December 8, 2013

NaNoWriMo Postmortem

Well, that's over.

Last month was my third consecutive November participating in National Novel Writing Month, an annual 30-day sprint towards an uninhibited 50,000 word first draft. Being a very deliberate outliner and obsessive wordsmith, not to mention otherwise busy, I never actually expect to reach 50k. Instead I use the month as practice to get into a regular writing habit: a habit which I still have never sustained.

Both previous attempts were short-lived as I went into it just trying to get as many words down as possible but quickly fell far behind the quota and lost motivation. This time, I planned ahead to maintain 333 words/day for a total of 10k: a manageable one-fifth pace. (This wasn't my only act of rebellion; the "rules" state that you should start a new work with nothing written prior to November 1 but I continued my perennial work on the epic realistic-fantasy concept that I've been kicking around for several years.)

I held up pretty well for a while with this slow and steady approach, but I got derailed in Week 3, and then I was away on vacation for all of Week 4... which I should have known would result in exactly 0 words. All said, my word count topped out at 5342, just over half of my personal target. That's my best so far for NaNo, but still hardly impressive for a month's work. However, I did come to a few helpful conclusions.

1. A writing habit takes more than just time. Even though I forced myself to sit down with my laptop every day for most of the month, I didn't automatically start pouring out words. I fidgeted, I brainstormed, I chatted up the wife, I agonized over where to start. I did just about everything short of the one metric that counted: putting words on the page. Time in the chair doesn't mean anything if you don't have a word count to show for it. This is something that NaNo specifically aims to address, but I didn't do so well. Maybe I need to bump up my quota to something more demanding.

2. I haven't found my voice as a writer. Obviously this will only come with lots of practice but it's something that stuck out to me as I wrote new scenes each day. A few passages were rich and evocative, but most read like screenplay. I tend to use a very factual, narrative style. It doesn't feel engaging. It sounds nothing like the kind of books that inspire me. Which brings me to the last point:

3. I need to read more. A lot more. For all my love of a good story, I read very little fiction these days. I have multiple bookshelves both real and virtual full of novels that I have yet to read. You can't develop a skill in a vacuum, and I know that the first tip for beginning writers is to read read read. I already have more books in mind than I'll probably ever be able to get through, but I've only completed one novel all year. I can't hope to finish a book of my own if I don't finish the ones that are already written.

So that's what I've learned in addition to my modest 5,342 words. Now I just need to keep reading, and keep writing.

October 27, 2013

Beep Boop... We're Live

For those of you still with us, you'll see that my blog has reverted to my original domain:!

Yes, I have relapsed to my old moniker, which I've claimed for about a decade now. Somewhere in the past couple of years among a relationship-turned-marriage, the start of a career, a move, and a few new pastimes, I completely set blogging aside. Now I've found that itch for a creative outlet again, and I realized that "Debugging Life" just wasn't cutting it. WildWeazel is who I am.

This is the same blog as before; I was happier with the way it was going than the original WildWeazel that still exists, but I missed my old eponymous domain and the personal, zero-expectations attitude that comes along with it. So I renewed the name, dusted off the About page, and picked up right where I left off.

I've been getting back into writing lately, or at least an active interest in it, so that will be one thing to share. Otherwise I'm pretty much continuing with the trend I kicked off in this blog's first post - general thoughts and insight that catch my interest, and some nerd indulgence.