Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NaNoWriMo Winner

"Nothing in this world will take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated failures.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge

"Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all time thing.  You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.  Winning is habit.  Unfortunately, so is losing." - Vince Lombardi

"R.I.P., Zig Ziglar" - the rest of us

So, let's start with the good news:

I won!  I won!  I won!  For those unfamiliar with the NaNoWriMo terminology, "Win" means start no earlier than November 1, write at least 50,000 words that might loosely be called a novel, and complete whatever plot arc happens to exist either intentionally or accidentally by the time the clock strikes midnight November 30th.  To do that, you have to write 1667 words per day, or as so many people I watched seem to, a couple of thousand words a day for the first few, no words the second week, and a whole bunch of words over Thanksgiving.

That was me, too.

Let me back up for a bit, though.  This is my first blog post in exactly two months.  Last I posted, remember, I was headed away for a sunny vacation.  I was finally going to write on the beach.  I was going to totally disconnect from all forms of modern communication and just--be.  And write.  And be writing.


Yeah, it happened that way, sort of.  We got to Bermuda and rented a scooter the next day.  To make a long story short, three hours later I drove the scooter into the side of a taxi van.  My fault, ish--I overaccelerated, and oversteered, and the brakes weren't as snappy as I needed them to be.  Luckily the $30 insurance payment that's required when you rent a scooter covers everything but the passengers.  Unluckily the passengers sustained, as is apparently normal in scooter mishaps, the gravest injuries.  I broke my collarbone and three ribs.  Rum being both plentiful and cheap there, I managed to self-medicate until we got back to the states.  Thus, I was mostly okay, but there wasn't any writing on the beach after that.

There wasn't much writing at all for October, actually.  I am now aware of how much your arm movement relies upon your collarbone; I couldn't raise my left arm to the desk to type for a while.  Everything I wrote for that month was one-handed.

By November 1, though, I was back to being able to raise that arm to desk level without screaming, so NaNo was still on.  Yes, I had other projects that deserved more attention, but NaNoWriMo was still hanging over my head as something I'd attempted before and failed at.  Which brings us to the lesson of the day:


Persist, even if it's not likely you'll succeed.  If it's worth doing, it's worth your persistence.  Push forward, push through.  Keep at it.

I did it.  The third novel in Return of the Gods is in revision state now, so it wasn't eligible.  First novel in the Elf Queen series is nearly done, so same thing.  I decided to write the fourth novel of RotG, then, since I already had that one in my head.  Actually started November 1 at midnight, excited as I was.  By the end of the first week I had about 16,000 words entered.  Way ahead of the game, I was. Then, well, life happened, as it usually does.  I got busy. I rolled into Thanksgiving week quite a bit behind.  Luckily there was some down time worked in for that week and I was able to catch up. 

Fast-forward to this morning.  There are still a couple of days left in November, mind you.  The book's not really close to being written yet; the story I have in mind will take another thirty to forty thousand words, if not more, to tell.  But I was bound and determined to win NaNoWriMo, and to be honest, I've got a couple of other projects that are more important (like Book 3).

So this morning I rose and started writing with about 49,200 words in the Scrivener project word counter.  Eight hundred to go, and I hadn't finished the scene that leads to the final battle yet.  So first, I finished that scene.


I wrote the first part of the final battle scene and checked again.


I remember thinking that it was going to be the crappiest final battle scene I'd ever written if I stopped there, but it was about time to get up and start showering and dressing for work.  Besides, that's what editing is for!

I added another index card in Scrivener, titled it "The Final Scene," and wrote "And he died.  The End." There.  Done.

Scrivener has the ability to take all the scenes you've written--the little 3x5 cards that are pictured in the organization screen--and compile them into a book in whatever order and whichever format you wish.  It'll make PDFs, RTFs, etc., but what I wanted was a simple novel format in Word.  It's also (if you can't tell, this was my first time using it, and I'll use it much more going forward) remarkably quick with the compilation process; within a couple of seconds the Word doc was sitting on the desktop.

Microsoft Word, though, isn't so quick.  In fact, when dealing with long documents, Word is pretty much the antithesis of quick.  Looking at the counters at the bottom was frustrating: page 1 of 1, then of 2, then of 3, then--spin, spin, spin--finally it determined that I had 99 pages (single-spaced).  The word counter also took a while to spin up, but I wasn't expecting it to stop where it did.


Wait, wut?  Scrivener just told me I had over 50K words.  And now you, Word, are telling me I'm short?  You evil piece of evil software, you!

It was, by then, a little bit past time for me to get up and start the showering/dressing routine.  Didn't care.  I was finishing.  I had till Friday at midnight.  Didn't care.  I'd already pretty much turned off the creative side, checked out of writer mode.  Didn't care. 

Have you ever gotten "in the zone" like that?

So I wrote another 300 words, this time in Word.  To do so, I added to the final battle scene.  I didn't add anything particularly substantive, of course.  Remember, my brain was out of Creative Writer mode already.  No, I wrote some of the longest sentences I've ever crafted that didn't go anywhere.  "The battle went on and on and on, with the god of war using his powers and the mage using his powers as the elemental magic flashed back and forth and back and forth and back and forth again as the battle continued to...."  Or something like that.  Bad, bad, bad writer, with bad, bad, bad writing.  That's what editing is for, right? 


To "win" NaNoWriMo officially, you have to go to their site ( and paste your novel into their word counting window, which (for those who're worried about crappy first drafts being stolen) counts the words, deletes the text, and returns the count to the server.



Now, everybody counts words differently.  It would be easy if all words were the same, but there are all sorts of punctuation gumming the matter up.  For example, do you count a hyphenated word as one word or two?  How about words separated by an em dash?

I think that's the cause for the different counts, anyway.  I'd hate to think that any of the applets or programs I was going between were written by idiots.

Didn't matter.  The one, the only, official word counter for the site said I wasn't a winner yet.  And if you're not a winner, you're--yeah, you know where that's going, right?  That's what I imagined my computer was flashing at me: Loser!  Loser!  Loser!

But I still had the document up in Word, and right at the end, so all I had to do was add more words.  Specifically, one hundred and thirty of them.  Because 50,000 is a winner.  49,999 is a loser.  I jumped in and just wrote--um, frankly, I wrote whatever crap came to mind.  Now the final battle in my fourth novel is attended by Dorothy and her flying monkeys, and the other deities of the pantheon are hanging out watching and roasting weenies on the flames.  Yeah, bite me--that's what editing is for.


Are you f-ing serious?  Yes, I think I actually asked the computer that out loud, which was a pretty silly thing for a human to say to a hunk of electronic device.  But by that point I was seriously late getting up, so there wasn't anything to gain by arguing.  I wrote more.  Now, instead of "And he died.  The end." there's a celebration party at Matt's estate with Twinkies and fried okra.  And yes, I forgot the bacon--I was that irritated.  But--say it with me--that's what editing is for.



Up pops a screen with a video of people clapping.  No, I'm not kidding.  There was also a PDF certificate to hang on the wall, and several sizes of "Winner" badges like the one I copied at the top.

I won.

Yes, I won with some of my dumbest, worstest, writing ever in the history of my dumb writing.  This book will require serious work in the future.  But now I've put the former failure behind me and can move on to the three major projects that await--Book 3, which I want to get out before the end of the year, and a short story for the APG's anthology, and the Elf Queen book for a contest.  Whee!

And no more electronic word counters for the month.  I'm so over word counts.