Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Garthmeister J's Tips and Tricks for Surviving NaNoWriMo

As we move into the twilight of October, with November's new dawn steadily approaching, I thought I would slap down a post of tips and tricks for those attempting to pump out 50,000 words of questionable prose in a mere 30 day span. I am now somewhat of a veteran, having participated and completed NaNoWiMo three times so far(2001, 2002, and 2006), and thus should have some kind of body of knowledge regarding what it takes to actually survive and thrive while attempting the feat. Of course if I end up fizzling out around tip no. 2, maybe that's not the case.

1. Don't Panic

OK, deep breaths, you've decided to throw yourself into a mighty task: writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days while maintaining your job, relationships, and any semblance of sanity you might be currently clinging to. Here's the first tip: try your very best not to freak out. Don't look down, do not stare into the abyss that represents both untold words yet to be conceived and other obligations yet to be fulfilled. If you're busy flipping out over the tasks ahead of you, you'll never actually get to the tasks themselves. And that would suck.

2. Sack your Internal Editor

The Internal Editor is that pesky fellow who is continually going on and on about your writing. Always saying something like "Oh my God, that is crap! That's not writing! You need to completely throw out this dialogue, and I don't know how you think this paragraph is not tortuous!" There is no way you can write 50,000 words in 30 days while listening to that guy. If you pay the Internal Editor any attention you are almost guaranteeing that you are going to self-combust before you hit 10,000 words.

3. Make a Date

It can be very tricky to juggle things like jobs, marriages, children, and moderately insane attempts to write novels. So make a date. This can either be a time and place every day that you set aside for writing, or can just be a weekly write-in (check the NaNoWriMo forums for your local area). I'd heartily recommend coming up with some kind of schedule devoted to writing; in June I participated in Script Frenzy (writing a 20,000 word screenplay during the month) and towards the end I discovered that disappearing to an empty cube in my office during lunch was a really effective way to churn out wordcount. Combining that with moderate writing during the evenings, plus some heavy duty lifting on weekends, and I was well on my way.

4. Share the Pain

Misery loves company: try an attend a regular write-in so you can keep yourself going by talking to other people undertaking the same journey. Blog about trying to write your novel. Tell your family and friends. All of these things mean that you're buying yourself into actually completing this thing, which is handy for motivation when your tanks are running dry. And your tanks will run dry - how you go during November is going to be dependent on how willing you are to tackle a new chapter when you're not quite feeling it.

You should also be pretty clear to any family members, friends and significant others just what you are trying to do, and enlist their help in getting you through the month. Who knows, they might be as excited as you are about it... and you might even be able to find yourself a companion or two for the road ahead.

4. Enable not Disable

I also find it a good idea to find out what aids my writing process, and embrace it whole-heartedly for a month. My first year doing NaNoWriMo I drank my way through the month; my fridge was always fully stocked with beer, and I consumed it liberally while writing. Last year was the Year of Stimulants, as I regularly came home from work, got changed, and then downed a Red Bull before banging out another chapter.

Of course you may have to walk that fine line, as downing a fifth of whiskey might help you get through your protoganist's next epiphany, but if you're too hungover at work the next day you're not going to get anything done.

4. Just Keep Writing

The most important thing to do is to keep your wordcount a moving target. Don't have a lot of time today? That's OK, slap together a couple of hundred words. Got a spare half an hour before the kids come home? Convert that into a page or two of prose. By chipping away at things, while still finding time for more sustained writing sessions, you'll keep making headway. That means when you get in a dynamite day of writing, your previous chipping away will give you a nice pile of words to luxuriate in. And it also means that if you find yourself needing a big day or two towards the end of the month, it will need to be a few thousand words less, because you added to your novel in those short periods you found.

5. Remember Why You are Doing It

And when the hours are darkest, when the load seems to much to bear... try and remember why you are attempting this foolishness. Writing a novel in November is a wonderful, inspiring, amazing thing. It's not all ups, there are going to be some downs. But know in your heart that what you want to do above all is to write a novel, and that you're doing yourself a disservice if you get in the way of letting it come to fruition. Because nothing beats crossing that 50,000 word mark and thinking to yourself "Well, I'm now a novelist".

I've managed to cobble together something of a premise for this year's attempt (assuming, of course, that I don't completely change my mind before I start things off). At this stage it involves cheese. That's all you need to know.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

NaNo NaNo

It is with some alarm that I note that it's the last week of October. Why? Other than the fact that it seems this year is speeding by, it also means that I am mere days away from 30 days of literary insanity.

