The Sixth Conversation Thread

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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Khemehekis »

sangi39 wrote: 24 Oct 2020 15:57
Khemehekis wrote: 24 Oct 2020 09:18 Happy twenty-third, Shimobaatar! As the fortune cookie goes: "May you live in interesting times".
Isn't that a bad thing? "Interesting times" refers to things like rebellions, famines, general upheaval. It's "uninteresting times" that's the good one, isn't it? That's how Pratchett ended up using it anyway.
Kind of . . . I was playing off of Shimobaatar's own "What a time to be alive".

We are in interesting times right now, with rebellion, COVID-19, police shootings of African-Americans, an impeachment, climate change, a loss of faith in the legitimacy of polls, and a president who says he'll refuse to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 election if he loses fair-and-square.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Xonen »

sangi39 wrote: 24 Oct 2020 15:57
Khemehekis wrote: 24 Oct 2020 09:18 Happy twenty-third, Shimobaatar! As the fortune cookie goes: "May you live in interesting times".
Isn't that a bad thing? "Interesting times" refers to things like rebellions, famines, general upheaval. It's "uninteresting times" that's the good one, isn't it? That's how Pratchett ended up using it anyway.
Indeed, it's not a fortune cookie, it's a curse. Well, not really, but you can kind of see how it would make sense if it were.

So in the spirit of wishing people good things on the occasion of their birthday – and just in the spirit of wishing people good things in general – here's hoping that shimo and everyone else here get to live in utterly boring, end-up-as-at-most-a-footnote-in-a-history-book times. Not particularly likely (especially considering we're all alive in 2020), but you know, thoughts counting and all that.

Have an interesting cake.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by elemtilas »

Xonen wrote: 24 Oct 2020 17:44 So in the spirit of wishing people good things on the occasion of their birthday – and just in the spirit of wishing people good things in general – here's hoping that shimo and everyone else here get to live in utterly boring, end-up-as-at-most-a-footnote-in-a-history-book times. Not particularly likely (especially considering we're all alive in 2020), but you know, thoughts counting and all that.
There's always the hope that 2021 will see some áctual improvement along those at-most-a-footnote lines!
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by eldin raigmore »

There's always the hope that 2021 will see some áctual improvement along those at-most-a-footnote lines!
Hope I’m not a killjoy, but, isn’t Mad Max set in 2021?
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by sangi39 »

eldin raigmore wrote: 24 Oct 2020 21:48
There's always the hope that 2021 will see some áctual improvement along those at-most-a-footnote lines!
Hope I’m not a killjoy, but, isn’t Mad Max set in 2021?
I mean, Reign of Fire was set in 2020 [:P]
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Backstroke_Italics »

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo this year. Personally I always struggle get above 2 pages a day, so I'm intimidated by the ~1700 words per day I will need. Anyone done NaNo in the past?
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by shimobaatar »

Khemehekis wrote: 24 Oct 2020 09:18 Happy twenty-third, Shimobaatar!
Thanks!
Xonen wrote: 24 Oct 2020 17:44
sangi39 wrote: 24 Oct 2020 15:57 Isn't that a bad thing? "Interesting times" refers to things like rebellions, famines, general upheaval. It's "uninteresting times" that's the good one, isn't it? That's how Pratchett ended up using it anyway.
Indeed, it's not a fortune cookie, it's a curse. Well, not really, but you can kind of see how it would make sense if it were.
I definitely think of it as something negative. Following that link, I'm surprised to read about this "Chinese curse" business; I could have sworn I'd heard it described as some Ancient Greek saying instead.
Xonen wrote: 24 Oct 2020 17:44 So in the spirit of wishing people good things on the occasion of their birthday – and just in the spirit of wishing people good things in general – here's hoping that shimo and everyone else here get to live in utterly boring, end-up-as-at-most-a-footnote-in-a-history-book times. Not particularly likely (especially considering we're all alive in 2020), but you know, thoughts counting and all that.

Have an interesting cake.
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Backstroke_Italics wrote: 26 Oct 2020 08:09 Getting ready for NaNoWriMo this year. Personally I always struggle get above 2 pages a day, so I'm intimidated by the ~1700 words per day I will need. Anyone done NaNo in the past?
Oh, good luck!

I've tried twice in the past, if I remember correctly, but I ultimately gave up within a few days both times. I'd like to properly participate some day, but I've never had enough free time, what with school and life and all that. I've also gotten the sense that participants sometimes, perhaps typically(?), do a fair bit of preparation in advance. I'm not sure exactly what this would entail, although admittedly I've never really taken the time to try looking it up, let alone actually doing it.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Backstroke_Italics »

Some people do literally no prep work. They just start writing on All Saints' Day and see where it goes. This is called "pantsing." I like writing that way sometimes, but I doubt I would ever end up with something longer than a few pages with that method, so I usually make an outline in October. Some people do a lot of planning and outlining in "Preptober," but that's not the only way to do it. It's entirely up to you! Like you, I don't really have a lot of consistent free time. That's one reason why I'm doing it: to see just how much I can accomplish when I try to find the time wherever I can. My hope is that I'll be able to scavenge time from other activities that aren't as fulfilling.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Salmoneus »

Time isn't as much of an issue with writing as people think.

