Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: December, 2013

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2013

Well, I drove a lot. Literally and metaphorically. Literally because I had to drive to a lot of write-ins across the Bitterroot Valley from Darby to Missoula. I’m pretty sure I logged a couple hundred miles this month simply driving to write-ins. I don’t particularly want to know exactly how many miles I actually logged (although I could easily figure it out). I think it would depress me more considering how many write-ins I went to where no one came. While I could have just not gone to any of those write-ins, I take my duties as a municipal liaison seriously. I might complain like crazy, but if the write-in is planned, I go in case someone does show up. When I had been just a participant before becoming an ML, I knew some MLs were flakes and that was frustrating. I do not want to be a flake. Period.

And metaphorically there was a lot of driving because in my novel, Sweet Diesel, the main character is a race car. During November she (the car has a gender because she used to be human) went from Algiers, through Niger, and to the border of Mali. I managed to reach 50,000 words just past 5 PM on November 30 (and it was a really close thing this year), but the story isn’t done. Which is why I’m still writing in December. I don’t want to leave the story unfinished.

And speaking of a close thing–this has probably been the most difficult year I’ve had in finishing NaNoWriMo ever, including my first year participating where I finished three or four days early. Not because the story or characters stymied me but because I had a hard time really finding the time to write. And after multitasking a quadrillion other things, it was also hard to find the energy (especially during the week) to write anything. However, I did manage to write something every day, even if it meant just a sentence before I went to sleep for about four or five hours.

It never really crossed my mind to quit and give myself a rest. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo too long for that to be an option. November has become CRAZY DO ALL THE THINGS month. Slacking off is out of the question.

Anyways, posting in this blog will be somewhat sporadic this month as I try to finish the novel before January and meet several work deadlines before Christmas.

I’ll leave proper sleeping for later, I guess.

The Wombat Transcripts and the Deconstruction of a Word Sprint

Someone back in November requested that all the wombat word sprint tweets from @NaNoWordSprints be collected somewhere so they could read the whole story. I promised I would do that after November, so here are the sessions where the wombat featured as a main character.

Anyways, without further ado, the transcripts!

* * *

Birthdays (November 11, 9:30am-11:00am)

Time Tweet
9:30 **squeak squeak squeak squeak**
Darn it, what sort of surprise is it going to be if the wheels of this cart keeps squealing?
**A giant cake comes into view. @syaffolee is pushing the cart. Something is strapped to her back. A flamethrower?!**
Hey everyone! How’s it crackin’? Let’s first give @serenalawless a huge thank you for those wonderful sprints in the previous session!
All right, let’s get down to it. Warmup sprint :35-:50. (Optional) birthday prompts: cake, bad singing, ice cream, party hats, candles
9:34 One minute to go! Get ready for sprinting time!
9:35 And GO! Write write write, and let’s see how many words we can cram into 10 minutes!
9:48 This is your TWO MINUTE REMINDER. Keep going!
9:50 And TIME! How’d you do? Did you manage to include any of the prompt words?
Thank you for all the “happy birthdays” everyone! You guys are totally the best. :’)
This time I’ll get the math right. :) Next we’re doing a 30 minute sprint from :55 to :25. You can do a #1k30min challenge if you’d like.
Suggested prompt words: guests, clowns, magician, dinner, invitations
9:54 One minute until it’s time to rock the sprint! Get ready!
9:55 And WRITE WRITE WRITE! I hope to see some awesome word counts after this no matter what your goals are!
10:10 This is your halfway point reminder! Keep writing!
10:20 FIVE MORE MINUTES. Go go go!
10:25 And…STOP! Whew! How’d you do on that long one? Did you make your goals? What’s your favorite line so far?
Next sprint is :30-:40. Certain birthdays (depending on culture) have coming of age ceremonies/traditions associated with them.
Your optional prompts: coming of age, sweet sixteen, debut, majority, thread (from the Hindu thread ceremony on the 12/13th birthday)
10:29 Are you ready? Sprinting time is in one minute!
10:30 And GO GO GO! Write like the wind and I’ll see you back in 10 minutes!
10:38 TWO MINUTES LEFT! Keep going!
10:40 And STOP! How’d you do? Anyone include the prompts? Any life changing things happen to your characters in the meantime?
All right, one more from me. Let’s go :45 to :55. Maybe it’s not your birthday today. But we can celebrate unbirthdays, too!
Optional prompts for next sprint (with apologies to Lewis Carroll): mad, tea, rabbit/hare, dormouse, mercury poisoning
10:44 One minute until sprinting time! Get ready!
10:45 And GO! Get cracking on those words and I’ll see you back at :55!
10:53 You have TWO MINUTES LEFT. Break all limits and speed ahead!
10:55 And TIME! Did you beat your word count from the previous sprint? What’s the last word you wrote?
**The cake on the cart starts shaking on  its own. It EXPLODES sending cake and frosting EVERYWHERE.**
**A giant mutant WOMBAT leaps out of the cake’s corpse and storms out the door.**
Awesome sprinting with you guys! @sushimustwrite will be with your for the next hour of sprints, hopefully with some less dangerous food!
**Despite being covered in cake, @syaffolee prepares the flamethrower. And runs after the monster.**
**Flickering flames curl from the doorway. SCREAMS. Hopefully that’s the wombat and not bystanders.**

