Sprint, Battle, Party

NaNoWriMo Week One is nearly complete.  You might be behind (like me), on track (as I have been in the past), or zooming ahead (as I often have been in the past).  No matter where you are in the fleet, your goal is the same: to get as many words in as quick a time as possible.  Now, you could order robotic hands that type faster than you can think— those are sometimes fun.  You could grab another person and have them type at the same time, theoretically doubling your output (but producing two separate novels).  Or, you could participate in a word war.

Word war, word sprint, word fiesta— they’re all the same thing.  You and anyone else participating make a pact, a pact to rid the world of procrastination, and fight to the death the war of words.  Or party the heck out of it, if you’re doing a word fiesta.  Your choice, bro.

Write as many words as you can in fifteen minutes.  Try not to stop until the time is up.  Force your brain to work overtime as your fingers speed over the keys, thinking barely faster than you can type.  You might not know what the next sentence will be, but you’ll run with it.  This is the essence of a word sprint.

Compete against others.  Compete against yourself.  Set records for how many words you can write in fifteen minutes.  Discover your word-per-minute rate and try to make it faster.  Compare your final count with others and feel that sense of pride that comes with winning, or the sense of despair and desolation that comes with second place.  Decide to do better.  Take a break, and start again.  This is the essence of a word war.

Write crazy plot twists and strange dialogue, because you can’t think of anything else to do!  Often, these spur-of-the-moment ideas and terrible thoughts bring about big changes to your story.  The plot twist nobody expected— it’s more of a surprise if you never expected it either.  Waltz through the story with a blindfold on, stepping in unimaginable kinds of goop and splattering it onto the page.  This is the essence of a word fiesta.

No matter which type of activity you choose, they all have the same basis: write as much as you can in fifteen minutes.  Where do you find companions with which to sprint, battle, or party?  That’s the easy part.  You can battle while someone else parties.  You can party while they sprint.  All it takes is someone to say Go and Stop, and a place to communicate in real-time.

Ta-da, the word war chatroom, which has existed since basically forever.  We started it three years ago for just this purpose.  Since then, it’s gone through some changes and seen some people come and go, but its purpose is the same.  Come in and write in company. Continue reading “Sprint, Battle, Party”


Writing for an Audience

November was productive in many ways, but NaNoWriMo was not in that list. While I managed nearly fifteen thousand words of serviceable writing, it was boring, filled with starts and stops, and generally not worth all the effort. Thus, I found myself scrapping the draft halfway through the month, claiming other responsibilities. Those responsibilities were real, but had my writing been more fun, I could have found time for both.

Scrapping a novel halfway through NaNoWriMo is a biannual occurrence, at least for as long as I’ve participated. Two years ago, I attempted to rewrite my second novel, then dropped it as a hurricane ripped power from my neighborhood for ten days. Despite the better excuse for quitting, I was finding the novel boring anyway. I was still new, and hadn’t gotten the hang of outlining just yet.

This year, I had a different problem. The entire October previous, I worked hard on worldbuilding and characters, making sure I would have ample material to write when November hit. The night before, I was excited. The morning of, I didn’t want to write.

I had decided this year to take things more slowly, making sure I knew my purpose for everything so I wouldn’t write trash, nor leave out anything significant. I had resolved to write for myself, for craft, and to produce the best first draft ever.

You can see how well that turned out.

Since then, I’ve restarted, and in a short while almost surpassed my NaNoWriMo wordcount. I still want to write the best draft ever, and I still want to know my purpose for everything, but I’ve changed one thing. I’m no longer writing for myself. Continue reading “Writing for an Audience”

For Lack of a Time Machine (TCWT)

The Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain asks a lot of hard-hitting questions, and this month’s is no different.  The question is “What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started writing?”  Of course, this will be different for everyone, but one thing remains true: you can’t answer this with a very specific answer.  “Don’t use passive voice” is no help to a writer who can’t master compelling characters.  “Remember to use similes” doesn’t help someone struggling with plot.  And my current favorite advice (just because it’s so unknown yet useful) about transitions would be useless for someone with no grasp of setting.  Furthermore, advice about plot, character, or setting will be no use to someone who hasn’t yet begun to write.  So when I first began writing, I think the best advice anyone could have given me was the advice I ignored over and over and over, from all my favorite authors: just write.

I first started writing in first or second grade, when I wrote a 500-word short story over the course of a couple weeks.  I wrote another story of similar length in third grade.  I continued to write in tiny bursts of inspiration and notebook availability over the next four years, until I started a family newsletter and came into the blogosphere.  There I learned about NaNoWriMo, which I attempted for the first time three years ago.  I wrote 50,000 words easily, almost casually, then left my novel alone.  At that point, I would have long breaks where I wasn’t writing anything, then pound out a novel for a NaNoWriMo challenge or a novella for the blog, along with intermittent blog posts.  Were they all good?  No.  But they got better over time. Continue reading “For Lack of a Time Machine (TCWT)”

An Editing Process

I just finished a month of editing, and in the spirit of the work, I’m going to type up this post and publish it without a single read-through.  How’s that for living on the edge?