If you type at the average of 40wpm - and if you're writing novels and conversing on forums, you're probably someone who types much, much faster than that societal average (60wpm doesn't seem unreasonable or uncommon for fluent young computer-users) - and you write for only 30 minutes a day, that's already 36,000 words in a month. Or reorganise that time: 15 minutes a day on weekdays, then an hour and a quarter on Saturday and an hour on Sunday, that's still 36,000 words. Admittedly, that's short of a full novel (I think you'd probably have to be over 50k to be a full novel), but it's a very big start (and nanowrimo, aiui, is no longer strictly about only writing novels anyway). Of course, that leaves aside planning and editing, but the point of nanowrimo is getting paper to page without worrying too much about those things (at the time).

A professional writer, like George RR Martin, writing 8 hours a day, even assuming average (ie slow typing), a ten minute break every hour to rest the fingers and plan ahead, weekends off (other than a few thoughts at leisure on the direction of the next chapter), and a generous thirty days of holiday, should be able to write around 3.7 million words, or 8-10 volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire every year. Even if they spent 30 seconds out of every minute planning the next sentence in advance (in addition to that overarching 1 minute every 6 of planning), they should still be able to turn out 4-5 volumes a year, or, let's say, 2-3 volumes after extensive editing.

Of course, in reality, Martin has actually taken 20 years to write those 2-and-a-bit volumes. The big limiting factor for his work is clearly not time, but inefficiency - colossal inefficiency by the standards of any other job. He effectively, on average, spends 40 minutes thinking (or skiving off, if you're cynical) for every 60 seconds writing (and that's still assuming only ordinary weekday working hours and a month off a year). And I'm not picking on him: although he's an extreme example, most authors are extremely inefficient in this way: a couple of hundred thousand words a year is considered highly productive.

[nor is this, however, because of the non-typing part of writing - planning, editing, etc. There are many accounts of authors writing books in extremely short spans of time, when they feel 'inspired'. Nor does output seem to relate to available time: part-time authors do not seem to write more once they become full-time professionals, so far as I can see. It really does seem mostly just a matter of dragging themselves to the keyboard.]


....anyway, tangent aside, my point is that if you can find time to write just 10, 20, 30 minutes a day for a month, then you're already writing more than many professional authors do.


[one tip I'll pass on, although I completely fail to follow it myself: try not to do your thinking at your keyboard. Obviously, you have to think about words, but the more general thinking about plots, characters, scenes, can often be done piecemeal in the rest of your day, when you can grab a minute here or there. If you leave it until the time you've allocated for writing, not only is this cutting into that writing time, but it's also giving you an excuse to waste that time procrastinating. It's best to start writing when you told yourself you'd start writing - and to do that, it's best to already know at least the beginning of what you're going to write before you sit down to write.]



------

About planning: I think it really helps to have an idea of what story you're writing - or at least, a couple of hooks (scenes, characters, plot twists)... one to tell you where to start, and one to have something to work toward.

But given that nanowrimo is generally more a writing exercise than attempt to write a seriously publishable work, you don't really need much more than that. Your two main objectives should probably be to a) drive yourself to write, to show yourself you can (and create a virtuous habit), and b) produce some sort of product, to show yourself you can. Best-case scenario is going to be that serious editing will then be needed if you want to actually publish that product. Medium case is that you basically rewrite the whole thing, using your nanowrimo draft as a guideline for what seemed to work and what you may need to change. [worst case is that it's of no intrinsic value other than to self-demonstrate that you can indeed write].

The whole spirit of nanowrimo is to not get caught up in planning and editing and perfectionism, but just to write.



--------------


However, if you do want to do lots of preparation in advance, I'll share some thoughts. With the caveat that I've never actually written a novel (though I have written novel-length fragments on at least two occasions). Then again, a big reason why I haven't written a novel (well, third-biggest, after lack of inspiration, and procrastination) is that I've been too lazy to do enough preparation. So, I'd suggest, in increasing order of concreteness...

1. Plot concept. What's going to happen, in broad terms, in your novel? Not the details of what happens when, but the general concept: what is your protagonist trying to do, what sort of obstacle will they face, what will happen in the end?

For instance, if you're writing The Hobbit, you decide: Bilbo is going to go on a journey to help some people rescue a hoard of treasure from a dragon. He is going to face a serious of dangers en route, and considerable culture clash (he's never been on an adventure before), and then is going to have to find a way to defeat a dragon. He's going to do all this through a combination of luck, quick wits, and a lot of help from his friends (knowing his own limitations). Whereas if you're writing The Count of Monte Cristo, your concept is that a man is wrongfully imprisoned for decades due to a betrayal, escapes, and seeks revenge on those who wronged him.

