Month: November 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 27

Words Written: 50,237
Scenes Scribed: 31/31
Fragments Fixed: 28/35

I reached the nominal goal of 50,000 words on Wednesday during an unusually productive lunchtime session, with a satisfactory conclusion unsatisfactorily rendered. I also validated at the NaNoWriMo web site, although not with the actual words written because those are smeared all across the manuscript: I just copied about the right amount and validated with that.

It’s been a strange month of writing this year. It’s not the first time that I have been writing in-fill (that was my effort in 2012 to add plot to Bluehammer) but it’s the first time I’ve been trying to write that at the same time as adding new material. It’s a bit of a brain wrench to switch from one mode to the other, but it also means I have always had something fall back on if writing the new stuff has been going poorly.

There are still a lot of twiddly bits to fix (seven fragments remaining? Really?) but the manuscript is nearly ready to put down for its rest – it currently stands at 108,495 words, and it seems quite likely that it will hit 110k before it’s done.

So, congratulations to everyone who has participated whether they have reached the nominal goal or not – you’re all winners!

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

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Evernote and I Part Ways

I’ve been an enthusiast for Evernote for some time. I started using it in April 2010, and I found it very useful: it was a way to share data across all of my devices, from phone to tablet to multiple computers. It was also a good audio note taker, although I don’t do that much any more.

How Things Went Wrong

Things started to break down only a few weeks ago when there was a database change in the tool which broke my ability to use Evernote to edit notes on my tablet, a first generation Kindle Fire. I wasn’t too concerned about it because in truth this was one of several applications which the Fire could not deal with (eg by not having a modern web browser), although having to fix the numbering on my long list of scene notes for my NaNovel was, shall we say, frustrating.

Still, I was already expecting to have to install a more stock Android build on the Fire so that I could use it more generally – I figured I would probably be back to using Evernote on there by the New Year.

Then the other day there was a version bump for Evernote on my day job laptop: a jump to version 6, with a new UI and another database change.

I don’t especially care for the UI*, as it happens, but that was not the thing that now has me throwing Evernote away: the database change nearly lost me some critical data.

Here’s the sequence of events:

  1. make changes on yig (personal laptop) to novel notes.
  2. Evernote on upney (day job laptop) is updated, including database change.
  3. make changes on upney to the same notes.
  4. return to yig for more writing, updating the novel notes again. Note at this point that there is no indication anywhere of accessing data from an incompatible database format.
  5. view novel notes on upney. They are gone. GONE. There is an empty note called “Untitled” where the novel notes used to be. Blood runs cold, stomach flips, etc.

Now, as it happens I could see these notes via the Evernote client on my phone so I knew they were not completely destroyed, but when I returned home I needed to take urgent action to make sure my notes were not lost – I disconnected the Internet by turning off the router so that yig’s Evernote instance would not sync to the cloud, then copied the novel notes into a text file** and also cloned the note within Evernote.

Then I reconnected the Internet and synced Evernote, and the novel notes document was destroyed just as I had feared it would be.

Another Orphan

There is no new version of Evernote for yig – upney is running Mac OS 10.9 (Mavericks) while yig is on 10.6 (Snow Leopard), and there is no version 6 build of Evernote for OS X 10.6.

Is that reasonable? Sure – I’m not going to say that Evernote or any company should be required to support an OS version that old. And it’s not as if OS upgrades are necessarily that onerous really, these days: Apple don’t even charge for them any more.

But they are disruptive. Both yig and upney have gone through OS upgrades, and it completely destroyed my dev environment in both cases. I lost hours of time while the OS upgrade was going on, but days of productivity while I rebuilt compilation systems and language environments.

In yig’s case I am not even convinced that an OS upgrade is a good idea at this point. It’s an old computer – I’ve had it almost six years now – and it’s more than a little creaky. The App Store claims it will run Yosemite (10.10) but will it really? What are the chances my computer gets completely screwed in the process?

Regardless of the viability of upgrading yig so I can run Evernote on it, I’m not doing it now. I’m in the middle of writing a novel: I can’t afford to have my primary writing tool out of commission for any amount of time, let alone a couple of days.

Why I Won’t Use Evernote Again

The real problem for me with Evernote is now one of trust: I no longer trust the tool, and I don’t feel like I can afford to use something which is only ever one bad database upgrade away from destroying my most important notes.

