writing a 100,000 word novel, even after you hit 50,000 words and are officially a “winner”, you can keep up the momentum and continue writing and posting your wordcount to the end of the month.
If you “win” you are entitled to various winner’s goodies. The one that I wanted was a printed CreateSpace proof copy of your novel.
Some wrimos just have their November product bound so they can add it to their bookshelves. Others edit it and get copies for family and friends (makes good Christmas gifts for family.) Still others (like me) venture into self publishing. (Caution: if you choose this route, I strongly urge that you look into professional editing services, either from CreateSpace or an Independent. )
Even if you aren’t going to edit it, even if you don’t ever want to read it again, if you’ve written your 50,000 words, as a “winner” you can have your book printed by CreateSpace as a souvenir of a month well spent.
You can transfer your free proof to someone else, or use it to publish a different book… your recipes say? Your memoirs? Just so you know (I didn’t) this is a time limited offer. Last year you had 6 months to collect. I just got it done in the nick of time. I’m not done yet but CreateSpace is truly awesome so far.
validation: No human will read your Novel
As I understand it the validation is performed by software; so no human actually reads your novel. Nor is it posted on the NaNoWriMo website for all the world to see. It is just a wordcount, really.
Although I managed to run my wordcount almost to 60,000 words, I was not finished my novel. So after NaNoWriMo was officially over, a few people who were not finished continued holding “Non-NaNo Write-Ins” for months afterward. And our local WriMos began planning Non-NaNo write ins before the NaNoWriMo website was given it’s annual clean-up at the end of September before starting fresh for the 2010 edition on October 1st.
NaNoWriMo is free. Anyone in the world can participate at zero cost. They hope for donations, and if you get anything out of the experience, it’s good to support them with a donation or by purchasing a NaNoWriMo merchandise. If people didn’t do this, NaNoWriMo couldn’t do what it does, which is awesome.
I hope to get out for at least one of the Non-Nano Write-Ins as I intend to have my outline and hopefully most of the prep done before NaNo starts this year.
This would have been a certainty if I wasn’t working hard to get last year’s
NaNoWriMo novel, Inconstant Moon,
self published first. Including, but by no means limited to:
- Final polish & proof…
- building a blog…
- writing promo material….
- author photos…
- trying to get video editing problems resolved so I can do a book trailer…
[And that's not mentioning important copyright issues... like ACTA ...keeping an eye on and fighting against the dread Canadian DMCA, Bill C32, which is about to enter seconf reading in The House of Commons... or blogging to help Free Byron, Canadian G20 political prisoner being punitively held without bail...]
errata: I quoted David Gerrold above from memory; and it seems memory can be imperfect. The actual quote (found in David Gerrold’s book, “The Trouble With Tribbles” was actually this:
It’s not a learning experience, unless you can make mistakes.”
— David Gerrold, “The Trouble With Tribbles”
I am thankful I have a wonderful, extraordinary, creative family. With a large enough pool of siblings you can usually find at least one you’re able to get along with. :D
I am thankful I have a supportive husband and son. My son will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year with me. My husband is toying with the idea of giving it a try, too, but as our brilliant progeny has pointed out, if Dad does NaNoWriMo too, who will cook?
Today I will be the one doing the cooking. I’m about to go downstairs and make stuffing from mushrooms, onions, garlic, carrots, bread and bacon for the roast chicken we will eat for dinner tonight. It’s a lot of work, but there will be a lot of great leftovers, which I will be thankful for too. Have a good one.