2. Character concepts. Who are the main players in this story? Brilliant characterisation has no formula - it's about being able to observe and reproduce human idiosyncracies - but adequate characterisation can be helped by a simple character sheet (mental or on paper). I think it's best to begin with a conceptual approach, and then fill in the details later. I'd suggest a series of questions. First, what do they really want? Second, what do they really fear? From those, you can then ask: why? Why do they want that, and why do they fear that? [this can give you some info about their history]. And then the consequences: what have they done or not done because of those fears and desires? [again, history]. And finally: given their history and their fears and desires, what are they good at, and what are they bad at? [of course, your plot concept may already have dictated some of this].

Bilbo doesn't have a lot of characterisation, to be honest. But he yearns for adventure, and to prove his own worth, ideally in a way that vindicates his comfortable life. He fears physical danger, and being found out to be a bumbling fool. He also to some extent fears having to give up his self-image as a man of civilisation and taste and dignity. This profile has led him to live a sheltered, respectable life of little incident, and he is now in middle age. However, those who know him have been able to detect his inner restlessness. He can keep his head in a crisis, he's stubborn, and he's possessed of a fundamental, civilised decency that keeps him moral, encourages others to be moral, and makes people like him. However, he's naive, sometimes impetuous, insecure, and avaricious.

Edmund Dantes, on the other hand, once wanted nothing more than friendship and love and to do his duty to his father and captain. This lead him to his imprisonment. Now, he wants revenge: he wants his betrayers to suffer as he suffered. He wants to show them that those around them cannot be trusted. He wants to defeat them not through violence, but through his own superiority - his intellect, his experience, and their naivity. He wants to witness their overthrow firsthand. He also wants them to realise he has defeated them. At the same time, he still wants friendship, love, and the feeling of moral righteousness - he wants to rejoin society. He is afraid that his imprisonment has permanently exiled him from Mercedes in particular, and the world in general, and that his quest for revenge only further distances him. He is afraid that in taking God's place as a righter of wrongs, and causing harm and suffering, he may be as evil as the people he punishes. He is afraid that he is still naive, and that he should not trust anybody in the slightest; he is afraid that the more he sees of people, the more he will see that they are all evil (his 'revenge' is not just sadism, but is almost a desparate plea for his victims to prove him wrong - he generally does not directly harm, but inspires others to turn on each other, hoping that they won't). His time in jail (with nothing to do and a genius mentor to talk to) has, as a plot conceit, given him immense wealth and, more importantly, knowledge and experience - of customs, of chemistry, of disguises, etc. He is also callous (at least superficially), and his paranoia has given him a fine instinct for reading people's weaknesses. However, at heart he is still indecisive, still in love with Mercedes, still self-loathing, and still colossally arrogant.

These characterisations don't dictate the plot, but they do shape what can happen. They give a sense of how the story must end - the protagonists virtues and vices must do battle, and one side will win out - and they give the author a sense of how the character would act in any given circumstance.

Of course, it can also help to have some idea of the antagonists and allies as well.

3. Setting and theme ideas. You don't need to write a book about the worldbuilding. But it helps to have a few ideas in mind for what this world is like - what can't be done, what interesting features might you want to show off. Don't overstuff it. Likewise, and relatedly, it can help to have some ideas about themes. Again, it's best not to overstuff - you probably don't want to write agitprop or a philosophical novel. A theme - like a setting feature - shouldn't be what dictates everything, I think... rather, it's a package of thoughts that you want to emphasise (and, hence, by exclusion, all the other thoughts you don't want to get distracted by).

So for The Hobbit, you need to know right away that the Shire is a civilised place, and everywhere else isn't (but some parts used to be). There's goblins and sentient wolves, and giant spiders, and dragons. Thematically, the emphasis is on civilisation vs wilderness, and there's going to be repeated comings-back to both the virtues of civilisation (level-headedness, comfort, decency, friendship) and its vices (softness, naivity, boredom), with the general sentiment that civilisation is better, but is best when strengthened and spiced by encounters with wilderness.

For Monte Cristo, the setting is contemporary Europe. There's an emphasis on hidden chaos: even when things look calm and genteel, there's betrayal and tragedy and deceit, which society conceals but fails to control... but hidden even deeper, there can also be moments of true love and nobility. There's also an emphasis on narcissism: everyone finds ways to justify their actions to themselves, no matter how unjustifiable they may be, yet nobody is as wonderful - as smart, as righteous - as they believe themselves to be, and ultimately they cannot justify themselves through their own efforts alone, but only through humility and compassion.


4. Act by act plan. Given all the above, you can then if you want move on to detail an act-by-act plan. By this I mean, you can divide up your story into a sequence of sections, each one with its own problem or dynamic. For each, you can have some idea of the problem and what sort of resolution you're going to need - and what function each part should play. So, for The Hobbit, you could probably divide it up thus: I (Bilbo persuaded to leave home); II (the band encounter a series of imbroglios on their journey); III (the band defeat Smaug); IV (the band decide what should happen next); V (Bilbo goes home). Obviously, these sections are of differing lengths. Each has a problem and a function. I has the problem: how do you get comfortable Bilbo to leave home? And it also has the function of introducing the characters. II has the problem: how do they survive? And it also has the functions of developing Bilbo's character, establishing the setting, and establishing the supporting characters and starting to develop some relationships among them (Tolkien has a lot of work to do there, as the 14 dwarves start out as basically a blob, and in II he draws some of them out - Fili and Kili as the kids, Bifur, Bofur and particularly Bombur as the comic relief, and (lookout) Balin and (firelighter) Gloin as potential allies with their own roles and personalities). III has the problem: DRAGON!. IV has the problem: defeating the dragon took help, but how is that alliance cemented once the dragon is gone? And V has the problem: how does Bilbo fit back into his old life?

