Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is this woman Stark NaNo Mad?

For Sally Bridgewater NaNoWriMo starts and ends on Saturday 7th November. I asked Sally if NaNo wasn’t enough of a huge challenge without her deciding to go the whole hog and get it done and dusted in a day instead of a month. Naturally, the big question is WHY? Over to you, Sally.
Um… I think partly the answer is just ‘Because I can.’ (Or at least I can try.) I have always been attracted to ambitious challenges, which is why I fell in love with the NaNoWriMo community in the first place. This will be my third year doing NaNoWriMo and I want to make it big. When I heard that other people had successfully achieved writing 50,000 words in a day I couldn’t resist.
The other reason for it is that I want to (finally!) finish a first draft for a novel. I have wanted to be a writer ever since my parents started reading me bed-time stories, but for one reason or another I have procrastinated and put other things first. Even though I have been writing on and off since graduating two years ago, I have not yet got to ‘The End’ of a novel-length story. So before I had thought about doing the #50Kinaday challenge I had already decided that this year I wanted my NaNoWriMo goal to be to finish a whole manuscript, and not just 50,000 words towards it. Doing the 50,000 words in a day seemed like a neat way to get a large chunk of the story written while also making it into a ‘thing’ I could share with other people (and hopefully raise some money for charity too).

What plans have you made beforehand?

I have been planning and planning! And somehow I have still not started plotting the novel itself – hmm… But I have been getting busy trying to reach out to others for help, make myself a website as a base of operations, and figure out ways to launch the ‘Newbie to Novelist challenge’ to get people interested in following along.
I have become a bit obsessed about the logistical details of writing 50,000 words in a day. I keep calculating words per minute and then trying to figure out how I can structure the day (like how long will there be available to take a nap?). At the moment I am keeping it simple: I want to write 1,050 words every 25 minutes (a speed I can manage pretty consistently), alternating with 5 minute breaks, [1] for the whole 24 hours. It should work…

Are you in any form of training for this marathon?
I am attempting to avoid the sniffles and colds that seem to be trampling through my circles of friends and acquaintances at the moment. I am doing my best to make sleep a priority, although I often fail at that one. I have tried a couple of back-to-back ‘work marathon’ days where I have kept doing 25/5 minute bursts of work for about 10 hours’ at a time. And I have been doing some speed-typing in my private online journal at The good thing about entries on this site is that it is a pure ‘brain-dump’ which no-one is ever going to read, so you are writing for the sake of writing. It is very liberating and great for clearing your head and your mood – I’d urge everyone to give it a try. J
[1] Some may recognise this as the Pomodoro Technique. It helps that I am in an online tournament with a few of my friends where we count the number of pomodoros we have achieved throughout the whole week to see who wins the productivity crown.

Will there be someone, or a team of someones, with you on the actual day?
Ooo, if I had a whole team, just imagine! I could have a media manager updating Twitter, a caterer on hand to feed me as I type… But I will have all the support I need in my boyfriend, Francis. (And I suppose some moral support from my dog Lilo.) He has resigned himself to taking care of all the chores and of me for the day. I am relying on him coming up with food now and again and cheering me on. If I had time I would attend my local NaNoWriMo Write-In group that afternoon, but I think I literally won’t be able to take the time off to travel into town and back.

How much caffeine do you reckon you’ll be ingesting?
Funnily enough, I don’t drink coffee at all, and I have never really experimented with energy drinks. But if I got through multiple consecutive all-nighters at university without coffee for my dissertation then I can probably survive this too. Plus tea and chocolate are both good sources of caffeine, right?

Will you be taking rests, comfort breaks?
‘Believe in the Break’ has become my motto lately. Like I said above, I am planning on having five minutes off every half an hour. I have discovered this can be really effective, although of course five minutes is over almost before it’s begun. I expect it will take me three breaks to eat a meal, one to have a micro-nap, one to check Twitter, etc.

Typing or dictating?
Typing. As a kid I got really frustrated trying to learn how to do it, but now I am grateful my mum and dad insisted I learnt to touch-type. I have heard that dictation software is very good nowadays, but I think it is a different skill altogether to get good at using it, and I haven’t spent over a decade practising. So for me to get words on a page it feels more natural to type, and I think when I’m really going I can nearly type as fast as I can speak. (Especially considering you have to speak the punctuation as well!)
I am looking into a program called ‘Phrase Express’ though, which can be programmed to autocorrect anything you like into a longer word – I will load it up with my characters’ names so that I only need to type a letter each time instead of a word, and maybe do the same for common words like ‘said’. Every key-stroke counts!

Expecting RSI afterwards?
Yes – although I really hope not! I might invest in a new keyboard with slightly lower keys to lessen the strain on my fingers, so if you know of a (cheap!) good one please let me know. I type quite heavily anyway though, so I don’t know how much difference it will make.
Actually you have reminded me that I need to go and buy this ‘muscle heat’ cream that my friend introduced to me during final exams at university. We were doing two lots of three-hour hand-written exams a day, for three days in a row. When you rubbed this stuff onto your forearms and fingers you could feel it sinking into the skin and your hand de-seizing up, it was wonderful. I am hoping taking these precautions and resting for a day or two afterwards might save me from full-on injury.

And what about your bottom? Are you doing anything to prevent the writer’s equivalent of bed sores?
Ah well, I have thought of that. I have rigged up a rough-and-ready standing desk from a couple of laundry crates and have been trying it out over the last couple of days. It is tiring on the feet and the small of the back, but I think getting some comfy trainers will give me more support. And if I’ve got used to using the standing desk by the 7th November it might really help, as it has been proven to be much better for your posture than sitting. Maybe if I alternate between the two…?

What is your highest expectation from this insane exercise?
Let’s see, my highest one – I suppose in my wildest dreams I imagine all sorts of positive outcomes, like exceeding my $1,667 fundraising goal by several hundred dollars, and going a little bit viral on the day (within my immediate networks, anyway). But what I would really like a lot is if doing this whole challenge gives me new connections who are interested in my work over the long-term – an audience, basically. That would actually potentially change my life, because it would make the career I want to pursue more possible. Mainly though my purpose for doing this is to write my first novel, and I will be very happy if I manage that, especially if I end up with something usable to work on getting edited and published somehow.

How long do you propose to spend editing those 50,000 words?
Oh, months and months, probably. J I am sure these words will be bad, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo I am trying not to care. At least I won’t have time to think very much, and surely doing that much in a day will build up some nice momentum. Who knows, maybe getting into the flow will unlock deposits of talent hitherto unsuspected? Certainly I think it is healthy to keep the inner editor under close guard now and then and just have some fun. It is more difficult to be unselfconscious though when I am planning on sharing my first draft as I write it.


  1. Definitely bonkers, but well done for trying, Sally. I'm doing a planno nanno instead. Making up the rules as I go along.

  2. As someone who has still to achieve 50,000 words in a month, I can only say Good Luck!