Friday, November 18, 2011

Today's Bad NaNoWriMo Advice: Word Padding!

You don't want to stop typing. But you've got nothing to say. So what you do is, you start typing anyway and you see where you end up. And the funniest thing happens. You actually figure out stuff to type. Now, don't get me wrong. The stuff you type doesn't make sense. It doesn't fit in your story. It does nothing for your plot, it doesn't build suspense, it does nothing to resolve conflict. More likely, you just let your eyes roam around your writing space while you describe the stuff you see. Like:

Need to clean the litter box after I meet this stupid daily word goal. What is that next to the litter box, is that a candy wrapper? When did I eat candy? Wait, I think a better question is, when did I last eat something that wasn't candy? Also, did I know I had this many coffee mugs? I see three on top of the TV, all in various stages of emptiness. There's mold floating on one of them, that must have been from my first 1,667 words. Which one of these coffees is hot, I wonder? I'd really like a drink of coffee, but I can't pick up my hands from the keyboard long enough to take one because I'm in the middle of a stupid word war and I've only got 45 seconds left and I keep losing and I really need to win this one and nobody needs to know I described my disgusting, filthy living room that has been completely neglected during November. How do they know this isn't what my character's living room looks like? It could be. Nevermind I'm writing a dystopian novel set in 2811 and there are no living rooms anymore. These word war people don't know that! Also, where's the dog? Have I seen the dog today? Have I walked the dog today? Is there a chance the dog has been swallowed alive by that teetering pile of dirty laundry? Dirty laundry! There's still dirty laundry in the future, right? Okay, that's where Joe-Bill and Lucy-Ellen meet, they meet at the laundromat. Okay, I got this. Lucy-Ellen walked into the laundromat (note: figure out what a futuristic washing machine looks like later) and her eyes are immediately drawn to the dark figure folding a pair of (note: figure out what futuristic boxer shorts look like later) in the corner of the (note: are there corners in the future? Maybe all the buildings are round. Like the inside of a coffee mug. Wow, I really wish I could stop typing and drink my coffee. Wait, why do I have a World's Best Grandma coffee mug on my table? Did my grandma come by? I don't remember seeing my grandma. Is there a chance my grandma has been swallowed alive by that teetering pile of dirty laundry?) "Hey, there," Lucy-I-forget-the-rest-of-her-name says.

And that's when the timer goes off and you stop writing and start frantically feeling two dozen coffee mugs until one of them is warm, while doing some exploratory poking of the laundry pile with your toe.

You've just done two things:

1. You've written. Badly. Very, very badly. But a minute ago your character was alone in her (note: decide what houses have instead of living rooms in the future) and now she's in a laundromat meeting her love interest. So, believe it or not, in your caffeine-induced haze of keyboard-vomit, you actually did move your story along a little.

2. You've just added 388 words to your novel.

This is what NaNoWriMo is all about.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today's Bad NaNoWriMo Advice: Promise to do stuff

I know, I KNOW, okay? This NaNoWriMo advice series is supposed to be daily! And it would be! I swear! Except I'm busy -- you know -- doing NaNoWriMo!

And avoiding NaNoWriMo. Okay, fine. (Why does NaNoWriMo make me channel Clementine so often?)

Anyway, today's bad advice is this: promise to do stuff besides NaNo during November. Like posting on your blog daily, dishing out advice even while in the midst of failing spectacularly at meeting your own daily word count. And participating in a group blog (which, by the way, is not really bad advice, and I quite enjoy it -- you can find my monthly post at Smack Dab in the Middle today). And, you know, doing the dishes and going to work and stuff.

But part of the fun of NaNo is figuring out how to squish words in around the edges of your life. How are you all doing so far?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Today's Bad NaNoWriMo Advice: Autosummarize!

This is the worst advice EVER if your goal is productivity. But then, if your goal is productivity, I don't know why you're even talking to me. It's November 15 and I'm at 847 words. For those of you keeping score, that means I am 24,153 words behind schedule.

In Microsoft Word, there is a tool called "Autosummarize." This tool will take your novel and boil it down to the key ideas (assuming it has any -- which, it's a NaNo novel, so it's okay if there aren't any key ideas yet).

I think you should go try this tool on your in-progress NaNo novel.

Let me be clear: there is no earthly reason to use this tool on your in-progress NaNo novel. Unless of course you just need a study breaker. And maybe you don't, you with your 25,000 words and your pretty progress bar. But me? I need a study breaker. Or two. Or six.

My current NaNo is only at 847 words, so there's no point in summarizing it; it's plenty brief. Instead, I have asked Microsoft Word to autosummarize my most recently published middle grade novel, Body of Water.