Sketching these acts out in advance also helps you do things like foreshadowing and plot mechanics. For instance, in order for III to work, Bilbo needs to be able to hide really well. So II gives him both a ring of invisibility and experience using it. Likewise, Tolkien decided that killing the dragon wasn't enough, there also needed to be a second conflict to force the alliance together, for which he needed an evil army... so II also introduces the goblins as a threat. [iirc the ones at the Battle of Five Armies are actually mostly a different (and more threatening) lot of goblins from the ones they encountered in the mountains, but the latter establish the existence and threat of the former sufficiently].

One you've got this outline of the acts, you can divide each one into parts (if necessary), to outline in more practical detail what needs to happen in each. For instance, for II you can outline each adventure. For III you have trying to get into the mountain, Bilbo finding Smaug, Smaug attacking Laketown and dying, and Bilbo finding the Arkenstone. And so on.

But probably don't get TOO attached to the details of the later acts. As you get to know your characters better, and read through your plot at reading pace (rather than from an authorial height), you may well find yourself changing what happens next. Generally, if you find yourself completely rewriting your acts, then you have a problem, because this means you've basically changed what book you're writing partway through (as obviously Tolkien did with The Lord of the Rings, for instance...). But I think it's fine to want to reorder or replace parts of each act when you get a better idea.


5. Scene by scene breakdown. Finally, for each part of each act, you need to break it down into scenes: sections from a single perspective, set in a largely coherent place and time. [you may also need short transition paragraphs to link scenes]. For each one, you need to work out the perspective, the physical setting, the characters involved, and what exactly will happen (you should by now know why each scene is needed). Each scene should accomplish something.

I don't suggest you work out every scene in advance - the details will likely change. But you should probably know all the scenes in the part of the act that you're working on, and have some idea of the scenes in the rest of the act as well. Some authors like to think ahead, and write scenes entirely out of order - but this can mean having to rewrite them as your conception of the story changes.




----------


Well, if I'd written some fiction instead of this post, I'd be halfway to nanowrimo already...
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by KaiTheHomoSapien »

Backstroke_Italics wrote: 26 Oct 2020 08:09 Getting ready for NaNoWriMo this year. Personally I always struggle get above 2 pages a day, so I'm intimidated by the ~1700 words per day I will need. Anyone done NaNo in the past?
I've never completed NaNoWriMo, but I've attempted it twice and both times allowed to get started on a significant novel (one of which is finished and the other of which has 200,000 words now). So I do use it as a way to start something new, even if I know I probably won't actually finish the required amount by the end of the month.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Backstroke_Italics »

I know from experience that I average 800 words per hour when I am focused on writing. Realistically I've probably done some uncounted prep work in my head, but that's the average once I sit down to write. If I type 40 wpm, then I'm only actually typing a third of the time. Yet this still supports Sal's basic point: if I wanted to write 50,000 words in 25 days (because let's be real, I'm gonna need some days off, especially around American Thanksgiving), then I would need to spend two and a half hours per day at my computer, not including uncounted thinking time. That would be doable even with my job, although realistically it's still difficult since my spouse isn't going to take it lying down when I spend nearly all my free time holed up in the office, and then there's the cat... Dear God that needy cat. Where was I? Ah yes, two and a half hours per day. That really shouldn't be impossible. It's just a matter of staying focused and eschewing some distractions (but not all!).
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Holidays

Post by eldin raigmore »

It’s Guy Fawkes Day!
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by sangi39 »

(just moved your post here, Eldin. Didn't seem to warrant its own thread, but to the point...)

It is, but it's a weird one this year, just like all the other big "get together outside" holidays like Hallowe'en last week. There have been people letting off fireworks here, and having small bonfires, but they've basically just been small family gathering amongst the people I know, but obviously there wasn't the big events in Bedale or Northallerton that we've had in the past, so I think there's a sense of... longing, I guess. Everyone seems to be having a good time at the smaller gatherings, but after years of the towns and villages turning up for something bigger, doesn't feel quite the same.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by elemtilas »

sangi39 wrote: 05 Nov 2020 21:42 (just moved your post here, Eldin. Didn't seem to warrant its own thread, but to the point...)

