nano eve

Happy NaNoWriMo eve, everyone! (And Halloween. Of course.)

NaNoWriMo is a great month for challenging your creative output and getting a sometimes-much-needed kick in the pants. You’re surrounded by supportive friends and fellow WriMos and the energy is buoying. The momentum helps a lot.

I shouldn’t feel nervous about NaNoWriMo, but I kind of do. Being nervous means I have doubts, that I’m still in that mode where I’m thinking I’m going to try to win NaNo. Which means that I haven’t decided that I will yet. Which means I’m still allowing for the possibility of disappointing myself. Which is just whisker-twisting bullshit.

Just have to keep in mind what Yoda says about trying and doing. Agonizing about a decision is just a way to put off making a decision. And then you’ll be in agony, and a decision still won’t have been made.

ANYWAY. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about in advance of tomorrow.

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In advance of NaNoWriMo and to put off the NaNoPrep I know I should be doing, I’ve been distracting myself by trying to figure out what I’m going to use to write. Mostly these days, I have a bunch of Word documents (or sometimes Google Docs) with names like “that one thing ver 1” and “that one thing ver 2” and “that one thing ver 2 – polished” and so on and so forth. All living in folders nested within folders nested within folders.

For a brief period of time, I toyed with Scrivener, which I know is supposed to be an amazing powerhouse piece of software. But I always get vaguely annoyed that the Windows version, which hasn’t received the beautiful 3.0 update that Mac has, just looks kind of clunky. Additionally, there are about a million settings that I can change and get distracted by. Couple that with a handful of settings that I can’t seem to change though I sorely want to, and I just drive myself crazy fiddling with buttons and knobs instead of putting words on a page.

So when I was perusing the NaNo sponsors page and came across Dabble, I figured I might as well check it out.

It is gorgeous. The interface is simple and straightforward. There are basically no settings for you to adjust. You just go in there and write. There are no fonts to choose, there is no formatting to mess with. It’s just a word processor and you.

But also, it has some of the novel relevant functionality that Scrivener has that is definitely lacking in most less specialized pieces of software. You can label scenes and chapters and rearrange pieces. There’s a section for a plotting chart (which I haven’t tried yet, but am curious about) and another for story notes. When you’re done writing, Dabble can export your words into manuscript format with the click of a button — suddenly, everything is Times New Roman and double-spaced and exactly the way it needs to be as a Word doc or a text file. (This might be a me thing, but I hate writing in Times New Roman with a specific formatting because it just. doesn’t. look. nice.)

It even hooks into the NaNo word count API and updates your word count for you if you link your account.

Thus far, it is the thing that comes closest to what I would want in an ideal word processor environment. The only two things I’ve noticed straight off the bat is the lack of inline comments (I make a lot of inline comments to myself) and the inability to resize within the program (though this is solved by just magnifying in the browser).

It’s free to try through the end of November. After that, it’s a subscription service, which I don’t mind — usually means that people are paying attention and updating things in a more or less timely fashion. If you participate in NaNoWriMo you can get 20% off the subscription fee, and if you win, you can get 50% for a year. In any event, I’m going to try it out for this NaNoWriMo and see how it goes.

putting together characters

Buckle up, friends. This is a long one. Mostly to help me remember/collect some tools I’ve found.

I find these tools for building character much more useful than things like “the character interview” — where you ask things about favorite colors or food or whatever — because really, who cares? Those things are just trivia. Just like your knowing that my favorite color is green or my favorite food is scallion pancakes* doesn’t mean that you actually understand anything about me.

Pieces of trivia don’t reveal character motivation and drive and desire and limitation,** which are the things you need to consider when figuring out what a character’s Problem is and what they’re Going to Do About It.

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writing excuses

As part of NaNoPrep, I’ve been reading a few books on writing to refresh my conceptualizations of the essential elements of stories: structure, character, style, etc. It’s been highly gratifying so far to remind myself of the mechanics of writing, and it’s rebooted my brain a bit to read more critically as well. I generally find it rewarding to get into the nuts/bolts, nitty/gritty, guts of things, although sometimes I’ll do it to distraction as a way to procrastinate the actual doing of things. (Constant vigilance in the War of Art and all that.)

In addition to reading and brainstorming, I’ve also been working my way through season 10 of Writing Excuses. Writing Excuses is a bite-sized podcast (~15 minutes per ep, tagline:  “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart”) that contains a lot of depth and a lot of insight.

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