* * *

Chase scene tropes (November 13, 9:00pm-12:00am)

Time Tweet
9:00 **A monster WOMBAT busts into a neighborhood pet shop and gobbles plot bunnies left and right.**
**But then it roars off through a back exit just as @syaffolee skates in on roller blades carrying several tranquilizer guns.**
The flamethrower didn’t work, guys. Anyways, let’s give @honeyelle a huge thank you for the previous wonderful sprints!
While I chase down this sucker, let’s do a warmup sprint from :05-:15. Prompt: blind alley. [Theme for this session is chase scene tropes.]
9:04 One minute until sprint time! If I can corner the wombat in a blind alley, getting it will be a piece of cake.
9:05 And it’s time to GO! Get writing, wrimos, and I’ll see you back at :15! **Your sprint leader skates out the back door.**
9:13 This is your TWO MINUTE REMINDER. Keep writing!
9:15 And STOP! How many words did you manage to cram in the past 10 minutes?
Shoot. I think I lost it in this crowd. Excuse me! Oof! Hey, watch it buster!
All right, next sprint will be from :20 to :50. Your optional prompt: something or someone gets lost in a crowd.
For those of you who like an extra challenge, let’s go for the #1k30min!
9:19 Phew! It seems like that crowd is off to see the latest boy band concert or something. There’s one minute til sprinting time!
9:20 HEY! I think I see it heading towards an apartment building! GO GO GO, you guys! Write like you’re on fire!
9:35 This is your halfway point reminder. Keep writing!
9:45 FIVE MINUTES TO GO. Break all limits and keep going!
9:50 And TIME! How’d you do this time? Let me know your favorite line so far.
**The monster WOMBAT has started climbing up the apartment building. Your sprint leader races inside.**
Next sprint is at :00-:10. Prompt: Include an elevator. And yes, even grain elevators count. Especially if they burst into flames.
You can use this extra time for #NaGoBaTi or backing up your novels!
9:58 **Jabs elevator button. Nothing happens.** Man, isn’t this typical. I’m going to take the stairs.
9:59 **Your sprint leader takes off her roller blades to get up the stairs.** One more minute guys, and then it’s sprinting time!
10:00 And WRITE WRITE WRITE! Write like the wind and I’ll see you back in 10 minutes!
10:05 FIVE MINUTE WARNING. **pant pant pant** Hey, I finally made it to the roof! And there’s the wombat!
10:09 **With ONE MINUTE TO GO, the wombat ROARS angrily. Your sprint leader pulls out a tranq, takes aim, and… **
10:10 BANG! **The monster wombat reels, stumbles, and falls off the edge of the roof!** So, how’d everyone do during the sprint?
You guys are doing so awesome with your word counts! Now let me get back down there and get that put back in a cage.
**But when your sprint leader gets back to ground level, the wombat has woken up and overturned a fruit stand while getting away!**
ARG. This is frustrating. Okay, your next sprint is from :15-:30. Prompt: Include fruit and/or fruit related stuff.
10:14 Are you ready? We have one minute until sprint time! **Your sprint leader puts her roller blades back on.**
10:15 And GO GO GO! Get writing and I’ll see you back at :30! **And squishes several kumquats on her way to catch the wombat.**
10:25 FIVE MINUTES LEFT. Keep going! (Darn it! I think I see that wombat heading straight to the carnival!)
10:30 And STOP! Did you do the prompt? Even if you didn’t, let me know your latest line.
Next sprint, :35-:55. Your optional prompt: mirrors/reflections.
Because I’d have a horrible time getting that wombat if it wanders into an attraction like the Hall of Mirrors.
10:34 One minute to go! I hope you’re ready!
10:35 And GET WRITING! I hope to see some awesome word counts when we meet back in 20 minutes!
10:50 This is your FIVE MINUTE WARNING. Keep going!
10:55 And TIME! Did you meet your word count goals?
**There’s shouting. Clowns run out of a nearby carnival tent.** Aha! That’s where the wombat went!
Let’s do another 30 min sprint (#1k30min challenge). :00-:30. Prompt: Crashing through stuff.
10:59 One minute to go! Get ready!
11:00 And HERE WE GO! Get writing and I’ll see you back in 30 minutes!
11:15 Halfway point! Keep going! I want to see awesome word counts from all of you!
11:30 And stop! How did it go for everyone? Did you make your goals?
Look, there it goes! **The monster wombat barrels through several people. Bystanders fall down with cries of pain.**
Oh man, that’s not good. Next sprint :40-55. Use your time wisely! (#NaGoBaTi, hinthint)
Prompt will be sprained ankles and broken heels. (Or injuries in general.)
11:39 One minute to go! Are you ready?
11:40 And WRITE WRITE WRITE! I’ll see you back in 15 minutes!
11:50 FIVE MINUTE REMINDER. Keep going!
11:55 And…STOP! How’d you do? Did any of your characters suddenly find themselves in a world of pain?
It’s been a pleasure sprinting with all of you! Keep on trucking and remember to backup your novels!
Your next sprint leader @writingfreak88 will be here shortly with some more sprints. For me, it’s ta-ta for now!
** @syaffolee skates off to find the wombat at the circus and narrowly misses being stomped on by a frightened elephant. **

