My NaNoWriMo 2017 participation

tea+candle+notebook

I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, it’s a contest in which writers from all over the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000 draft of a novel in the month of November. I wanted to write something new and the timing of that coincided with NaNo, so here we are. If I’m not as active on my blog this month, that will be why.

Last year I made a video about the pros and cons of this contest. I think my conclusion was that it was a great initiative, but for me the cons outweighed the pros. It’s too focused on word count, which does not work well for me personally. I had to scrap over 26,000 words of vomit that resulted in my previous attempt and was left with only the idea of a novel. And yet I’m doing it again this year.

I’m more laid-back with my participation this time though. I’m not as obsessed with reaching the word goal. Sure, 50,000 words would be nice to have at the end of the month, but I’m more concerned about the time I’m investing in my writing. NaNoWriMo has a nifty new feature where you can input personal goals, which can also be hours instead of words.

I’ve challenged myself to work on my novel for 82 hours this month. That’s 3 hours a day, with some wiggle room. Those hours include both planning/outlining facets of my novel and the writing of the novel itself. So far I’ve been doing very well with my hour-goals. Only last weekend I didn’t put in as many hours as I liked, but otherwise I’ve reached or surpassed the 3 hours a day. I’m behind on the general word goal, but I don’t care as much as I usually do.

I’m writing a new novel. Something brimming with a lot more promise than previous things I’ve written. I’m working on it every day. It’s taking concrete shape. This is how NaNoWriMo can be immensely valuable. Bend the rules, personalise it to fit your own goals and watch the magic unfold.

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Lessons learned in a clothing distribution centre

rack_jimkillock

For the past five months I worked full-time in a clothing distribution centre of a fairly big Dutch clothing brand. I packaged orders at the webshop, threw products onto a conveyor belt, unpacked and put products in storage, etc. It wasn’t my first choice of jobs, but, you know, writers also have bills to pay.

I learned a lot from my experience there though. Here are some of the things I took away from it:

  • ANY job is better than no job. Even if all you do is sticker price tags all day, it’s still better than sitting at home useless and parasitically living off other people.
  • Any work can be fulfilling if you’re continually learning new things and getting better at it.
  • If you have nice, fun colleagues it vastly improves your general experience. They are invaluable in this kind of repetitive work.
  • Repetitive actions, like folding and storing clothes, can be meditative and calming; they also give you an excellent opportunity to come up with solutions to problems in your creative projects.
  • Any attempt to wear cute clothes and chunky jewellery when you do physical work is futile.
  • Learn from others who have been at the job longer. Try methods that you see others use, even if it seems illogical to you. It will help you in the long run.
  • Make tasks as easy on yourself as possible. Doing something the hard way won’t impress anyone.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask men for help for something that requires physical strength. You may think you’re strong and tough and can totally do all the things the boys can, but sometimes you’ll just unnecessarily injure yourself if you lift something that’s too heavy for you.
  • A lot more clothes can fit in a box than you expect. Sometimes, you’ll think no, it’s way too much, there’s too big a pile sticking out at the top, it’ll never fit. Just close the box; it’ll fit.
  • Always wash new clothes.
  • The best way to wake up on a work morning is by putting on some cheerful music and singing along loudly. At work, cheerful music is also great to keep motivated.
  • Speaking of music, what the Dutch call fout (‘wrong’, meaning something like guilty pleasure) music is significantly more enjoyable than the modern pop shit on the radio.
  • A positive mindset improves every experience (one of those lessons that you have to learn over and over again).

Picture by Jim Killock

How to edit a novel

  1. Print out the whole draft, marveling at all the words you conjured out of nothing.
  2. Read through it. Make notes as you go along: mark where the structure is illogical, where the characters are acting OOC, cross out the stream-of-consciousness filler, and don’t forget to add lots of question marks in the margins.
  3. Despair.
  4. Go back to your original document. Start making changes.
  5. Fiddle around with the structure until it’s more logical and/or interesting, starting with the first chapter.
  6. Flesh out scenes. Write 500 words of descriptions you skipped the first time.
  7. Delete 1000 words of that same chapter.
  8. Despair.
  9. Force yourself to move on to the next chapter, even though the previous one is still hella flawed.
  10. Repeat 5-9.
  11. Get lost in the chapter with the worst structure and content so far. Stare at your piece of shit document for hours on end.
  12. Despair.
  13. Move scenes forward in the novel. If you build it up more slowly, it will be better and more logical. Of course, now you’ll have to write a lot of new scenes in-between.
  14. Scenes, new scenes. You can figure this out.
  15. Get a drink.
  16. Or two.
  17. Stare at the document for several more hours and hours until your eyes are burning out of your skull.
  18. Force the words out, all words, any words. Scenes are made out of words, right?
  19. Read what you’ve written the following day. Delete 75% of the chapter.
  20. Despair.
  21. Repeat 14-20.
  22. You’ve been working on the same chapter for two weeks, haven’t you?
  23. Is the prospect of the remaining 23 chapters giving you panic attacks yet?
  24. Twenty-three, twenty-three, will the end ever come in sight?
  25. Why did you ever write a novel?
  26. Why did you ever think you should be a writer?
  27. You should have gone to medical school like the other smart, privileged kids.