It is, but it's a weird one this year, just like all the other big "get together outside" holidays like Hallowe'en last week. There have been people letting off fireworks here, and having small bonfires, but they've basically just been small family gathering amongst the people I know, but obviously there wasn't the big events in Bedale or Northallerton that we've had in the past, so I think there's a sense of... longing, I guess. Everyone seems to be having a good time at the smaller gatherings, but after years of the towns and villages turning up for something bigger, doesn't feel quite the same.
I think you touch on the take away lesson of the whole pandemic shutdown: we (generally speaking) have kind of lost touch with things that matter. Whether it's God, or family, or relationships, we tend to get ourselves caught up in stuff that doesn't matter so much. This might be the wake up call for us to pay more attention to those things, the things that matter. Because as you say, it just isn't the same this year. If we take these things for granted and are now bereft, we feel it. A good time to look within, sort some things out, and then kind of gently press the social reset button. Maybe if we really come to value those small family gatherings more, we'll come to appreciate them when the big events can take place again.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by eldin raigmore »

sangi39 wrote: 05 Nov 2020 21:42 (just moved your post here, Eldin. Didn't seem to warrant its own thread, but to the point...)
Guy Fawkes Day, as a sole holiday, didn’t warrant a thread by itself in my opinion.
I thought maybe all holidays, in general, would.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by alynnidalar »

Salmoneus wrote: 27 Oct 2020 17:29 Time isn't as much of an issue with writing as people think.

If you type at the average of 40wpm - and if you're writing novels and conversing on forums, you're probably someone who types much, much faster than that societal average (60wpm doesn't seem unreasonable or uncommon for fluent young computer-users) - and you write for only 30 minutes a day, that's already 36,000 words in a month. Or reorganise that time: 15 minutes a day on weekdays, then an hour and a quarter on Saturday and an hour on Sunday, that's still 36,000 words. Admittedly, that's short of a full novel (I think you'd probably have to be over 50k to be a full novel), but it's a very big start (and nanowrimo, aiui, is no longer strictly about only writing novels anyway). Of course, that leaves aside planning and editing, but the point of nanowrimo is getting paper to page without worrying too much about those things (at the time).
You may have missed the point a bit here. It's not a matter of typing speed, it's a matter of writing. I can type quite quickly--over 100 WPM without many errors--but that doesn't mean I can write at 100 WPM.

Simply typing is easy. You can type whatever word comes into your head, copy some text (as you do in typing tests), etc. but the actual act of thinking through a story, constructing plot and character arcs, fleshing out description and setting on the page, all the thousands of decisions about how people act and what they say and what they do... that's what takes the time. It's all well and good to go, "ah, well, if you pants NaNoWriMo you don't need to worry about those things", but in my experience--thirteen years of pantsing NaNoWriMo--that's not at all true. You may not worry about those things ahead of time, but you (the general "you"--perhaps not you specifically, Salmoneus) do have to think about them as you go. If you simply wrote down whatever words or sentences came into your head, you wouldn't come out of November with a story, it'd just be a jumble of images and bits of dialogue and long irrelevant tangents.

And okay, maybe some people are fine with that. But most people I've met who do NaNoWriMo want to come out of it with a novel, or at least something approaching one, and that means a little more care must be taken in what words you put on the page.

Now for some concrete statistics, because I like them and I keep track of my own stats: I am, theoretically, a fast typist, at about 90-100 WPM. This year, I have a pretty good idea where my story is going, because I'm doing a rewrite/reboot of a previous year's novel and am still in Act I where the story hasn't diverged much yet. Last night I attended a 2-hour Zoom writing session with my local NaNo group, in which I probably spent a solid 80-90 minute actively attepting to write. In that time, I wrote 1977 words. Less than 25 WPM for the time in which I was actively writing, 16 WPM for the total session.

I am, by the way, on the faster end of writers in my local group.

For a more general statistic: in my group we like to do 20-minute word sprints, where you just put your head down and do nothing but write for 20 minutes straight. The average writer, not pushing themselves too hard, will likely get about 500 words. Pushing myself, I can break 900; I don't know if I've ever hit 1000 though I've tried. The fastest writers in our group can get around 1200. That's "only" 60 WPM, but let me tell you right now, it is not easy. And it's not a sustainable speed, either! I get done with a sprint, and my brain is out of gas and needs time to recharge.

So, "but you can type at 40 WPM so you can write 1200 words no problem in a half-hour!" is actually not representative of most real-world writers... in my experience.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Salmoneus »

alynnidalar wrote: 06 Nov 2020 16:38
Salmoneus wrote: 27 Oct 2020 17:29 Time isn't as much of an issue with writing as people think.

If you type at the average of 40wpm - and if you're writing novels and conversing on forums, you're probably someone who types much, much faster than that societal average (60wpm doesn't seem unreasonable or uncommon for fluent young computer-users) - and you write for only 30 minutes a day, that's already 36,000 words in a month. Or reorganise that time: 15 minutes a day on weekdays, then an hour and a quarter on Saturday and an hour on Sunday, that's still 36,000 words. Admittedly, that's short of a full novel (I think you'd probably have to be over 50k to be a full novel), but it's a very big start (and nanowrimo, aiui, is no longer strictly about only writing novels anyway). Of course, that leaves aside planning and editing, but the point of nanowrimo is getting paper to page without worrying too much about those things (at the time).
You may have missed the point a bit here. It's not a matter of typing speed, it's a matter of writing. I can type quite quickly--over 100 WPM without many errors--but that doesn't mean I can write at 100 WPM.
With respect, I think you may have missed the point a bit here. I'm sure this is my fault in failing to make myself clear.

