Saturday, December 20, 2008

Post-NaWriMo Day 1: Off for Awhile...

So my Christmas plans got shifted around a bit--it looks like I'm leaving tomorrow for a long winter's break down south and will be back after the first week of January. I might post from time to time, but don't expect too much...

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May it be filled with the collection of writing material (those family Christmases really are quite good that way, you know ;).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 44: Successful Finale to NaWriMo

Ahem, ahem. [Aside, in a whisper.] Where's that darned drumroll?

[From offstage.] Coming, coming. [Drumroll sounds loudly.]

That's better. Welcome, folks. I'm pleased to announce that as of a few moments ago both my third semester of PhD coursework and my NaWriMo experiment (known to others as PseudoNaNoWriMo) were both successfully completed, in that I handed in my last paper, reaching quite a bit past the word count I (re)set for myself to complete between November 1 and today.

As a reminder, the goals (once I adjusted them to realism) were to write 35,000 words between Nov. 1 and Dec. 19, with revised pages as counting for 100 words of word count per page of revision. I was also aiming for submission counts as well. Both academic and creative words were counted, though not (on the whole) blog posts. The totals (which will stay up on the sidebar for awhile as encouragement) are as follows:

NaWriMo final total: 42,663 words (Between Oct. 31 and 5:55 p.m. Dec. 19, 2008)
NaWriMo new word count: 29,963
NaWriMo page revision count: 127 (equivalent of 12,700 new wds w/in Deborah's scoring system)
NaWriMo submission count: 13 (1 conference paper abstract, 2 conference papers, 4 term papers, 6 creative non-fic essays)

I've enjoyed this experiment, on the whole. And I'm pleased with the results. Yeah! A successful NaWriMo and a completed semester! That even deserves an exclamation point or two!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 40: Whew! Time for a Hard-Earned Rest...

Wow, I can't believe I did so much today. First, I wrote 6 new pages on my first of three final term papers, then revised the whole thing and turned 'er in, completing the first of my three classes for the semester an hour before my (extended) deadline. Woohoo!

Second, I came back and whipped out the first five pages of 15-page Term Paper #2, due at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, in an hour and a half flat, in just enough time to spend a few hours at a holiday gathering before...

Third, writing the catapult magazine article for Friday's issue--it was due before tomorrow morning.

I love it when imminent deadlines coalesce with properly researched and simmered ideas to create more than 4000 new words in a single day. Now, if I can just keep up the pace tomorrow and finish at least the rough text of Term Paper #2 after working for a few hours at my assistantship, I might be on track for handing in that final paper at least a day early.

We'll see.

By the way, the archival workshop went well on Saturday. Oh, and I didn't win agent Nathan Bransford's first paragraph contest, but as Eliot says, "For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business." Tomorrow, back to my assistantship work, to finishing these papers, and to a bit of preparation for the course I'm teaching in the spring--those are the tasks at hand.

First, though, I get to sleep 6 glorious hours...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day 37: Archival Events and First Paragraph Contests

Despite all my good intentions to the contrary, I'm frantically running around trying to get my writing done on time. The urgency right now is to write the last 6 pages of this Saturday's paper, and to finish getting ready for this public event on Saturday, in which my archival theory and practice class will present our work for the semester then give public workshops, including an archival road show (like Antiques Road Show, but with historical value). You are of course all invited.

Anyway, before I go do all that (plus work 10 hours between today and tomorrow and attend my last 3-hour grad class for the semester tonight), I wanted to send you on your way with a really cool contest agent Nathan Bransford is putting on over at his blog. Even if you don't enter yourself you can learn from the entries that are up there.

What he did was to tell people on Monday that they could post the first paragraph of their novels-in-progress in the comments on his blog. The deadline is the end of the day today, and at last check he had 1127 comments on that post. Anyway, even if you don't submit, go over there and check them out. There's nothing like looking over hundreds of first paragraphs of people's works-in-progress to make you: 1.) feel sorry for agents; 2.) Learn a little something about what makes a good (or bad) first paragraph of a novel; and 3.) realize just how much YA fantasy stuff is being written in people's home offices just now (attempting to ride the tails of Harry Potter and Twilight, of course).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 34: Word Counts Move Slow with Big Words

Thought of the Day, brought on by a conversation the other night with some friends: Word counts add up much slower than pages do when you use big words. I'm noticing this a lot. I have 10 pages written total out of the 45 I have due for this week and next (that's three 15-page papers that are due), and I've been averaging barely over 250 words per page.

That's compared with an average of 350 words per page when I write fiction or creative non-fiction.

Ah, yes...different genres of writing do demand different sets of vocabulary. It does make me realize that my word output of the last month and a half is heftier in page count than I'd been thinking it was. Interesting.