The wombat also appeared as a minor character in the sprint sessions inspired by The Matrix, noir films, Moby Dick, and The Call of Cthulhu (as a statue). If anyone wants those tweet transcripts posted, just drop me a note!

* * *

For those of you interested in learning the fine art of word sprinting in order to hold your own on Twitter, the following is some uber geeky meta analysis on how I construct a word sprint session. But like writing novels, there are no firm rules for word sprinting, so I’m mostly talking about my own method and style (which can at times be manic, wild, and all OMGWTFBBQ–the complete opposite to how I usually am with other things). I am by no means an expert. Many of the other sprint leaders on @NaNoWordSprints have more experience than me on how to do this. I personally enjoy following the sessions of the other sprint leaders because the very fact that they have different sprint styles is inspiring.

The bare bones of a sprint consist of a start tweet and a stop tweet. One could argue that a sprint could consist of a single tweet with an announcement of when a sprint starts and how long it would be, but often writers get carried away once they get going so I’d say a stop tweet would be highly recommended, if not necessary. Once you’ve got the bones of a sprint, you can hang all sorts of additional tweets on the session, including reminder tweets (We’ve got TWO MINUTES TO GO!; Remember to back up your novel!), prompts (I try to always mention that they’re optional since some people hate them with a passion), and tweets of encouragement (You guys are doing AWESOME with your word count! Virtual cookies for everyone!).

Whether or not you want to include breaks in between sprints is also up to you, the sprint leader. Rolling sprints, or sprints without breaks, come in two different types–either a series of sprints strung together or a marathon sprint (typically one hour) cut up into several milestones. I usually include breaks because it gives sprinters a bit of time to regroup for the next sprint. And, of course, it gives me extra time to tell a frame story around the sprints if I happen to go that route.

Just like writing a novel, you can pants or plan a sprint session. While pantsing is fun, planning is far more practical–and probably gives me less headaches in the long run. I schedule and write most of my tweets beforehand (either on Excel or Notepad). This allows me to make sure that the important tweets get tweeted on time (believe me, there are time sticklers out there who think that being thirty seconds off is a cause for concern) and that everything is proofread (for those who can’t help but point out grammar and spelling mistakes because they couldn’t manage to get rid of their inner editor). It also allows me to space sprints appropriately to keep from accidentally running through another sprinter’s shift and to make sure I’m not tweeting too much–which would land me in “Twitter Jail.”