My point is that many people are deterred from nanowrimo - from writing in general - because they fear they don't have the time, because writing takes so long. Yet in reality, writing itself is, or can be, very quick. The great majority of the time taken in composing fiction is not spent writing at all - if it were, we'd all end up writing a lot more. The time taken in composing is largely spent on planning and editing. I'd suspect that probably around three-quarters of time spent composing at the desk is actually spent on planning (or procrastination) rather than actually writing.

And this is important because planning and editing are much more flexible than writing itself is. First, when people think about writing, they tend to think about needing a very specific context: at your desk, with your computer/typewriter/pad-of-paper/etc in front of you, with no distractions, for a block of time. This sort of "rigid" time is indeed difficult to find much of, for most people. But planning (let's leave editing aside...) is much more flexible. It doesn't need to be done in a block, you don't need pen and ink in front of you, to a considerable extent you can often even do it while you do other things. If you intend to write in the evening, you can do much of the requisite planning during the day - on trains, out for walks, eating lunch, to stave off sleep in boring meetings, and so on. I don't mean to suggest that it's sustainable to always have entirely 'pure' writing sessions, with no planning at all - after all, you're likely to be planning the next bit even while you're physicallywriting the current bit - but it doesn't have to be: because so much of the time spent "writing" is actually spent thinking, and so much of that time can be, as it were, 'extracted' and performed elsewhen, the amount of time you need to find for traditional "writing" - desk, comfy chair, quill pen and parchment, Beethoven, etc - can be much less than people tend to assume. You can, of course, do all your thinking at your Remington... but you don't have to. And that's a luxury that many people don't have.

So if you make it a point each day to make sure that, before you sit down at your desktop, you've already got a good idea of what you're going to write - what the scene is, what's going to happen in what order, where the scene has to end, ideally some lynchpin moments (lines of dialogues, descriptions of events, authorial comments, etc) already in your head, and so forth, then you can often find you can actually write much more than you would be able to do if you were having to make it up as you went along.

[To use a musical analogy: you can be Beethoven, or you can be Mozart. Beethoven, while of course he had ideas all the time (many composers carried notebooks to jot down passing concepts), did a great deal of composing at the piano, with quill in hand. It was arduous: he was always going back and forward, writing things down out of order as they came to him, desparately scratching things out and writing over the top of what he'd written, the point of illegibility. Mozart, on the other hand, did as much composition as he could in his head, finding moments throughout his day, so that when it came to actually writing his music down, he could do so extremely quickly (famously he would often pull all-nighters, finishing his scores the morning of performance).]

What people tend to find as well is that a considerable amount of the 'thinking' they do while writing is not actually productive at all - it's tangents and what-ifs, procrastinations and reflections, all inevitable of course in any case, but much more extensive and time-consuming when 'licensed' by the activity of contemplating at your keyboard - one's mind, given the freedom to ponder, tends to like to take its time, and go by scenic routes. Nothing encourages procrastination like deciding how to fill a blank sheet of paper. If you cut down on the time spent fruitfully pondering, you often also cut down on the time spent fruitlessly pondering.

And secondly, it's important to recognise that while writing is rigid not just in how its done, but also how much is done - 100 words is 100 words and no avoiding it - the amount of planning you do is entirely according to taste and exigency. If composition were really just a matter of writing, then people would be right to be discouraged from it: if they don't have the time, they don't have the time. But because composition is really primarily a matter of planning, and how much planning you do is entirely up to you, it becomes less a matter of "do I, or don't I, have time to write this novel?", and more a matter of "how perfect do I want my novel to be?"

Now of course, it's perfectly legitimate to want a novel to be absolutely perfect, and to agonise over every single decision. Perhaps it takes a long weekend to chart out the scenes in a chapter. Perhaps you want to sit and stare at a wall for ten minutes going over every word in a key speech in your head again and again before putting pen to paper. Perhaps, as the Oscar said, you take all morning inserting a comma, and all afternoon removing it again.

But that's not what nanowrimo was originally intended for. After all, an artificial quota and deadline is a poor way to bring about perfection in any case. The spirit of nanowrimo is less about, in my opinion, the twenty-time novelist polishing their latest oeuvre, and more about the first-time novelist who feels intimidated by the prospect, who isn't sure that they can write a novel at all - just like Backstroke. It's about putting words on the page. I'd suggest that if you've written at least 13 novels, and have daily Zoom conferences dedicated to your writing, you're not really representative of the skills or needs of the average would-be novelist!

