NaNoWriMo 2009 - materials and methods

In my last post, I talked about what I learned (or think I learned) from NaNoWriMo. This post will be about the nuts and bolts of what I did, why I did it that way, and how I did it.

WHAT As you can see from the graph, I made a serious effort to stick to a daily writing goal, rather than lurch along with periodic binges of 6K followed by exhausted days of nothing. That regular stepwise progression served me pretty well. I kept up, only got uncomfortably behind once, and only had a few gonzo days where I vaulted ahead.

WHY I wanted to know if I could set and meet a tolerable daily writing goal. Some people can write 2 or 3K a day with no problems, either thanks to time, talent or temperament. I'm not one of those people, and I don't have one of those lives. 1.7K was a tough daily schedule for me to meet, even ripping through the low quality writing that I did. A better quality 1K-a-day would take probably as much time as this did. Time, alas, which is in short supply for me.

Could I do this as part of a daily habit? Yes, but I need to take a little time off to rest and recover.

HOW Going into it, I expected to use Q10 a lot. I really like the minimalist writing environment it presents. I've written lots of the Friday Flash stories in it, as well as many longer pieces. However, I ended up not using Q10 at all. Why? Because Write Or Die was released as a desktop edition. This was perfect for NaNoWriMo, as it forces a lot of words to get put down on the page in raw form.

Q10 lets you set timers, time limits, word goals, and calculates statistics on your productivity, but it does not prompt you out of a fatigue-induced stupor by sensing when your fingers are pausing motionless in response to cerebral drift. I know, I know, if I were a real writer, I wouldn't have to rely on external prompts, the words would burst forth of their own volition and the strength of my own inner muse would lend wings to my imagination, etc. etc. I used it and loved it, so go piss up a rope.

Write Or Die let me get the words down, yWriter5 organized them and counted them for me. Really, between these two, I was all set. I wrote in WOD, saved it to separate text files for each session, then imported them into yWriter5 as individual scenes. For the bit of polishing and editing I did along the way, I could edit the text directly in yWriter5. It also let me move scenes around within and between chapters, and lets me move chapters around, with automatic renumbering of chapters after I've done so.

Setting aside thoughts about the quality of what I wrote, and looking exclusively at the mechanical things that I wanted to accomplish with NaNoWriMo, I'd have to say that it was a clear win.

I've got a set of tools that seem to work quite well, and I have an exposure at least to the habits necessary to write the novel that I want to write. I've started and abandoned lots of novels. I think that I may have the experience now to complete them.


  1. yWriter looks like just what I need and there's a Linux version! Sweet!

    I tend to write in a text editor like notepad, save each scene individually, and then paste them together in word for finalizing. This will make that system all the nicer.

    Also, as far as WOD proddings, it is a little known fact that Dickens paid "women of the night" to whip him every time his quill stopped for more than 10 seconds.

    Totally true.


  2. These are some good ideas, software. Hadn't heard of q10 or ywriter5, just downloaded both to play with. Thanks Tony.

  3. Paul and Ben: I'm happy to help, guys. yWriter lets you edit in a plain vanilla text box... won't even bug you about spelling unless you ask it to.

    The author or yWriter has written several sci-fi books that look fun. I'm planning on buying a couple, to show some tangible love for yWriter.


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