Learning from NaNo, Round 2: Technicalities

This year, egged on by participatory friends, I decided to take another stab at National Novel-Writing Month. The project: that serial/graphic novel hybrid featuring the Generic Villain that I’ve been threatening to write for a good chunk of this year now, which will probably be a lot more than 50,000 words by the time I’m finished with it. Of course, I didn’t go in without reservation, since I’ve a decent number of peculiar stumbling blocks on this piece.

The first thing I found myself taking into account when I first considered participating this year was my medium. Being mixed text and graphic novel was my plan for the piece from the very beginning—it gets me to brush up on my artwork, it’s an excuse to play around with art styles as I jump around between genres, and I’ve been getting the impression that being able to see the characters provides a useful bond between them and the new reader. But there’s a problem with pictures: how in blazes do you figure out how many words they’re worth? Does a picture always paint a thousand words? Does it matter how many characters show up? Whether or not it’s in color? While my original plan had just involved assigning a word count for each picture, I can’t really count on the appropriate artistic inspiration, so for now I’ll just provide stage direction for each picture and count those instead. The art itself can come later.

As with last year, there’s the challenge presented by how I do my writing. I do much of my noveling the way I do a sizeable fraction of my blog posts—first in longhand, then transcribed onto the computer and edited in the process. In a sense, I’m writing two words for every one that someone typing directly would produce. Therefore, I’d toyed with the idea of considering twenty-five thousand a victory—but heck, why not, I’m going to go for the full fifty anyway.

The other catch to the longhand method, though, is what happens when I work at home—as opposed to on the trolley or during the idle time at work that comes from being assigned under far too efficient a temporary coworker. If I type directly into the computer, it’s faster (and it lets me chat with friends in the process), but it leaves awkward gaps in the longhand version that make it harder to start up again the next time I don’t have computer access. If I stick to longhand, there’s the risk of leaving my pencil and/or notebook at home, messing up my ability to write the next time I’m out of the house. During last year’s attempt, I got around it by taking advantage of the two interwoven points of view the Almagest piece was based around; I’d write Khadijah’s parts at work, and Tabari’s at home when I was done transcribing Khadijah’s.

Last of all—well, let’s face it, I’m a perfectionist. Besides, this project, from its inception, has been slated for publication online; my original plan had even been to begin releasing it this month. That means I can’t just write fast, but I need to write well, or at the very least edit well during the transcription phase.

In short? This will be a challenge. But I think it’ll be fun.

Leave a Reply