They could have handled these database upgrades better, but Evernote’s value to me was always in allowing me to share and edit notes across multiple devices: that value was eroded with the loss of the Kindle Fire as a client, but it has been entirely lost with the orphaning of yig. If they’re going to change the shared database structures to be incompatible with older versions of the tool, then the tool is no longer useful.

So goodbye Evernote. It’s been a good four and a half years, but it’s time to go back to text files on a cloud drive. At least then I control the format, and I get versioned backups from Time Machine.

[*] the flatness I can deal with, up to a point, but I really dislike the lack of visual separation between areas. It’s a usability disaster, as far as I can tell.

[**] and, in fairness, the Evernote text copy does the right thing here with numbered lists and checkboxes.

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The Quietness of Monday

I’m going to have to beg forgiveness on the blog front again because I’ve been writing the novel.

I’m at about 45k for November words right now, looking plausible to cross the finish line on Wednesday which would be nice. There is still a lot of work to do around the ending and patching up the early narrative to match.

But it’s going well, and I don’t know what else I would write about here at the moment anyway.

Back in a bit.

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 20

Words Written: 37776
Scenes Scribed: 24/28
Fragments Fixed: 19/34

I’m closing in on the end of the story, which will not be the end of the words I write this month.

Both the fragment count and the scene count have grown since last time, and the work has been fairly consistent. I was quite worried about how I was going to write the ending but I’m getting a clearer sense of it as I get closer. I am expecting at least one more scene to appear in that dénouement.

My main problem this week has just been finding writing time. I’ve been having huge trouble getting out of bed in the mornings to write early, and although I’ve ridden my bike in to the office most days it’s also apparent that the bus is no longer a viable writing environment – it’s just too full these days*. Lunch has been productive most days, but the evenings have not. And obviously I have been using the writing time I can find to work on the novel rather than blog posts.

In those terms, I am a little surprised I’ve managed to write as much as I have in the last five days, but that effort would also explain why I am so exhausted. Last night is a great example: I had written about 1600 words and I was all set to push through to 38k (it was only 230 words away!) but then I fell asleep at the keyboard.

NaNoWriMo seems to be taking a toll this year.

Anyway, I am still confident I will finish even if, as seems likely now, I won’t reach the end on my maze tracker.

Back to the word mines.

[*] I suppose that might mean they’ll add more busses to the route, but that won’t be a quick change.

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Walking and Writing

Between my writing and my fitness goals, I often find I have a bit left to do at the end of the day. This entails a choice: do I kill the word count quota or the step quota?

Enter the treadmill desk.

Now, actual treadmill desks tend to cost more money than I want to spend, but our treadmill has some arms that extend back alongside the treadmill surface (it’s probably some kind of safety thing). I decided to make a shelf which rested on these arms and would raise the shelf up to a reasonable height.

the shelf in place

the shelf in place

This is our treadmill with the shelf installed. You’ll note there are some dangly strings on the sides – those are some laces I use to stabilise the shelf when it is in used.

the shelf displays its construction

the shelf displays its construction

The shelf itself is a very simple construction: it’s a board with some 2×4 attached on the ends (just using big screws with countersunk heads). The fiddly bit is that I added some wide plastic tubing* on the undersides of the feet to stabilise the shelf in place. There’s some foam in there to stop it scratching the surface.

So now I can make word count and complete my step goals.

[*] in this case an unwanted water bottle.

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 15

Words Written: 28189
Scenes Scribed: 16/28
Fragments Fixed: 17/32

I’m obviously ahead of the curve on the nominal November goal, but I’m in danger of running out of both story and momentum.

You’ll note that the number of scenes in the outline has gone up by one. This is a pretty common thing for me, where I end up writing so much on one scene that it needs to be split into another. However, in preparing this post I’ve realised that I’ve already addressed a couple of scenes which appear later in the outline so there should probably only be 26 scenes in the outline.

This is what I mean about running out of story: with about 22k left to be written in the month, I may have only ten scenes of plot. This is where the fragments should come in of course, since I do still have a fair number of those to write, but they are also slower because I have to find the right place in the text to insert them.

So, that is one part of my momentum loss. The other is just not spending enough time writing.

I’ve complained before about weekends, and how I find the change in routine disrupts my writing, but I’ve had two days working at home this week which threw me off even more.

Anyway, progress is still being made, but I may be casting around at the end of the month for places to add more words.

The good news is that even if I don’t manage 50,000 new words this month, I will still have a completed novel draft of something more than 100k in length. There’s going to need to be some serious editing, but it will be a complete story.

That’s something worth continuing.