So it's important to realise that if writing seems intimidating, you have the power, to a considerable extent, to choose to make it less so. You don't have to be a perfectionist.
Simply typing is easy. You can type whatever word comes into your head, copy some text (as you do in typing tests), etc. but the actual act of thinking through a story, constructing plot and character arcs, fleshing out description and setting on the page, all the thousands of decisions about how people act and what they say and what they do... that's what takes the time. It's all well and good to go, "ah, well, if you pants NaNoWriMo you don't need to worry about those things", but in my experience--thirteen years of pantsing NaNoWriMo--that's not at all true. You may not worry about those things ahead of time, but you (the general "you"--perhaps not you specifically, Salmoneus) do have to think about them as you go. If you simply wrote down whatever words or sentences came into your head, you wouldn't come out of November with a story, it'd just be a jumble of images and bits of dialogue and long irrelevant tangents.
I think that's rather overstating the case (as well as being a strawman). The average person is relatively coherent in their thinking - if you trust your own coherence, you're very unlikely to end up with "a jumble of images and bits of dialogue and long irrelevant tangents" - after all, why would you write those things? You don't have to spend three minutes of every four deliberating carefully in order to think to yourself: "let's not write a page or two about that cabbage, it's not really pertinant". Probably most of us, after all, have plenty of experience writing quickly and on topic. Whether it's for work, or a forum post, or an essay for school or university - why would our brains suddenly stop working properly and quickly when it came to writing fiction? After all, look at all the posts written on this board - I don't imagine that many of them required much pause for thought (certainly mine involve virtually no thought at all!), and yet almost all of them avoid disjointed jumbles of images and tangents. (although your mileage may vary - suddenly I'm embarrassed by how incoherent you must find this post (written extemporaneously), and all my others - I'm terribly sorry!)

[EDIT: to clarify this strawman a little better: I find it galling, and a little odd, to have my earlier post characterised as a call for jumbled images written off the top of one's head without the least care or attention... given that that post contained over two thousand words (!) discussing planning and plotting.]

[of course, if your novel does turn out a jumble of images and tangents... well, it was good enough for Mr Sterne, wasn't it?)

There's this huge mythologisation that people do about composing fiction: it's laborious, it's unique, it's undescribable and mystical. But really, it's just about writing what comes into your head - having first, of course, decided what direction your head should be travelling. It's really no different from any other sort of writing, or formal speaking. It's important that people not be intimidated by it. When they see that they can do it - when they've written thirteen novels - then, maybe, is the time for perfectionism.

Now sure, I'm a terrible writer (I don't write enough, for a start). But there have been many successful, and even some great, novelists who have written fluently. Barbara Cartland once wrote 23 novels in one year. She wrote (in her case dictated) around two thousand words an hour. And of course it is fair to say that she is not the greatest artist in the history of literature. Many novelists I'm sure would look down on her. I imagine you'd see yourself as a more accomplished writer than her, and there's nothing wrong with that. Personally, I'd much rather be Wilde than be Barbara Cartland.

But given than I'm neither, maybe it's better to go part of the way toward being Cartland - which is largely a matter of discipline, available in theory to all of us - before trying to be Wilde (which would require actual talent).

I'd think of it this way: we have 11 months of the year to get everything exactly right. What's wrong with having one month of the year just to see what we're capable of when we don't hold ourselves back with worry and self-doubt? After all, if, in hindsight, we hate what we've written, we can always edit it - or use the other 11 months to rewrite it. But if we don't write anything in the first place, when we never even find out what we can write.

Again, I think maybe your view on this is a little jaded. Sure, from your perspective it must seem ridiculous that we struggle to write - you have so much experience. From your perspective, I imagine it is terribly gauche that we might be willing to just try to write what we can, rather than getting everything right - that we'd be willing to risk the "jumble of images" and "irrelevent tangents" that inexperience might bring us. But from my perspective, taking time to decide which novel of mine is best is a luxury I don't have. The question of how to write the best possible novel is rather irrelevant to me - the question of how to write a novel at all is far more pressing!

So yeah, I could have told Backstroke, "you're right, writing is so time-consuming, there's no way you'll succeed, it's hopeless, give up now!"... but would that really have helped anyone? After all, you don't have to read what they write, or what I write!
And okay, maybe some people are fine with that. But most people I've met who do NaNoWriMo want to come out of it with a novel, or at least something approaching one, and that means a little more care must be taken in what words you put on the page.
As I say, I'm not sure you appreciate the extent to which taking more care in writing is a luxury that many of us for a variety of reasons - temporal or psychological - can't afford. Of course I respect that writing a more careful novel is important to you - congratulations on being in that position! If I were looking back on my dozen novels, I imagine I too would theorise about, comparing one novel with another, how much care I really "must" put into my novels in future if I want to be satisfied by them. But that is not currently my position, and I don't think it's Backstroke's position either. Please allow us some time to catch up to you in your sunfilled uplands up there!
Last night I attended a 2-hour Zoom writing session with my local NaNo group, in which I probably spent a solid 80-90 minute actively attepting to write. In that time, I wrote 1977 words. Less than 25 WPM for the time in which I was actively writing, 16 WPM for the total session.
Incidentally, I guess this is just a disheartening comparison for those of us who aren't successful writers. I literally cannot imagine this. The last thing I would do when trying to buckle down and write is try to do it at the same time as a video-conferencing phonecall! But I suppose that just goes to show I don't have a writerly mentality...
For a more general statistic: in my group we like to do 20-minute word sprints, where you just put your head down and do nothing but write for 20 minutes straight. The average writer, not pushing themselves too hard, will likely get about 500 words. Pushing myself, I can break 900; I don't know if I've ever hit 1000 though I've tried. The fastest writers in our group can get around 1200. That's "only" 60 WPM, but let me tell you right now, it is not easy. And it's not a sustainable speed, either! I get done with a sprint, and my brain is out of gas and needs time to recharge.
Personally, I would find this counterproductive - I find it's more productive to write a paragraph or two at a time, and then take a few moments to check that I'm on track...
So, "but you can type at 40 WPM so you can write 1200 words no problem in a half-hour!" is actually not representative of most real-world writers... in my experience.
My point is that there's a big difference between what you CAN write, and what you would LIKE to write. Just because you might be less than perfectly comfortable writing 1200 words in half an hour doesn't mean you can't do it.