Yes folks, it's NaNoWriMo time again. November is National Novel Writing Month, when aspiring authors strap themselves in for 720 hours of keyboard pounding in an attempt to hit the goal of writing a novel of no less than 50,000 words in 30 days.

A previous NaNoWriMo winner in 2001 and 2002, last year I was talked into the endeavour by Joe Speaker and Gracie at the last moment. Despite this setback I managed to write a semi-coherent novel featuring an alcoholic grappling with the issues his lifestyle caused fitting in with "normal" society. Yes, it wasn't much of a reach.

Many other people set out with me on the journey, though to my knowledge I was the only one to make it to the finish line, being able to leverage my previous experience navigating the journey, and thanks to writing 12k in one day. A special shout out must also go to stimulants of all varieties.

This year I'm doing it again. And so should you. Information and such can be found at the NaNoWriMo website.

Despite knowing more than 24 hours in advance that I am going to once more tilt at some windmills, I have no idea what I'm going to write about. (And talking to Gracie, she is also a little adrift right now). So, what better thing to do then to canvass for ideas and suggestions? Feel free to supply ideas, characters, settings, and stupid challenges in the comments, so Gracie and I can use these as fuel for inspiration. Or just tell me that you're signing up as well, so we can have our own little support group as we take a chance attempting the extraordinary.

And remember, for all those people who take the plunge:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nationals Recap

Things are going crazily at work (we have a Big Project going down this weekend, with the possibility of large amounts of pain and grief), but I wanted to give a brief report about the Aussie Rules Nationals in Lousiville.

As I mentioned below, the mighty Baltimore Washington Eagles had backed up last year's win in second division with an undefeated season, and promotion to first division. Nominally ranked second in the country, we were in a bracket with Boston, Orange County, and Denver. We were going in without three of our top players, but we still felt that we had a good team, and could give some people a scare.

Boston is a team we play every year during the season, and is a team roundly hated for being a bunch of douchebags. We beat them early in the year, which was an indicator that we might be able to step up in class. In typical Boston fashion they claimed they were unlucky to lose; to be fair it was not a convincing win by us, and they were only finally put away when some guy went insane and kicked three goals in five minutes (yeah, that was me, and I should have had for).

To give you an indication of the Boston team's mentality, here's a little story: there is an all-American team that plays other countries, drawn from the American players in the national competition. One of our players was scheduled to wait at Vancouver airport to pick-up a Boston player before a game against the Canadian team. The Boston player, who our man didn't recognise, finally turned up, got in the car, and the first thing out of his mouth was not "Thanks for waiting for me" or "Hi, how you going, my name is Boston Douchebag", but "You were lucky that you beat us, because we were missing some good players".

You stay classy, Boston Douchebag.

As luck would have it, Boston were our first opponent at Nationals. The matches at the Nationals are short affairs: two halves of twenty minutes apiece (opposed to the normal 4 quarters of twenty minutes). It's hard enough to play 3 or 4 (if you make the finals) short games in two days, it would be death if they were full-length. Given the format, it's important to get out to a good start, and be consistent. We knew Boston would be spoiling for a fight, eager to prove they were unlucky to lose to us during the season, and more than happy to take us down a peg. And so it was that Boston came out of the gates hard, kicking the first three goals. We ended up going into half-time three goals behind, a big lead.

The half-time huddle was pretty intense. I distinctly remember thinking "This can NOT be happening!" Losing to Boston in the first game would submarine our chances of making the finals, as well as undoing a lot of our good work for the season. This was a worst case scenario.

Much to our credit we came back hard in the second half, and all of a sudden the game turned into a bloodbath as we piled on goal after goal. In twenty minutes of football we scored 6 goals to zero, turning a first half deficit into an emphatic victory.

Happy as we were over the win, there were some worrying signs. The next game that day was against Orange County, a team I didn't know much about. It would be our first game against a power team from the West Coast, and was sure to be a good test.

The Orange County match started out quite different than the Boston game, as we jumped out early. When I marked and goaled we were up 3 goals to zip, and looking good. Which is right about when it all fell apart - an umpire messed up returning the ball to play, gifting Orange County with a goal. Another couple of quick goals to the OC, and we were once again going into half-time behind on the scoreboard, albeit by a few points rather than a few goals.

Once again the half-time huddle was not pleasant, as we all realised that not only had we let Orange County back into the game, but that they were outplaying us. Once again we roared into the second half, overpowering the opposition and winning comfortably.