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A Week of Delays

from the February ice storm

from the February ice storm

Two things to mention:

  1. I didn’t end up wearing my 2014 NaNoWriMo T-shirt to the day job until today, because I worked at home on Thursday due to the threat of highly unpleasant weather in Portland*.
  2. today’s post, which will be a NaNoWriMo update, will be slightly delayed since I still need to write it. I wanted to be sure it would be really fresh**.

So, back here later today with an actual post!

[*] a largely unfulfilled threat, in the end, but I’m a cowardy cowardy custard when it comes to freezing rain.

[**] and also because I worked at home on Wednesday and my schedule is shot.

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The T-Shirts of NaNoWriMo: 2014 Edition

the 2014 NaNoWriMo T-shirt!

the 2014 NaNoWriMo T-shirt!

Behold! The 2014 NaNoWriMo T-shirt!

I have to say that I like this one – the shirt itself is better quality than some of the previous years, and the graphics are pleasingly retro.

My timing failed me this year, unfortunately. I like to have the shirt to wear for the NaNoWriMo kick-off but I ordered too late, so the shirt arrived before November began but too late to sport it in front of my fellow high-velocity novellists.

I wore this on the first day of the frenzy, but I will not be wearing this one to work until tomorrow.

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2014 Goals Post: Samhain Edition

Late by a week and a half, but at least it’s because I’ve been writing.

My last goals update spoke of trouble writing, and that has not really gone away. I feel like I have been waiting for November to start.

Summary

GoalImOsBeMiLuMaSaYu
Finish Songn/a1/2n/an/a4/121/20/2
Complete Shapesn/a3/3n/an/a1/2n/an/a
Look for an agentn/an/an/an/an/an/a n/a
Be productive in fictionn/a1/3n/an/a1/21/23/4
Run Hood To Coast Improve Fitnessn/a1/4n/an/a2/44/42/3

Back into the lower-achieving zone, it seems – there are things to celebrate, but I’m not especially happy with how things have gone overall.

Note that the Song goal is yellow rather than red because I completed a related task that was nominally out of scope.

1. Finish Song

Here is the plan:

  1. To complete the outline.
    Last action: called it done.
    Well, I was wrong. When I tried finishing the draft, I stalled because the second half outline was out of date and the first half text was out of sync with the new outline. Having made lots of notes on those mismatches, I am planning on getting most of the second half drafted in this year’s November frenzy.
    I’m a lot happier with my outline now, although I wasn’t really expecting to have to work on it!
  2. To complete the second draft in line with the outline.
    Last action:
    continue second draft process.
    As noted above, the draft stalled. I am going to leave this action in process, though, since I will be making lots of words soon.
    Next action: continue second draft process.
  3. Edit that second draft. Pending completion of steps (1) and (2). I won’t be doing this in 2014 though.
  4. Make submission materials. Pending completion of step (3). This goal is also now out of scope for 2014.

Goal Assessment

Goal from Mabon was:

  • complete draft of remaining acts – nine scenes in act three, twelve in act four, plus two in resolution.

Total: I added drafts for another three of the act three scenes, but I didn’t complete act three at all so I should call this red. However, I am going to mark it as yellow since I did tighten up the outline, including fixing some timing issues that had been lurking under the surface.

Goals for next update: NaNoWriMo will give me some velocity to finish the draft, but I need to not only finish the remaining scenes but update the existing material to match the new narrative elements.

My goals for the Yule update are:

  • complete draft of remaining acts – six scenes in act three, twelve in act four, plus two in resolution.
  • complete refresh of earlier material to match outline.

Metric: Yellow for finishing the incomplete acts, green for finishing the refresh.

2. Complete Shapes

Here is the plan for Shapes:

  1. finish reading of draft – once for readability, once for errors.
    Last action: complete draft reading and markup.
    Complete!
  2. apply corrections from draft read.
    Complete!
  3. give it to my wife to read.
    Complete!
  4. restructure outline. Pending feedback from step (3).
  5. second draft – make existing material match outline; add new material. Pending step (4).

Goals Assessment

No goals set for this period. At this point I am expecting to start editing in the new year, although I may come back to the outline in December.

3. Look for an agent

Last action: finish a novel so I have a manuscript to query.

This goal is pending having a manuscript, but it’s abandoned for 2014.

4. Be productive in fiction

As I write this, I am arm-deep in November word-making, so I find it hard to really complain about how my fiction has been going.

Of course, I wrote hardly any new words before November, which is the period the goals below were meant to cover.

