Some Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2014

by syaffolee

Writing this year’s NaNoWriMo novel was probably one of the most difficult novels I’ve written. Originally, I had challenged myself to write a historical fantasy novel by the seat of my pants, but after Day 1, I knew that was pretty much a disaster. Unless I had a Ph.D. in Venetian history (which I obviously don’t), that novel was not going to happen this year without me taking time out to do some research.

So on Day 2, I scrapped that idea and decided to do an urban fantasy set in San Diego. Theoretically it would be a no brainer. It would be set in present day in a place that I live. I could throw in unicorns and dragons and magic–basically everything and the kitchen sink–without worrying about reality. No research necessary. Unfortunately, I had a different set of problems. I had no idea who my characters were, what they were going to do, and where everything was headed. Basically it was the writing equivalent of flying blind.

I definitely learned something from this experience. I cannot purely pants a story. My brain simply doesn’t work that way. Next year, I’m going back to planning.

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This year I also transferred regions as a municipal liaison. As the new person in town and put into a position of “authority” (I wasn’t really the authority of anything–mostly an organizer) there was definitely a feeling of uncertainty there on what the region would be expecting of me and what I would learn about the region. There was also already an established ML in San Diego so I had to be fairly careful that when I advocated new ideas, they didn’t trample on already rooted regional traditions.

Some of the ideas worked. Some didn’t. When things didn’t work, of course, I’m a bit annoyed at first. But I don’t dwell on those things too much. There’s always more new ideas to try out next year. I guess that’s the advantage of being an experienced ML with a laid back attitude–you don’t take things personally when things don’t pan out.

I already have some ideas on how to improve next year, attendance-wise at least. I also want to increase the diversity of the participation, but I’m not sure how to go about doing that. Oh, don’t get me wrong. The wrimos I’ve met are all wonderful people. But I want more people, from all walks of life, to participate. Unfortunately, I think achieving this may take more effort than I have time for.

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Leading word sprints on @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter was theoretically a huge time sink, but I was able to multitask a bunch of things while doing that at the same time. This November, compared to previous years and Camp NaNo, I’ve noticed more people voicing their displeasure with certain prompts or prompt themes. During the last couple of days, I’ve also noticed some people constantly tweeting at the account in an attempt to get noticed. The rest of the month, people were tweeting questions that could have been answered readily at the Reference Desk on the NaNo forums. My guess is that either they were impatient, desperate for a retweet from the sprints account, or both. And then there were the people who kept retweeting every single thing on the sprints account and drowning out legitimate replies on the notifications feed.

But those are minor annoyances. I think what keeps people coming back to be sprint leaders is the high you get when you help someone achieve their word count goals. I managed to do at least one sprint session every day. How many of my prompts ended up in someone’s NaNo novel? Who knows. But it is kind of funny to speculate that perhaps one of my prompts ended up in a future best selling novel.

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