Monday, October 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo and Speed Chess

Jacques Congress Chess Clock  c.1905
Halloween is Wednesday, but my big trick will be NaNoWriMo this year.  If you are reading a writing blog, I'm sure you are familiar with the tradition of writing 50,000 words in the month of November.  I'm not a very prolific writer.  I eek out every sentence that goes onto the page.  Then I revise over and over and over.  Then I move on to the next sentence. 

In many ways, NaNoWriMo is a little like speed chess.  Skill and time are both parts of the strategy.  In speed chess you've got different amounts of time per turn, depending on the type of speed chess.  The most common is the 30-second round, but some rules have the rounds as quick as 5-seconds for Blitz Chess.

Basically there are two high level ways of making decisions; intuition and deep thought. Deep thought is all about thinking many moves ahead and forming your strategy.  Intuition is the snap decisions you make. 

In NaNoWriMo where you are writing 1500+ words a day and in Blitz Chess where you make your move in less than 5 seconds, you've obviously given less time for deep thought and much rely more and more on intuition. 

Studies have actually shown that professional level chess players do not benefit from longer rounds and actually perform just as well at fast rounds.  But, if the intuition hasn't developed yet in the case of beginner or intermediate player, the speed does cause them to suffer. The more advanced a player, the better the intuition and less need for deep thought.  Studies have suggested that this is because the players have internalized the strategy and sub-consciously notice patterns in the board.  It's not an ingrained intuition, but one honed from years of practice.

At the same time, prolonged practice of speed chess can negativity impact the game, training the player to not use deep thought and rely more on intuition.  And for those intermediate and beginner players, occasionally practicing at speed chess helps them not overt-think and trains them to react to the patterns.

So basically, advanced players don't need the long time to thing, but can get lazy if they only use short time.  Beginner and intermediate players do need the longer time to think, but practicing at a quick time can help their overall game.

To bring this back around to NaNoWriMo, these lightning rounds of tens of thousands of words per week can help us intermediate and beginner writers but would not be a good idea to do month over month.  For the advanced writers, it won't be as hard to pump out a novel in a month, but don't do it all the time.

Maybe NaNoWriMo isn't to produce a novel, but to get better at producing novels.  It's meant to teach you how to trust your intuition as a writer and to stretch the ways you work and the ways you make a novel.

Any thoughts out there about what NaNo helps with?  Is it just to say "yey, I did it" (which is a big thing by itself) or does it have more craft-honing implications?


4 tidbits:

Zoë said...

If you're doing you should add me as a writing buddy! I think I'm going to give it a try again this year, even though I have no time and I'm in the middle of a rewrite (I'm going to cheat and count the end of the rewrite (which is happening from scratch) and then start on something new. my username is zoed :)

Zoë said...

also this stuff is very interesting. I think that the only problem is, I found it a lot easier to finish a novel with the NaNo community. I don't know if there is really a community equivalent in chess.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Wonderful thoughts! I learned a lot from doing NaNo the one time I did it, but I'm not sure I'll ever do it again in the near future. Never say never, though, right? :)

Charles Gramlich said...

When I was playing chess seriously I almost never played speed chess because of concerns I had about the training effect. Been a long time since I've played now, though.

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