This month I edited Stakes, the novel I wrote last November for NaNoWriMo.  I had tried editing before on Fathoming Egression (my second novel) and failed– while the premise was good and the characters sound, I found it needed a complete rewrite, which I was ill-equipped to give.  I moved on to other projects, loathing the idea of editing until nearly a year later, when I reread the story and decided to query with Stakes on April 1st.

With less than a month to prepare, I couldn’t afford to rewrite the story.  I needed to make a one-pass, effective edit.  In planning said edit, I was unable to resist the charm of checklists. Continue reading “An Editing Process”

Binge Writing and Schedules

NaNoWriMo just ended.  It’s a sad loss for some of us who live November to November– you can’t really top the thrill of writing a novel in a month.  However, is it a good thing?

Of course it is.  This year it motivated over three hundred thousand writers to write– and most of the time, finish– their own novels.  For all the people who have claimed they wanted to write a book, that’s amazing.  But what about the writers who have already written books?  Those who have already participated in NaNoWriMo and won– what does it do for them?  Motivation, perhaps.  But those who have written novels have already achieved their goal, correct?  That is, only if their goal was to write a single novel.  If their goal is to write several novels, to become a dedicated writer, that’s something different.

What does a dedicated writer do?  The answer is obvious: they write.  But when do they write?  Only one month a year?  Only three months a year?  Writing is work, however little people think of it as such.  Working people don’t get to take nine months of the year off for rest and relaxation– they have to work.  A lot, actually.  A lot more than most aspiring writers do. Continue reading “Binge Writing and Schedules”


Guess what?  I won.

NaNoWriMo, I mean.  I won.  The standard goal is fifty thousand words, while the goal I set for myself was originally a hundred thousand words.  However, the mathematics of the three act formula dictated a book of one hundred and twenty thousand words, so that became my unspoken goal– and I passed it.  I passed it all.  At 120,201 words, I finished on this very night, November 27th of 2013.  What an amazing month it was.

And what an amazing story.  I loved this novel so much as I wrote it, no matter the mistakes and weirdness that lay therein.  It is by far the longest novel I’ve written, and it is my fourth complete novel– that’s a lot of both words and novels.  Not only that, but this is an important landmark for me– when I touch it up a little bit and work on it, I’m probably going to start querying with this one.  And whoever rejects this thing is missing out.

The only problem with writing so many words lies in congratulating or encouraging those who won or are still working toward smaller goals.  It’s really difficult to give sincere congratulations when you’re sitting there with a block of words the size of Texas.  So here you go, all you guys: you’re awesome and your words are probably much better than mine.  And to those who haven’t finished yet, good luck– you’ll definitely make it.  And again, if anyone needs extra help finishing this month, the chatroom will be open and running as long as people are there to populate it.  I might be finished writing, but you can still pop in to get a word war with some of the other participants, or just some healthy encouragement.

My optimism is undying at this point.  Even if Thanksgiving weren’t tomorrow, I would still be thankful– this was an amazing month for me, and I loved writing this story.  Thanks to everyone who let me write it, or helped me write it, or didn’t talk to me and thus gave me unobstructed writing time.  You guys are all awesome, and I shall surely return the favor in the future.

Live long, prosper, and help me pick up my fingers.  They seem to have fallen off from fatigue.

(And just for fun…)

A Perfunctory Post

As of this blog post, I have reached and passed 100,000 words on my NaNoWriMo manuscript.  This means that I have effectively finished both the NaNoWriMo standard challenge (fifty thousand words), as well as the NaNo YWP challenge I set for myself (one hundred thousand words).  However, the story demands more– my first act was 30k, so as dictated by the Hollywood Formula, I’m in for a 120k novel.  That’s a lot of words, folks, but I hope to be done before the end of November so I can rest up.

In writing this novel, I’m not only using the Hollywood Formula as I usually do, but I’m also using the Save the Cat Beat Sheet, as specified for novels here.  Thanks to YAvengers for pointing me in that direction, because it has been helpful.

And with that short note, I leave you.  I still want to write today.  I’m not about to take a break just because I hit a milestone.  The break when I hit the end of this novel, however, will be legendary.  And I will post lots more then, I promise.

This is a Title!

When one participates in a NaNoWriMo event, there occurs an inevitable falling out.  The real life social events, the social networks, that one side project– it all falls prey to that monster that is efficient time management.  The first thing to go, however, is the blog.

