Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two by Two, or How to Board the NaNo Boat (not to be confused with banana boat)

By Julie

So, I started off November and my word marathon by taking a vacation day. That's right – on Sunday, I didn't write a single word.

Yesterday, I was determined to get moving. After all, November has but 30 days and time is already dwindling. I got moving, indeed, but discovered four new things about starting a writing marathon.

Two were helpful, two were not.

The negative

Reading and editing what I'd already written
If you're adding to a WIP (work in progress) during a writing marathon and have already written a pretty good chunk, it's a good idea to read through what you've already written ahead of time.

I was revising my previous manuscript right up to the last moment, and I didn't get a chance take the time to do this until Monday. Thus, my word count yesterday was -62.

Yes, that's a negative.

If you want to add words to your WIP, do NOT, I repeat, do NOT Wordle your last manuscript.

Your first clue should be the description on the site: "Wordle is a toy ..."

While they call it a toy, it'd really a great tool for discovering things about your writing. Optimally, you discover all those words you pecked out do indeed talk about the things you intended.

However, you may also discover how many throwaway words you've overused. If certain words appear in as large a font as your main characters' names, you might want to do a find and replace on your document.

Yesterday, I was horrified to learn I'd used the word 'just' 313 times in my last manuscript. After searching for each instance and discarding as many as I could, I was left with 128. That's still a lot of justs. We won't even talk about the word even.

It was a worthy activity. I'm querying that manuscript, so maybe even critical, but it certainly didn't help my word count. I frittered away spent several hours doing it.

And the positive

Three-Act Structure
Countless writers recommend using the Three-Act Structure for writing fiction. The problem is, most demonstrate it by breaking down a movie. Unfortunately, it seems like every movie they use is one I've never seen and have no desire to watch. I get bored and never make it past Act One.

I wanted a simple explanation. Short enough to please my right-brained muse, detailed enough to be useful. I set off on a search and came across this article by Patrick Dent.

Today, I copied and pasted the basics of his article into my WIP. I answered as many of the questions as I could. About three pages of work. Not too long, not too short. Just right, in the words of that famed fairytale blonde.

I know where I'm going now. Before I was kind of batting around in the dark. Not always a bad thing when you're exploring a story idea, but not so great for a writing marathon.

I'm no stranger to, the Music Genome Project. This incredible tool allows you to enter the name of a musician, and it plays music by that artist and many others you might enjoy based on that artist's style.

I employ Pandora for distasteful activities like working out. I know some of you people like working out, but we are not alike. I used to jump on my treadmill (until I injured my Achilles tendon, which is now healed, so I have no more excuses), point my browser toward Pandora, select my Nina Simone channel, and some of you may laugh to hear I practically danced on the deck. An hour felt like a few minutes.

It's also a great tool for writing.

I've found Pandora helpful while writing because I don't usually know the songs or lyrics, so I'm not as distracted as I might be listening to my favorites.

Today, I used it two new ways.

Do you know of writers who create soundtracks for their WIPs? I have, loosely, in the past, but it can be time consuming. This afternoon, I simply listened to the first six or eight songs Pandora played for me and chose several that spoke in some way to my story and characters. I pulled up the lyrics, made a note about which character might listen to that song and why, and in the process, my brain dove straight into my story and the minds of my characters. That list may not stand as a soundtrack, but it certainly helped today.

The time I'd spent doing that was enough and was verging on too long, so I stopped playing with the buttons. The channel where I stopped conveniently morphed into instrumental music, and with my headphones plugged in to block the noise of annoying cell phone conversations and coffee machines, I wrote more than 2,000 words.

I'd say that's a decent dent and a big improvement over yesterday's -62, wouldn't you?

And you?
What nifty tools have you discovered to nudge your marathon along? And if you're participating, leave a comment letting us know how it's going for you.

Regarding my title, my daughter said, "You're so funny, Mom. That's a knee-slapper." I'm not sure whether she's serious. She's 12 and has perfected the art of sarcasm.

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