In October, I started coming up with a list of prompt themes I might want to use as inspiration for the optional prompts. NaNoWriMo itself has a sense of crazy whimsey to it–so when I pick prompt themes, that’s always in the back of my mind. Someone once asked me if I just pick these at random. I don’t. I choose them because they match the tone of NaNoWriMo, it’s a theme that is very popular with the active sprinters (I ended up doing Doctor Who again this year even though I said I wouldn’t repeat prompt themes), or it’s a theme that I personally love.

My track record on prompt themes is, admittedly, somewhat hit or miss. There were some successes (Doctor Who, the wombats and plot bunnies, and the prompt mashups). And then there were some duds (no one got The Call of Cthulhu parody and there were some prompts which some sprinters thought were too crazy to be tweeted by a sober person). At least it wasn’t as bad as last year’s My Little Pony sprint session which elicited some actively hostile reactions. At any rate, I do pay attention to other people’s reactions to the themes and I always keep that in mind when picking the theme for the next session.

But despite all the planning involved, there was a certain amount of last minute pantsing included, too. The sprint session The Fast and the Furious was completely pantsed on the spot. So were the first two Reports from the Plot Bunny Fanciers Convention (the third was written the hour before the session started) and one session I called Curiosities. A number of themes were chosen on the day of sprinting (especially during the last week). The sprint session during the Night of Writing Dangerously was originally intended as A View to a Kill parody with the wombat playing Max Zorin (hence my slightly enigmatic tweet about James Bond trivia), but I changed that at the last minute when I found out that the theme for NOWD was noir.

I’m not sure what themes I might do for next year if I’m invited to sprint again. Some themes could be really polarizing (Sailor Moon/Magical Girl) and others I’m 99% sure would be a success (Sherlock). I’ve also contemplated doing a session filled with participant-generated prompts or dueling with a fellow sprint leader (pistols at dawn like sloshed Regency gentlemen making bad decisions!), but who knows how well that would go. Anyways, I’ll probably start seriously thinking about this again next October.

Word Sprint Prompts for Week 4

It’s the end of another year of sprinting with @NaNoWordSprints. It was both fun and harrowing. Harrowing because you’re also staring down at that deadline and writing as if your worst relatives, clowns, all of hell, and tax auditors were nipping at your heels.

Anyways, here are the last batch of sprinting prompts! Hopefully they’re of use to somebody.

November 21, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Strange weather/kitchen utensils/anime hair mashup

  • Fog/baster/rose-haired girl (10 min)
  • Squall/fillet knife/prehensile hair (15 min)
  • St. Elmo’s fire/colander/long-haired pretty boy (20 min)
  • Freezing rain/apple corer/compressed hair (10 min)
  • Dust storm/spatula/elemental hair (20 min)
  • Heat wave/biscuit press/80s hair (30 min)
  • Monsoon/wooden spoon/hotblooded sideburns (15 min)
  • Black ice/mortar and pestle/mega twintails (15 min)

November 22, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Numbers Station

  • Transmission (10 min)
  • Mysterious message (15 min)
  • Spies (20 min)
  • Cryptography, ciphers, and codes (30 min)
  • Nicknames (15 min)
  • An unknown location (15 min)
  • Earliest (10 min)
  • Jamming and interference (20 min)

November 23, 10:30am-11:30am (UTC -7)
Apple varieties

  • Beauty of Bath (10 min)
  • Wolf River (30 min)
  • Topaz (5 min)
  • Maiden’s Blush (30 min)

November 23, 9:30pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Doctor Who Redux

  • Fish fingers and custard (10 min)
  • Credentials (20 min)
  • Greatness (30 min)
  • Green singing shark in an evening gown/comfy sofa (15 min)
  • Exterminate (20 min)
  • Caretaker (30 min)
  • Eating crisps and girls (15 min)
  • No choice (10 min)
  • Advice (10 min)

November 24, 11:30am-1:00pm (UTC -7)
Report from the Plot Bunny Fanciers Convention – Part 1

  • Tree climbing (10 min)
  • Advertising (10 min)
  • Driving (30 min)
  • Junk that you don’t need (15 min)
  • Graffiti, painting, and vandalism (60 min)

November 24, 3:30pm-4:30pm (UTC -7)
Report from the Plot Bunny Fanciers Convention – Part 2

  • Hops and other strange movements (10 min)
  • Pamphlets, flyers, and other paper ephemera (20 min)
  • Programming, hacking, computers, devices (15 min)

