It’s been a busy December, so I am only just getting around to summarizing the results of NaNoWriMo2019.
Finished my novel-as in, finished writing the whole plot-with a total of around 52K words yesterday, about 11:30pm. This was not the easiest year I’ve ever done this, nor was it the hardest, but it was one of the less melodramatic. I went through some setbacks in terms of wordcount and stuff distracting me from my project, but I didn’t spend as much time being huffy and upset about it as I sometimes get, and I didn’t end up hating the novel project or the characters the way I sometimes do.
This was a prequel novel to the main Jaiya series; dealing with the parents of Vipin, the hero of Marrying A Monster. I enjoyed writing it, and right now I feel good about how it turned out. Catch is, now I have to polish up and publish the second and third book in the Jaiya series and write, polish and publish two more prequels before anyone gets to read this thing I just wrote.
Lessons learned: I need to not plan on being able to write ~4000 words per day on my days off from work. I can do that under exceptional circumstances, but I can’t do it on a consistent basis, and the times when I did it were the only times my wrists and elbows really protested.
I didn’t do as much dictating as I hoped, and the Windows Dictation tool proved to be very squirrelly. I used it for a couple of scenes early on. One scene I just found difficult to write because of what it was about (not ‘triggering’ or anything like that, just difficult), and in that case I found dictation helpful because it forced me to focus on getting the computer to understand what I was saying, half a sentence at a time, instead of getting hung up on the things about the scene I found difficult. The other section involved a lot of description of military hardware, and it was handy to have Google Images open on one screen (I use a dual screen setup) and Word open in the other, and just talk out loud about what the hardware looked like to me and what it would be like to use.
Something which was amazingly helpful was the integration between OneDrive and the new version of MS Office I picked up over the summer. Save the main NaNoWriMo doc to OneDrive, open it up in Word just like any document on my hard-drive, and write away at home. Commute to work in the carpool, write between 80 and 200 words in Office Mobile using the same main NaNoWriMo doc on OneDrive. When I had free time at work (not that often), I’d try to fit in a Write or Die timed writing session, copy the results into a document on my work computer, email it home in the evening, copy/paste the new bits into main document. Those little niggling bits of writing really helped a lot on the days when I didn’t have time or energy left to write at home.
To those of you who also made it: congratulations! To those of you who are still plugging away: You can do it! And let me leave you with what were for me this year’s NaNoWriMo theme songs: Half The Battle, and Eastbound And Down.
A very underrated tool in the NanoWriMo toolkit is sleep. If your body does not get enough sleep, your brain will not be able to focus on what you’re writing. You will become grumpy and annoyed with your project. In other words, a lack of sleep is an open invitation to writer’s block. This is usually the point where the blogger starts talking about all-night writing sessions fueled by coffee, tea or the caffeinated beverages of their choice.
I don’t drink caffeine anymore. A couple of years back, I notice that I had trouble focusing on what I was writing during NanoWriMo when I drank even a single can of caffeinated soda. So I stopped drinking it, and since I didn’t like the taste of coffee or tea, I didn’t drink either of those instead. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t drink caffeine, because I know it works for some people, and it is definitely too close to NanoWriMo to try quitting caffeine, because it’s no fun to trying to write with the “caffeine withdrawal” headache. But please try to remember that it is no substitute for a good night’s sleep.
The most important tool in your toolkit for NaNoWriMo are your arms, wrists and fingers. From about now through the start of November, you should be resting them whenever possible. Of course, you may have a day job just as I do, where there is no way to avoid using a mouse and keyboard. But you can stop playing games on your phone computer or gaming system, avoid unnecessary typing on social media, and adopt the best posture possible. This website has the most complete information I had found on avoiding repetitive stress injury by adopting the right posture, and trying to recover from it once you develop it.
During NaNoWriMo itself, remember to take frequent breaks from the computer to relieve wrist pain, and eyestrain. Ice packs are also helpful, hot packs are less so, because they cause the joints to swell even more while the cold packs reduce the swelling. If you sleep on your side, it is best to not sleep on your dominant hand. You can also try dictating text, as I’m doing right now. The first time I tried Microsoft Office speech functions was around 2006 or 2007. It was practically unusable back then. This version almost seems workable. I hope to dictate at least part of my NaNoWriMo project this year. I guess we’ll see how this experiment goes.