I think you're a more organised person than me, so I imagine this reference won't be relevant to you... but if you've ever left a three-thousand-word university essay to the last possible moment, in the early hours of the morning before it has to be handed in, then yeah, you soon discover that writing 1200 words in half an hour is indeed suddenly no problem! Of course, whether you should write your essay that quickly is another question, but nonetheless it's useful to remember than you can... because then it becomes not a question of what's possible and what's impossible - which is outside of your command - but of what you choose to do, and what you choose to prioritise, which is something you can decide for yourself.


[I'd like to say: "and having procrastinated for a while writing this, I can get back to my own writing now!"... but actually, I need to get back to doing some editing I promised someone I'd do. Damnit...]
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Dormouse559
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Dormouse559 »

A few months ago, I followed the Facebook page of a museum dedicated to the history of Moûtiers, my would-be Silvish capital; I figured it might share some information I could use to flesh out Silvia. Goodness, was I right! Starting a week ago, they began making these long, detailed posts about exactly the topic I find most vexing: the takeover of the Tarentaise Valley by the House of Savoy. For my current conception of the country to exist (without handwavium), I have to figure out how to stop or reverse that. So yeah, look to the local historians. [:O]
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by alynnidalar »

@Sal - here's the thing, though. I'm not telling people it takes forever to get some writing down either, so they might as well give up. On the contrary, with the figures I gave, I wrote 2000 words in an hour and a half and hit the daily target for NaNoWriMo (1667 words) in, obviously, less time. I'd say investing an hour a day is quite a reasonable tradeoff for somebody taking a month to pursue a wordcount goal!

All I'm advocating is being realistic. If somebody sits down and goes, "I will write for a half hour at 60 WPM"--figures you suggested in your original post as "[not] unreasonable or uncommon for fluent young computer-users"--in my experience of knowing a lot of people of varying experience levels who have attempted NaNoWriMo, it is probable they will find creating fiction at 60 WPM is not that easy, and certainly not something easy every day for 30 days straight. And I worry that this would lead someone to get discouraged, if they don't know that basically nobody actually creates fiction that fast, regardless of skill level or amount of planning.

(or maybe I'm just very, very stupid, and that's why I write so slow. It obviously is not that I'm a good writer, because I'm not one. If this is the case, then perhaps what I say will be comforting to other very stupid writers out there, to know that they aren't alone)

So: let us agree that we both are advocates of people just jumping in and trying writing without feeling put off, and that range of reasonable words per minute will vary by person but will probably be somewhere between 10 and 60 WPM, and both the high and low end of the scales are fine. And that nobody should feel that they need to reach a particular wordcount or a particular amount of time per day for them to start a writing habit and begin writing fiction. (it is one of the easiest and cheapest hobbies in the world, after all, and I always love to see more people getting into it!)
I imagine you'd see yourself as a more accomplished writer than her, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Not being a pretentious asshole, no, actually, I don't judge other people this way at all. (and I'm a little disturbed to find that I've given you the impression that I would! Grounds for me to do some self-examination for how I present myself here, I suppose) On the contrary, I'd say writing 23 novels in a year is a remarkable accomplishment, and I applaud her for it. I certainly don't write 23 novels a year. I write like half of one a year, if that.

(incidentally, dictation is a fairly popular method for NaNoWriMo. If anyone's interested in trying it, I believe most people use the Dragon NaturallySpeaking dictation software. Wordcounts do tend to be significantly higher here--this is how many NaNoWriMo "overachievers" attain absurdly high goals of hundreds of thousands of words despite only writing (composing?) a couple hours a day--but of course that's completely disconnected from typing speed)

EDIT: I should add, in your post you drew a comparison between writing forum posts and writing fiction. This is a false comparison. Writing a 2000-word rant/exposition on a subject I'm passionate about is, indeed, something I can do fairly quickly. (although at least for me, my first drafts are often somewhat jumbled with unnecessary tangents and need editing to tame them into something readable) Writing long-form fiction is not the same.
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Re: The Sixth Conversation Thread

Post by Torco »

All this controversy about nanowrimo kinda makes me wanna do nanowrimo.

EDIT: while outlining a plot for that project, i decided "well, i'm gonna go to https://thispersondoesnotexist.com for inspiration for characters". the pictures are quite vivid: you really get a feeling of this is a person, and the act of letting one's eyes rest on the face and just imagine things about the person is very effective. the only side effect is that hitting F5 on that site now kinda gives me vicarious existential dread.
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