November 24, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -7)
Report from the Plot Bunny Fanciers Convention – Part 3

  • Dancing (bonus: cotillion) (10 min)
  • Bad boy (15 min)
  • There can only be one (30 min)
  • Restraint (15 min)
  • Arranged fiesty pirate marriage (20 min)

November 25, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Cheese/mathematical functions/nail polish colors mashup

  • Flower of Rajya/Quadratic function/As Gold As It Gets (10 min)
  • Limburger/Sawtooth wave/My Private Cabana (15 min)
  • Remoudou/Airy function/Instant Hot (20 min)
  • Sirene/Hyper Operators/Like to be Bad (15 min)
  • Aura cheese/Student’s t-distribution/Pillow Talk (15 min)
  • Feta/Elliptic function/Trombone (10 min)

November 26, 12:30pm-1:30pm (UTC -7)
Fast and the Furious

  • Speed (10 min)
  • Drifting (20 min)
  • Breaking all limits (10 min)
  • Get away (30 min)

November 26, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Eighty Days Around the World

  • London, bet, wager (10 min)
  • Egypt, detective, mistaken identity (20 min)
  • India, train, interruption (30 min)
  • Trickery, rescue, no regrets (10 min)
  • Arrested, jumping bail (20 min)
  • Getting drugged, missed connections, detour (30 min)
  • Earning money, circus, reunion (10 min)
  • Attack, bison, broken bridge, wind powered sledge (15 min)
  • Desperate, fuel, transatlantic, crossing (20 min)
  • Gain, confession, winning (10 min)

November 27, 6:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
The Call of the Wombat (The Call of Cthulhu parody)

  • Break-in (10 min)
  • Uncertainty (15 min)
  • Packrat (30 min)
  • Professor (20 min)
  • Surprise (20 min)
  • Ugly statue or sculpture (20 min)
  • Bad dream/nightmare (10 min)
  • Outre mental illnesses and outbreaks of group folloy or mania (15 min)
  • Raid (30 min)
  • Braying, bellowing, and writhing (20 min)
  • Translation (20 min)
  • Investigating on your own (15 min)
  • Survivor (30 min)
  • Uncharted, island, stars (15 min)

November 28, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Gurgi-isms from The Chronicles of Prydain

  • Crunchings and munchings (10 min)
  • Jumpings and thumpings (20 min)
  • Smackings and whackings (30 min)
  • Thashings and splashings (20 min)
  • Sneakings and peekings (10 min)
  • Groanings and moanings (30 min)
  • Mashings and crashings (20 min)
  • Wheeling and dealing (15 min)
  • Creepings and leapings (5 min)
  • Flockings and gawkings (30 min)

November 29, 9:00pm-2:00am (UTC -7)
The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear

  • The owl and the pussy cat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat. (10 min)
  • They took some honey, and plenty of money wrapped in a five-pound note. (20 min)
  • Oh let us be married, too long we have tarried. But what shall we do for a ring? (20 min)
  • To the land where the bong-tree grows. (30 min)
  • They dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon. (15 min)
  • They danced by the light of the moon. (15 min)
  • I long to go out in the world beyond; I wish I could hop like you. (15 min)
  • This requires some little reflection. Perhaps, on the whole it might bring me luck. (30 min)
  • I bought four pairs of worsted socks, which fit my web-feet neatly. (15 min)
  • All gold and shine, in dress so fine. (5 min)
  • They bought a pig, and some green jackdaws, and a lovely monkey with lollipop paws. (30 min)
  • The little birds fly down to the calico-tree. (25 min)

November 30, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)

  • Pet turtles (10 min)
  • Loan shark (5 min)
  • Go for the ribs (20 min)
  • Tomato (5 min)
  • Contender (10 min)
  • Fight (10 min)
  • Broken nose (5 min)
  • Can’t sing or dance (20 min)
  • Lady Luck (5 min)
  • Best shot (10 min)

December 1, 1:00am-3:00am (UTC -7)
The Last Unicorn

  • Where do unicorns go? (10 min)
  • Lilac wood (5 min)
  • Shadow on the sea (20 min)
  • Take me with you (5 min)
  • For laughs, for luck (10 min)
  • Sharpen our souls (10 min)
  • A good curse (5 min)
  • Weeps without tears (20 min)
  • Small arts (5 min)
  • No cat anywhere gave anyone a straight answer (10 min)