Anyway, I need to plow out approximately another 10 pages today (i.e., 2500 words, it seems), so I'd better get to it soon, but before I go, I just wanted to mention that despite the common cold I've picked up, I'm actually enjoying this part better than I did the last couple of weeks.

The angsty part of the writing process for me is always that chaotic time when you've got these disparate ideas bouncing around in your head but have no idea how they'll come together to form a paper. That time for me is always filled with fears that there will never be a finished product.

Those fears lessen their grip on me, usually, once I actually get a good start on the writing, though. So despite the continuing knots in my back (which will relax once I hand in that final 15-pager), I'm enjoying the process much more now than I did a few weeks ago. Plus, I'm an accumulative learner, so I usually don't truly grasp the entirety of what I've learned in my courses for the semester until just about now, which is part of the enjoyment. I like watching the bits and pieces coalesce into a more unified whole, both in my head and on the paper.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 31: I'm Tired of "Fruits"--Let's Call Them Kumquats

So I've got a new article up in the catapult magazine Advent issue, yet another kumquat of NaWriMo that's developed to the point of consumption. The article's about anticipation and (im)patience, which seems in many ways to have been the theme of my life lately. It's also a bit about narrative theory.

Ya know, it's been very helpful for me to count all the things I write for public consumption this NaWriMo. It helps keep me accountable for getting stuff out there. And it reminds me that I do write a lot. This is helpful information to pile up in me for those times when people ask me whether that novel of mine's done yet. I certainly get impatient about getting that novel done myself, so it's helpful for me to remember that my writing muscles are growing strong in the meantime.

Then again, sitting down and writing these end-of-term essays--which I'm finally ready to do, and about time (there's the (im)patience popping up again)--involves more diligence than patience at this point.

The goal for the day: write (the first) three or four pages of each of the three papers. I'll feel much much better when I have a decent start on all of them, and they seem to have percolated (sorry for the swift change of metaphors from fruit to coffee) to the point where I can plow out that much , at least (ooh, another farming metaphor--or is it snow plowing?).

Anyway, I'm off to it. I hope you have a good day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 29: (Metaphorically) Out to Dinner with Derrida

Thought of the day: There is great irony in the fact that I feel I have least to offer in the way of amusing others when I'm at my most thoughtful, productive time of the semester. (This is when I've moved past the "slightly crazy but in an amusing stage" into the "truly focused on nothing but the writing I have to do" stage. I have not quite yet reached this latter stage this term, but feel it approaching.)

This doesn't mean that I have nothing to offer, I think, to others, during these times--just that such a large proportion of my attention is funneled into articulating some of what I'm learning in written form before I can articulate it orally to others once again.

It's interesting, I think, that I still catch myself viewing this attention to communicating in written form as a lesser form of communication than conversation with others, at moments like these.

Then again, it's more that when I'm busy being my most productive/creative, that creativity isn't always balanced between the different parts of my life, but put into primarily one kind of outlet. The same problem happens in a different form when all of my time is spent communicating face-to-face and I have no opportunity for written communication.

And these papers I'm writing ARE conversations: they're conversations with everything I've been reading. The fact that I feel myself narrowing in on the items I'm responding to, in order to prepare my written responses, is a reduction of ambient noise much like focusing in on what one's dinner companion is saying rather than listening to what's going on at the table next to yours at the restaurant (while in another circumstance you and your dinner companion might decide to go over and join in).

So yeah, I'm not trying to ignore all of you other bloggers out there at the next table right now by not mentioning you or linking to you in my posts. It's just that I'm mostly paying attention to the scholarly dinner companions whose words I've been reading, and figuring out how to respond to what they've been telling me for several months (in term paper form)....

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 28: More Fruits of NaWriMo

Arghhh! (envision Charlie Brown with those little quivery lines around his open mouth).

Okay, I feel better now. That was a short moment to express how much I have to do very quickly now that I'm back from Thanksgiving break and have only 17 days to finish all those term papers that are mostly still simmering in my head, sad to say (which is not to say that I didn't do research for them over the weekend). But before I get to it, I wanted to share that moment with you, as well as to tell you briefly that the writing lifecycle does indeed seem to go on--that is, writing projects seem to beget more writing projects.

Which is all a roundabout way of announcing that two of my academic submissions from the early days of my NaWriMo experiment have already bourne fruit. An abstract I wrote for a conference paper was accepted (meaning that I get to write another paper by May), and another project I was co-authoring was accepted as a book chapter through a proposal, which means we get to mess with our quite rough draft and try to make it good by February.

First, though, I have to write these papers, and finish another report, and work on a poster, and finish up some plans for a final workshop for one of the classes. So, a quick celebration of the birth of these writing tasks, a quick urgh on the amount of care and feeding they're likely to need. But for now, I must drop them off at mental daycare because I've been called in to attend to the millions of other tasks that need birthing, care and feeding right now.