Writers-in-residence on trains

Via Clarion classmate Mart, I spotted this post about Amtrak’s Plan to Give Free Rides to Writers.

One of my most productive days ever was on board an Amtrak train from Chicago to Champaign. I think I wrote four Wise Bread posts (including this one in praise of Amtrak), as well as getting some fiction writing done.

Related to that, I have been meaning for a while to link to this post about using cruise ships as workspaces. The cruise ships don’t offer free travel for writers, but the repositioning cruises are relatively cheap (because they tend to be dull—long days of crossing the open ocean–and because you end up on the other side of the world and end up having to fly back home), so you can do it yourself.

I’m always intrigued by ideas like this (such as rolling my own coworking spaces locally) because writing can so easily turn into day after day of solitary sameness. In fact, though, my desk in my study is a great place to get work done.

Speaking of which: progress on the novel continues apace. I’m averaging 1000 words a day, and it does not seem like a strain to do so. (Whereas trying to average 1667 words a day for NaNoWriMo did feel like a strain. Maybe I’ve found my sweet spot.)

NaNoWriMo ends

As NaNoWriMo ends, I’ve taken down my progress bar. It topped 15,000 around mid-month, but hasn’t moved much since then. I’ve re-learned a lesson I’ve learned before—I can only produce around 1000 words of fiction per day on a sustained basis.

At the end of the first week I managed a 2300-word day to get back on track, but then only hit 300 words each of the next two days. That pretty much put paid to the notion of hitting 50,000 by the end of the month—and the related discouragement made it all the harder to be productive over the second half of the month.

However, I’m by no means giving up. At 1000 words per day, I should be able to finish this novel in just another couple of months.

That’s my plan. I may even put up a non-NaNaWriMo progress bar.

Even with the failure to produce a novel in a month, I’ve found the process to be useful. Two things in particular stand out:

  1. I had a boatload of new novel ideas that I’ve had to push aside to keep working on this one. They all seem particularly shiny. I’m looking forward to picking one of them to work on next.
  2. I’ve learned a lot about structuring a novel, which is very different from structuring a short story. I’ll have more to say about that in the future.

I spent most of the morning making minor revisions to my outline, based on insights into how the novel should be structured. There’ll be some more of that this afternoon—but also, hopefully, some new text generation as well.

Progress

A productive day today.

Thursday is my busy day—lifting weights and Taiji in the morning, lunch with friends, and then the weekly Esperanto Club meeting in the evening—so I hadn’t hit my word count that day. On top of that, I’d fallen slightly short on Friday as well, so I got up this morning some 500 words off the pace.

One long day of writing today, though, and I’m back on track with just over 10,000 words. And that progress was despite some minor restructuring of the stuff I’ve already written.

I often find it hard to go on when I’m writing stuff that won’t mesh with what I’ve already written. It helps a lot to take an hour or two and get the earlier stuff to match my current conception of the story. Of course it’s better when I don’t spend my time that way, but sometimes it’s just faster to go ahead and do it than to try and keep track of what I need to fix.

Not only that, but I also finished up a Wise Bread post which will probably go up tomorrow or the next day.

Toby on NaNoWriMo

Tobias Buckell’s analogy of NaNoWriMo writers being like the crowd of guys with new gym memberships on January 2 is very good. But I’d like to qualify it just a bit. As a year-round gym user, I like those guys.

Yes, the gym is a bit crowded for a few weeks, but they’re mostly gone by February—while the dues those guys pay help to keep the gym open the rest of the year.

Maybe the analogy breaks down at that point, but maybe not. Anybody who tries to write a novel in a month is going to learn something about being a writer. Maybe they’ll learn it’s hard work, and come to have a little more respect for the people who succeed at it. That’d be good. Even better, maybe they’ll find it’s easy and natural, and the world will gain another great writer.

Whatever they learn, I expect the world is a better place for them having learned it.

Doing NaNoWriMo

I’ve generally viewed NaNoWriMo as a kind of a stunt. After all, only by lucky coincidence would writing 1667 words a day be the ideal pace for any particular writer to write any particular novel. And yet, I’ve often felt a little left out, watching the NaNoWriMos go by without me. So, I decided to participate this year.

After all, having already made three failed attempts at writing a novel in the past three years, the worst that could happen would be a fourth. Against that rather modest downside, the best-case result—that I produce a completed novel that can be turned into something salable—seems worth shooting for. Even if I fall short of that, I’ll almost certainly learn something new about how I write.

It’s already been useful, actually. I’ve been outlining my novel for about a week, but I find just outlining somewhat tedious. If I’d not been following the rules, I’d have jumped in and started writing some of the bits that are already outlined. But if I’d done that, I’d have run into some serious structural problems. I know, because I’ve run into them as I’ve continued outlining. Fixing them in the outlining phase is a lot easier.

So, I’m doing NaNoWriMo. If you are too, friend me. I’m in the system as bradipo.