A Behaviorial Look at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

photo by clickthing.blogspot.com/2008/10/tennish-anyone.html

So right now a lot of writing friends and I are stocking up on coffee, candy, and Prozac, building our bunkers for National Novel Writing Month (fondly known as NaNoWriMo). Only I don’t like coffee, so I make up for it with chocolate. To each her own.

NaNoWriMo is a blitz to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days. (Of course, no, one isn’t writing a publishable book in 30 days, nor is 50,000 words a complete novel in nearly any genre. But that’s not exactly the point, either, so work with us here.)

Considering that at my sugar-and-caffeine-induced perfect zone, I peak at about 1000 words per hour, and that’s not really sustainable — I know a lot of professionals who are quite pleased with 250 words per hour — and considering that normal life doesn’t actually suspend for most of us, you can see the challenge here. So motivation and discipline are big concepts for the NaNo community.

There are lots of ways NaNo writers motivate themselves, but it boils down to several commonly-used terms — small incentives, big incentives, anti-incentives, and rituals.

Let’s look at them from a professional behavior perspective. Continue reading

Why Does Writing a Book Take So Long?

sticky notes color-coded for organizing plot during revisions

Shard & Shield undergoing color-coded revisions. Spoilers probably available if your monitor is sufficiently awesome.

A friend joked about my copious free time. “I mean, what do you have to do, really? You’re self-employed, so you can totally slack off there. And you’re writing a book, and that can’t be hard. I mean, really, how long can that take?”

He was joking about all of it, of course, which is why he’s still breathing. But he put forth a question which many people do ask less ironically — how long can writing a book take, really? (Seriously, just look at fans complaining about George R. R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss needing time.)

That’s the wrong question — as NaNoWriMo and the 8-Hour Book Challenge prove, writing a story may not take long at all. But writing a good story does. Continue reading

The 8-Hour Book Challenge

Oh gosh. Hold on a sec and let me catch my breath.

Okay, author J.A. Konrath wrote a post on (among other things) maintaining the joy of creating without fussing over commercialism or perfectionism, and he ended with a challenge to create an entire book in just 8 hours.

That’s the entire book project. Writing, revising, formatting, creating a cover, and publishing. Complete.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Continue reading

How Do I Love Chocolate? Let Me Count the Ways….

(I wanted to be blogging this week about the Midwest Writers Workshop and the coolness thereof, but I’ve been considerably distracted. So please accept this pre-written post about chocolate in the meanwhile.)

What does dark chocolate do for me?

writer: a peculiar organism capable of transforming caffeine into booksWell, it provides the caffeine which I don’t get from coffee. (Yeah, I’m one of the maybe four writers in the hemisphere who don’t drink coffee. Makes me the odd one out at conferences and workshops, where I have to find my own soft drink or something.) Continue reading

Writing emotions. No, not ABOUT emotions.

The problem with writing is that it’s wholly subjective. Qualitative. No hard data.

ClickStats, my clicker-training data-keeping app

ClickStats, my clicker-training data-keeping app

Where we can do quantitative analysis, we can make reasonable judgments even when our emotions aren’t in alignment. “I felt great about this today, but we actually had only a 70% success rate.” Or, “Oh, man, today has been a total downer and I hated this session, but we nailed it with a 90% success ratio.”

That’s very nice for behavior analysis and free throws. Not so useful with writing.
Continue reading

Speedy Chocolate!

Endangered Species - Coexist All-Natural Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut Toffee 72% Cocoa

Endangered Species – Coexist All-Natural Dark Chocolate Covered Hazelnut Toffee 72% Cocoa

This post will have to go live a few days later, since I ordered some gifts I don’t want to telegraph, but here’s the deal: I ordered from Endangered Species Chocolate and found my order at my driveway about 24 hours later.

Let us count the ways this went right: Continue reading

On Today’s Slavery.

The Slave Market, by Gustave Boulanger

The Slave Market, by Gustave Boulanger

Serious post today, folks.

While writing Shard & Shield, I spent a lot of time researching Greco-Roman slavery, as slavery is integral to one of the cultures in the story. Research always leads one down unexpected roads, and I learned a lot about slavery in other areas of the world and in world history, too. Continue reading

A Game Not For One Night, But For A Thousand and One Nights….

English: Princess Parizade Bringing Home the S...

Princess Parizade Bringing Home the Singing Tree, 1906, oil on paper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friend Mark gave me a new board game for Christmas. The setting is the world of the traditional 1001 Nights, in which Scheherazade is weaving tales to amuse Shahryar and keep herself alive. Players are story characters, with literally thousands of game paths (very re-playable).

It’s a bit different, as games go, rewarding not just game accomplishments in terms of points or accumulated treasures and things, but extreme storytelling — that is, the more dramatic, tragic, twisted, inspiring, and generally enthralling your character’s journey is, the more likely you’ll win the game. Continue reading