Goals Assessment

  • write early in the morning – mostly achieved, since again this is when most of my blogging has happened. I’ve been doing some novel-related work too first thing, despite the usual problems with plotting when I’ve only just got out of bed.
  • write at lunch when I ride – not every day, but a couple of times a week so calling it done.
  • write 1,000 words a day of fiction – no, not even close.
  • plan for NaNoWriMo – achieved.

Total: 3/4 – yellow

Goals for next update: going into November it is obvious what I need to do there, but what about after November?

  • write 50,000 words in November – I’m scaling my NaNoWriMo goal down from last year’s 100k because that was crushing on top of everything else.
  • keep blogging in November
  • finish the Song draft in December if need be – my plan is to finish the draft in November, but if I write too much for early scenes or add scenes on then I will end up running off the end of the month.
  • review the Shapes outline – last year’s novel needs some attention since it’s been all Song this year.

Metric: Yellow for two or three of these, green for all four.

5. Run Hood To Coast Improve Fitness Level

Here is the plan for the original goal, although the goal itself has changed:

  1. lose some weight.
    Last action: continue weight loss trajectory.
    I have lost a bit more weight since the last update, although I also seem to have plateaued on the trajectory. The reasons are clear: I’m eating the same, but despite riding in to work most of the time that is all the exercise I’m doing. Getting back to running is something I will be doing soon (but see goal #3).
    Next action: drop off the plateau.
  2. figure out a team training plan.
  3. races.
    Last action: none, because goal complete.
    Last time I said that this goal was complete and it was, because I was done with my 2014 race schedule, but I neglected to factor in training for 2015 races.
    Now I’ve signed up for the Shamrock Run Half Marathon (the first year they’re doing this distance), and my day job team has gained entry to the Hood To Coast again, so I need to start running again in December.
    I have also been consistent with the cycling, which has helped a lot.
    Next action: restart running.
  4. injuries.
    Last action: nurse my injuries so they can heal.
    Since I have been cycling to the day job rather than running, my ankles are feeling a lot less tender. I also haven’t had any more injuries.
    Next action: remain uninjured during restart of running training.

Goals Assessment

    • lose five pounds – I lost another three pounds. What happened was my trajectory continued down as long as I was participating in my son’s sport training sessions, but when the season ended I stopped doing that extra work on top of the cycling. Writing on the treadmill has helped, but not apparently enough.
    • ride to work until it’s too wet or cold to continue – it’s stayed warm all the way through October, so fully achieved. I also learned that my rear bike tyre was shredded, but then I hadn’t replaced them in ten years so fair enough. I was just lucky not to have a blow out – Kevlar linings work.
    • nurse injuries – my ankles seem sound. My foot still creaks a bit, but it’s far better than it was.

Total: 2/3 – yellow.

Goals for next update: need to start training for next year’s race schedule.

    • lose five pounds – standing goal, I think.
    • ride to work until it’s no longer safe.
    • reach 10,000 steps a day.
    • prevent injuries – hoping that the cycling has been sufficiently healing.

Metric: yellow for 2-3, green for 4

Getting This Done

November is always my writing time, but keeping that momentum going never seems to get easier. I will probably be starting up A New Dawn in December again, which will likely be damaging for the writing.

I have not figured out how to fit all of this in.

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 6

Words Written: 13797
Scenes Scribed: 6/27
Fragments Fixed: 11/32

This has been a weird NaNoWriMo – any time I am working on an existing story feels strange, and since I am also throwing the business with editing existing story in the fragment work, it’s been rather more peculiar than usual.

It’s also one of the hated five weekend Novembers. Some people glory in those, but weekends are devoid of routine for me and so it much harder to carve writing time out of.

The writing itself is going pretty well. I’m ahead of pace, and even more or less on target to finish the scene content without having to truncate the story like I did last year. My main achievement so far has been in getting past the scenes that were blocking me in the drafting process earlier. I have written a couple of scenes which have useful content but that content should actually be distributed throughout the book rather than concentrated in one conversation.

I still have some timing issues to work through. I have been playing with Aeon Timeline a bit, which is an easy to use timeline tool. I’m not completely clear that it does something  that is worth the price to me, but it has helped me visualise the snags in the narrative sequence better so maybe it is.

The next section is the darkness before the storm, which is juicy but depressing, and I will need to work more on fragments because I have been letting those slide a bit while splurging out the protagonist’s grief.

Back to the word mines.

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