The reasoning is simple.  In writing these 800 word posts, you suddenly realize that all those words could have been included in your novel– with the same time you just used to write a blog post, you could have gotten halfway to your daily goal.  What’s the point of blogging if it only takes away from your novel progress?  And the blog goes down the tubes for a month.

Luckily, I have stocked up on form posts for you– simply cut and paste the Phil Phorce into the blog and post it, and the blog is saved from dust and decay.  Unfortunately, that means all you get, as the aforementioned followers, are silly fiction posts, which is not my normal helpful stuff.  At least, I hope I seem helpful sometimes.

But now, with something like a seven-day buffer between me and my daily wordcount target, I can spare some time for you, my special followers.  Somehow, I seem to have nearly 2000 of you, and I have no idea what you’re all doing, wasting your time on me.

NaNoWriMo (for it indeed occupies the thoughts of most of my waking hours) is going extremely well.  As you can see from the wordcount meter on the right, my novel is humming along at thirty thousand words on only the fifth day of existence.  By the end of the day I hope to add to that number, but for now, it remains.  As you can also see, my goal is not fifty thousand words, as most people do– I’m shooting for one hundred thousand words this year, on the grounds that it took me six thousand words to write an action scene, and twenty-five thousand words to actually get to the plot I had wanted to get to.  If that doesn’t seem like epic fantasy, I don’t know what does.

The plot is spectacular.  It came together from nowhere just before the month started, and I love it.  I’m now in the second act, so I’m struggling to keep it interesting (and to keep myself from doing thousand-word worldbuilding exposition scenes), but it’s still going strong.  I’m planning a train robbery for the near future, which will definitely prove interesting.

The word war chatroom (see post “Word War Chatroom” on the sidebar) is humming along.  We haven’t gotten more than ten people in it yet, which means that I don’t have to make a new one– that’s good.  However, we’ve had lots and lots and lots of words written in there, and many Les Miserables songs sung besides.  I credit it completely for my thirty thousand words.

Have I mentioned that I’ve got thirty thousand words?  (I’m ridiculously proud of this.  I’ll have to take a break sometime, but at this point I’ll just keep writing.)

And now, with this blog post getting over 500 words, I shall bring it to a close to keep my novel from becoming jealous.  How are your NaNoWriMos going?

Word War Chatroom

The recent poll about the NaNoWriMo chatroom was quite successful; 36 people voted they would come, more than I expected, and it looks like no one prefers writing in solitary confinement.  No idea why not.

As I have mentioned before, I don’t believe the chatroom will hold more than ten people at a time, but there’s no telling how many people will actually be on at the same time.  It could be that all 36 don’t try to come at once, which would be good, but there might be overflows occasionally.  When that happens, I might add another chatroom to the mix.  However, if it’s only a few people over ten, we might be able to squeeze them in.  As we’re doing word wars, I’ll also post them on my twitter feed: https://twitter.com/TheHeadPhil.

The rules, of course, are the same as the commenting rules for my blog: no bad language, no unsavory topics, and no insulting people.

Enough of rules and such.  The link to the chatroom is here: http://us14.chatzy.com/49973207014728.  You can pop in at any time– there’s no password.  Word wars will start tomorrow, when NaNoWriMo begins.  Thank you for your time.

Word Wars this NaNoWriMo

In two weeks, the whirlwind of words that is National Novel-Writing Month will begin.  I’m excited for NaNoWriMo this year.  Armed with an intriguing concept and a few inklings of a plot, I have all the tools a pantser like myself needs to begin a new masterpiece.  I even have a method of outlining beforehand, if I need it, courtesy of this week’s Writing Excuses episode.  When November hits, I will be prepared.

In July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I found an amazing way to write with renewed vigor and speed: word wars.  I accomplished this with a chatroom of my own creation, in which I and a few friends met throughout the day and warred until we had reached our goals.  At the end of that month, we agreed to do the same thing this November.  I agreed to host it and announce it on my blog as it came time for us to gather.  Now is that time.

However, before we can move forward with this, I need to know how many people are interested in word warring, or popping in to chat between wars.  Each free chatroom can only hold ten people at a time reliably, and I’m not in the mood to pay for a larger one.  (If you would like to pay for one, however, feel free.)  Thus, if more than ten people want to come, I might have to create more than one room.  The wars will progress in the same fashion in each, and there might be some interplay between the two, but everything would have to be choreographed.  (I’m kind of hoping only ten people decide to join, but don’t worry about that.)

Bear in mind that many of the participants coming to the chatroom will be teenagers or beneath, so if you are an adult, please keep in mind the same rules that exist on this blog.  If you don’t like that idea, don’t sign up to come.  If you don’t mind, however, we’d love to have you.