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?


Friday, October 5, 2012

Finding the Ordinary to be Thrilling

I stumbled across a blog earlier today, The High Heeled Physicist, and she had a great quote.
You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.  -Andy Warhol
I tried to decide if this would be a better prompt for my New Fashioned Housewife Blog or my writing blog and I decided this blog because finding something thrilling in the ordinary is what art is all about.  For those of us whose medium is the written word, it's even more important.  We dig into the relationships and nuances that define us as humans and expose it as a tangled, messed-up, beautiful reality. We take what might be boring or mundane and point out what's amazing about it.  We capture smells, touch, sounds.  We note and record what others have been trained to trample over.

I'm not talking just about the literary fiction genre or rambling on and on about the beauty in a blade of grass (although that might make for an interesting poem).  I'm talking about noticing the special but overlooked details.  I'm talking about looking through the eyes of someone else and seeing what they would see.  Noticing what they would notice.  Finding a hidden truth in something small.

The fantasy writer places these things in a made-up world.  This highlights even more what might be ordinary because everything is extra-ordinary.  The mystery writer shows us nuances in clues.  The horror writer really digs into our senses, finding those tiny details to place us in the middle of the terror.  The writer of history shows us an old world through new eyes.  In all writing, it's through exposing a few common details in thrilling new turns of phrases and perceptions that makes our writing come alive.

What is something that's ordinarily boring that thrills you?  What thrills your characters? 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why I Write

I read an interesting post on Purdie Writing about why she writes and it made me think a little about why I write.

Because I always have- Ever since I was a little kid I've been making up stories.  I remember crafting these complicated stories and then getting my friends to act it out.  It was basically long-form prompted dramatic improv.  There were a few primary story lines that we'd do again and again, some fully made up and others based on Grimms Brothers Tales.  I also invented two to three ghost stories around Halloween each year and had a story or two that I was telling to my sister.  I completed my first novel when I was fourteen.  I wrote various short stories and I have several journals full of writings.  I have to write.  It's just too integral a part of me.
Creative outlet- This is my primary reason for writing.  It's an outlet.  There is a zone that I get into when the words just seem to flow.  I like writing.  I'm very lucky that I am able to just spend time doing something that I like.  Maybe it's a little selfish, but it's fun :)

It's hard- I've got to worry about characterization, pacing, description, plot, themes... Sometimes I know an outcome that needs to happen and it's like a maze of emotions, actions and motivations to get my characters to the end point (or I learn that it's not an endpoint that my characters would or could get themselves into.)  Sometimes I delete weeks worth of work because it just won't fit.  Most of you are writers.  You know that it's not easy. 

I love books- I enjoy the novel as an art form.  Writing allows me to understand more about what I read and why I like what I like.  Also, I want to "give back" to the reading community.  I was one of those kids who always had a book in my hand.  I'd go through hundreds of books a year.  I even read the whole series of encyclopedias that my family had.

It's a legitimate way to play pretend and daydream- I get to be that little kid in the backyard again, coming up with stories and inventing characters.  It's active escapism.  I'm not Lauren anymore; I'm Hailey, I'm Altis, I'm Nazarie, I'm Lydia, I'm a thousand different people.  I get to play with dragons, dance with daggers, eat food that doesn't even exist.  And I'm writing so people don't call me crazy.

I want to get published- There is a reason this is last.  I would like to get published.  I want to go into a book store and see my book on the shelf.  Maybe that's only to justify the hours I spend on my writing, but I also think it's to validate my writing.

Why do you write? 

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