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NaNoWriMo and Wordcountjournal January 5, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, NaNoWriMo 2006, national novel writing month 2006, Other, web 2.0, writing.
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I was tag-surfing yesterday and ran across a post about wordcountjournal that sort of piqued my interest (apologies to whoever pointed to the site, I didn’t save it on my favorites list or anything and it is no longer up on the tag surfer and I really am sorry). 

Wordcountjournal is a way for people to start to write a novel with very small steps.  The idea is that you write one word on the first day, two on the second, three on the third.  And by the end of the year you are writing 365 words a day.  Also, by the end of the year you will have completed 66,795 words, about the length of a novel.  You post the words to the site, I guess, and then read the novel in reverse order.

I’m not certain whether I want to do this right now.  Part of me really wants to enter NaNoWriMo again next year.  And if I started doing this I would be in the thick of writing 250 words per day when November rolled around.  And part of me bristles at the idea of writing that slowly at first.  But it got me thinking about a conversation I had yesterday with Mom about NaNoWriMo. 

She asked whether it was like authors always say, whether the characters take on a life of their own and start making their own decisions.   I said that it was a little like that, although there wasn’t enough time to really get attached to the characters.  What did interest me about the process was how every time one of the characters spoke they limited, sometimes quite severely, the range of actions that the other characters could take.  Every word I wrote seemed to constrain the path the story took.  Which brings me back to this wordcountjournal thing.  Starting out really slowly like that would give the writer the opportunity to make very careful decisions at the early stages of a novel, and it would make the constraints the author is imposing very visible. 

Plus, it would be fun to start out with a word like “Spatchcock,” or “Heterodyne,” or something, just to see where it takes a story.  What do you think?

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1. SilverTiger - January 5, 2007

When younger I started many novels but never finished any of them. I had a conviction that I would be a writer “one day”. The day hasn’t come yet and I doubt it ever will. Perhaps I don’t want it enough or too many other things get in the way.

While the Word Count Journal idea is interesting, I don’t think it would work for me. It seems too deliberate somehow. If I wrote a word and didn’t know what the next word was going to be that would irritate me but if I did know what the next word was, then why not write it down straightaway?

Presumably you have to plan to write a novel. I never plan. I think in words. I get an idea and start writing straightaway. Writing it out and thinking it out go together. (This is why I love word processors: they are the writer’s equivalent of the sculptor’s ball of clay.) My planning a novel would be like a butterfly planning a guided tour.

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2. caveblogem - January 5, 2007

SilverTiger,

I don’t know. I think that most people who write blogs (as you do, and a fine blog at that) are writers, or they don’t keep it up for long. Novels are a different thing, of course, but I found that when I did mine for NaNoWriMo (It occurs to me that you might not get exposed to this in London–It is National Novel Writing Month, where a bunch of people, say 65,000 of them, try to write a 50,000 word novel in one month) I did much of my planning the night before. And then many of my plans were dashed the next day as characters did unexpected things, or said something they really shouldn’t have said. I decided to participate during the last week in October, with no idea what I was going to write about. I had been reading H.P. Lovecraft, and I work at a University, so I just combined these and ran with them.

Wordcountjournal could be irritating, but I like the idea of toying with the shape of the end of a sentence for a day, possibly making changes to the course of the story mid-sentence.

And it could be that a lot of people would like to go on a tour guided by a butterfly.

3. SilverTiger - January 7, 2007

Thanks for the compliment. I enjoy writing but writing for oneself is not satisfying: knowing that people respond to what I write makes all the difference. In that respect, blogging is a worthwhile and even exciting activity.

I’m not sure whether the NaNoWriMo is known here as I don’t belong to the writer’s community (we tigers are solitary creatures) but it strikes me as a very worthy activity. In these days of universal electronic communications, we hardly need to encourage people to write (millions of blogs alone show that they do) but encouraging people to write well is another matter. I’m all for it.

One reason why I doubt I could ever write a novel is that I am hopeless at thinking up stories though I am familiar with the notion that once you start, the characters in a sense take over. I noticed this effect even in the trivial case of writing a series of conversations for a language tuition course!

I’m not criticizing the Word Count Journal initiative in itself. If it encourages someone to produce a substantial work who might otherwise not have done so, then I think it very valuable indeed. I just don’t think it would work for me. I know how my mind works. (Well, some of the time.)

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4. Caryn Caldwell - November 5, 2008

So true — it seems like there are so many options in a book, but as it keeps going, it becomes ever more limited. Which I must admit is kind of a relief, because I have trouble choosing sometimes! Good luck with the word count journal if that’s the route you end up going. Sounds cool.


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