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December 9, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

Every year, November rolls around and my friends hear me talk about large numbers, writing, and not having time for anything. It's National Novel Writing Month, where crazy people around the world decide to attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.

How long have you done it?
I found out about Nanowrimo on November 1, 2003. I participated from 2003-2005 and 2008-2009. Significant travel plans during the month of November kept me from participating in 2006 and 2007.

Have you always finished?
No way. I didn't finish either of my college years, and I think my word counts were around 10-20k both times. My first win came as soon as I got a laptop with a battery that worked, and I've finished each attempt since then.

What happens when you win?
Nothing. It just means you wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. You get access to "winner goodies" on the website, which includes a printable certificate, a jpeg that essentially says "I won," etc. Lately sponsors have been more active, and CreateSpace has been offering a free printing of the book for winners.

Do you want to be a published writer?
Nope, at least not a published fiction writer. I don't think I'm a very good fiction writer, and I just do Nano for a challenge and because the community makes it fun. I'm sticking with my day job.

What do you do with your novels?
Burn them!!! I only have two semi-complete novels. It took me November of both 2008 and 2009 to finish the plot of the most recent one, which is now sitting around waiting for editing. I have no idea what I'll do with it afterwards. 2005's novel was put into an anthology called Afterhours that was a project that a few of us Microsoftie Wrimos decided to do to raise money for Room to Read during the company's annual Giving Campaign.

Do you write alone?
A lot of the time, yes. But Seattle's Nanowrimo community is really active, and there are group "write-ins" pretty much every day in November. So I go to a few of those, and Jenni and Sandy and I have met up for at the beginning of November to do a writing/eating binge weekend.

What did you write about this year?
I completed the second half of the plot that I started last year, which is technically against Nano "rules," but it was the only way I was ever going to finish that novel. It's a crappy fantasy novel about a courtier in a female-dominated society and the political turmoil that ensues when the ruler of that country falls in love with the leader of a "barbarian" nation.

How do I participate?
Sign up on the Nanowrimo site. Figure out what you're going to write before November approaches (or don't -- a lot of people plan on the fly), and write 50,000 words in November. If you're the social type, find out if your local community is active, and attend events!

December 12, 2009

101 Things in 1001 Days

Some of you may or may not know, since I keep track of this on a separate blog site, that I've been participating in something known as 101 Things in 1001 Days or Mission 101 or simply "101/1001." It's New Years Resolutions on crack, kind of. The idea is to come up with a list of 101 things that you want to accomplish in 1001 days.

Because I'm a complete dork, I kind of forced myself to apply the SMART criteria to the goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. I'm already pretty good about defining goals that have clear measures for success (in other words, NOT something like "get better at computers"). The main thing I had to force myself to stick to was not having any continuous goals. An example of a continuous goal would be "go to work by 9am every day." Way too many New Years Resolutions are continuous goals, and the reason why people give up on them is the same reason I don't want them in my list. As soon as you slip up once on a continuous goal, you have technically failed. And that's demoralizing and gives little incentive to continue. So my trick is to put a time limit on the continuity that's long enough to be challenging but short enough so I can try again if I fail. "Go to the gym 3x a week for a month" is an example of this. It's not trivial, and the one month is long enough to cause a lifestyle change if it's a habit I want to keep around.

Of course, I didn't finish all 101 things. But I did a lot of stuff, and I'm happy with the things I did. My main takeaways going into the next 101/1001 (starting January 1st) is 1) have a better way of tracking and 2) be more purposeful with the goals I choose, not just picking things to arbitrarily challenge myself or because they "sound cool." (So as tempting as Project 365 is, I don't think it will end up on the list.)

Some of you started 101/1001 with me and will probably go "oh crap" when you see this and remember that it still exists. I highly encourage you to join me come January 1st! Let's conquer the world. :)

My 101/1001 blog: The following summary is cross-posted from there.

I came up with 91/101 items to do (90%)
I fully completed 37/91 items (38%)
I completed or partially completed 52/91 items (57%)
I completed 20/37 items in 2007 (54%)
I completed 9/37 items in 2008 (24%)
I completed 5/37 items in 2009 (14%)
Category where I was most successful: "Do more of the things I like"
Category where I was least successful: "Control bad habits"


  • I read a lot more than I was reading before.
  • I was not motivated to complete any of the computer-related tasks.
  • I achieved many of my exercise goals with a great amount of effort, and that has resulted in a noticable change in my lifestyle.
  • I started piano lessons and did Nanowrimo, but other than that, my creative goals were largely untouched.
  • I don't need motivation to do things that I like, but it's nice to record the fact that I actually do things.
  • The website was not an efficient or effective way of tracking goals that involved recurrence. As a result, I'm not sure how far I got on some goals because I lost the motivation to keep track.
  • The "try new things" goals probably should have been left open instead of deciding early on what new things I needed to try.
  • I still suck at keeping up with people. I also suck at volunteering or contributing to society other than monetarily.
  • I don't do well with the "do or don't do something for a week" goals.

  • I read about ~50 books in ~2.5 years.
  • I lost at least 10 pounds.
  • I participated in the Extreme Body Makeover class at the Pro Club (think boot camp) for two consecutive months, going to the gym at least 3 days per week for one of those months. Now I am not afraid of any gym class, except maybe the ones that make you dance.
  • I finally braved my fear of yoga class and went to hot yoga. Now I go somewhat regularly and can touch my toes. This is a big deal for the Person with Tight Hamstrings (tm).
  • I overcame my fear of elevation and did a number of hikes in the 6-8 mile, 1500-2500 ft gain range, a big step up from before.
  • I finished 50,000 words of a novel during National Novel Writing Month 2008. I actually completed the novel with another 50,000 words in 2009, which is a little past the end date for this 101/1001, but I don't care. :)
  • I started taking piano lessons again and am still taking them.
  • During this time period, I took a number of major trips, including: Thailand/Malaysia/Singapore (March 2007), Spain (November 2007), Glacier National Park (July 2008), Taiwan (December 2008), and India (May 2009).
  • I bought a condo (May 2007).

I consider this project a success, even if I didn't finish everything I originally set out to do. There were a lot of lasting positive effects that came out of some of the goals, and it's very satisfying to have kept track of what I've done. I have every intention of beginning a new list for January 2010 (what better way to start a new decade?), and hopefully this time I'll be able to develop a better system for keeping track of recurring items. My priorities will definitely be different from this set, and I'm looking forward to completing a new set of goals!

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