Here is Body of Water in 100 words or less:

Ivy didn't like being called dingbat much. "Hey, Poison Ivy. Stop snotting on Dad. I turned to Mom. Anson was Anson. Mom tugged my shoulder. Ivy and Dad started drifting away. Mom asked, soft. Just Ivy. Even without my pockets, Ivy persisted. 1. Class rings Mom and Dad walked hand in hand, relaxed. Ivy giggled and Mom pasted on a cheerful smile. Mom twitched. What if Ivy has to go?" Hateful, just like Ivy. Ivy moaned. For Anson It started with my grandma, my mom's mom. Trees. 1. Class rings 1. Class rings

For the record, I think "Trees." is really what makes this summary special.

So what does your novel boil down to?

Monday, November 14, 2011

NYT Review

Oh, by the way. While I was hiding under a rock, pretending NaNoWriMo didn't exist, this happened:

When Ends Don't Meet

Yes. That would be a review of my novel in the New York Times Book Review.

I haven't been this happily hyper since my sister Heather and I went on weekend-long Pixy Stix binge in the late nineties. Let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. There should be a maximum amount of Pixy Stix two teenage girls are allowed to buy without parental consent.

Today's challenge: Work Pixy Stix into your NaNo wordcount for the day.

Today's Bad NaNoWriMo Advice: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I'm embarrassed to even show my face.

Remember the last time I blogged my "daily" NaNoWriMo advice? What was that, over a week ago now?

As Clementine would say, "Or ten days. Okay, fine."

Yeah. That's the last time I wrote on my NaNo novel, too.

There was a train, see. And a city. And a sister I haven't seen in a year. And when it was all said and done, there were 11,000 very bad, very boring words of a novel I hoped never to be forced to read, let alone write.

The thing is, when I was writing every day, I could force myself to keep going. And if I had kept going, I probably would have ended up someplace okay. Then I could have revised okay into decent, and decent into all right, and all right into good, and good into great, and great into fabulous, and I would have had a finished novel.

But I stopped.

And when you stop while the novel is still awful, you won't start again.

So don't stop. Don't be like me. Don't do what I did and go from 11,000 words to ... 87.

As for me? The month isn't even half over and I'm not done yet.

See you tomorrow. I mean it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Today's Bad NaNoWriMo advice: Coffee!

It's no coincidence that Starbucks releases their winter specialties November 1. They do it on purpose. They know we're NaNoing and they want to provide us with caffeine and comfort in one fell swoop.

It's known as the Peppermint Mocha, and I could write at least a thousand words about it, and most of them would be "love."

Of course if Starbucks isn't your thing, you can always make a cup of tea, or break out the french press, or fire up the coffee pot, or do the Dew. Whatever it takes to sufficiently caffeinate yoruself for the insane and sleepless charge to 50,000.

Because sleep is overrated. Just like spelling, syntax, and all the other things we will be foregoing during the month of November.

How's everybody holding up?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Today's Bad NaNoWriMo Advice: Forums!

This is the worst advice EVER if your goal is to stay on task and increase your word count.

If you're looking for a study-breaker, a good laugh, or a reason to feel better about your own mistakes, though, this is a must.

On the NaNoWriMo forums, there is a magical place. A magical place reserved for all the typos, all the mixed metaphors and nonsensical thoughts that occur when you write a great volume of words at high speed.

This magical land of wonder can be found here, in the NaNoisms thread.

But first, a touch of good advice: put put down the coffee. I wouldn't want you to ruin your keyboard.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Today's Bad NaNoWriMo Advice: Do Not Backspace!

To paraphrase Yoda, Type or type not. There is no backspace.

The backspace key is addictive. Once you start backspacing, you can't stop. You'll have to fix all of it. The typos. The dangling participles. The disappearing, reappearing, re-disappearing characters. The settings that magically change from the beginning of the sentence to the end of the sentence. The nauseatingly flowery descriptions. The forbidden adverbs. The bad dialogue. The messed-up line spacing. The plain old bad writing.

Do. Not. Backspace. No matter what. To paraphrase Monty Python, the backspace key is no more. It is an ex-backspace key. At least until December first, at which point you'll have 50,000 misspelled, ill-used adverbs of completed first draft to revise.

In other words, don't backspace until after you've written a novel.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Today's Bad NaNoWriMo Advice: Write First, Caff Second

When you get up in the morning, write a little bit before you have your morning coffee. You are much less likely to try to stop yourself to make corrections or check for typos.

The flip side? You are also much less likely to remember to turn on the computer before you start typing.

Happy November!