That evening we relaxed and grabbed some dinner, well aware that we would be playing Denver in the morning for the chance to play in the final. Denver is truly the class of the US Footy competition, winning the Division 1 championship from 2000 to 2005, and being runner-up in 2006. We could not afford to start of sluggishly against an outfit like that and expect to overpower them in the second half.

Unfortunately the Denver game turned out exactly like that. It was a tight first few minutes, with the Eagles having a few early forays goalwards, but Denver were too polished, and repelled our attacks, converting goals at the other end. For the third time we went in to half-time behind, but this time we couldn't come all the way back. We outplayed Denver in the second half, but it wasn't enough to steal a win, and we were forced to watch the final from the sidelines. As it turned out, in a repeat of last year's final San Diego played Denver, but this time Denver had their revenge.

As for the Eagles the Nationals were a great end to a great season. Finishing 2-1 in our first year in Division 1 and giving Denver a decent game proved not only that we were not a fluke, but that we have a chance to be competitive going forward.

But right now I'm giving my body a chance to heal, while I ply it with alcohol. Just to be safe.


Last night I found myself playing online poker (something which I haven't done too much of recently). I've been trying to get to the Triple Draw tables when I can, as the lower-limits (1/2 to 3/6) still seem to be good to me. Al and Gracie convinced me to play the MATH, which I did a trifle reluctantly, knowing it started at 10pm and was a double-stack tournament. 15 minutes in I was already complaining to Gracie about the lack of bust-outs. Shortly after that I busted my first player, and realised if I did some of the dirty work myself, I could accelerate the process. At one stage I had 40k, when the second player had 25k or so. Things tightened up, however, and when we went to table, the top 5 stacks (including mine) were at the same one, which made things interesting, but I was able to make it to the final table.

At the final table were such luminaries as Easycure, Zeem, and Joe Speaker. I bobbed and weaved, and finally found myself down to final four. The fateful hand occurred for me in a BvB vs Speaker. I completed from the SB with 9Ts, Joe checked his option. The flop was 49T, two clubs. "Bingo," I think, cunningly checking. Joe obliged by betting at the pot. I thought for a moment, before calling... which I don't necessarily like in retrospect. I liked it even less when another 4 came off, I did not like that card at all. Joe pushed, I felt I had to call, and Mr Speaker rolled over K4o to put me on the rail.

Overall I felt I played pretty well, though I would have preferred to have check-raised on that flop and either taken the pot there or been way ahead. That's how it goes, and I can't be too disappointed given my less-than-regular poker play these days.


I also wanted to mention that I've been playing in Sundays with Dr Pauly on Fantasy Sports Live. After a rocky first week I think I got to grips with the format a little better, booking a second place finish behind the good Doctor himself. If you're not in this, why not? Give it a go!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Aussie Rules, OK?

Yes, friends, it's that time of year again. Time for the Aussie Rules Footy Nationals! Last year the team I play for (the mighty Baltimore Washington Eagles) managed to win second division (detailed here at length). This year we are in first division(!) and are ranked second in the country(!!!!!).

So tonight I am flying off to Lousiville, Kentucky - not quite the same as Las Vegas last year. If you're interested, the US Footy website may have some updates, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Anyway, wish me luck, and I'll check in next week to let you know how we went.

Go Eagles!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sundays with Dr. Pauly

I remember the original Saturdays with Dr. Pauly, as they were the reason I initially loaded money on PokerStars, diversifying my online poker funds into a gasp-inducing three sites. That was one of my first introductions to the poker blogger crew, as I moved from lurker to blogger. And now, the format is BACK.

Thus quoth the good Doctor:

If you haven't figured it out yet, Sundays with Dr. Pauly is 10 week contest that I'm hosting over at Fantasy Sports Live. If you were hoping for a series of online poker tournaments, well you're shit out of luck. However, if you are a fantasy football junkie and would like a shot at playing against me along with winning some prizes in the process, then I encourage you to participate in Sundays with Dr. Pauly.

If you don't have a Fantasy Sports Live account, you can create an account here. My bonus code is Pauly and you will get a sign up bonus.

If you have been participating in the BFFB, the structure and format are very similar. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please read on.

Here are the rules.

1. Sign up for an account, which you can fund with a credit card. Fantasy Sports Live is 100% legal and within the boundaries set forth by the UIGEA.

2. Weekly contests are $10. Total investment over the duration of Sundays with Dr. Pauly will be $100. We're starting at Week 6 and ending at Week 15.

3. Sign up for any contest that is listed as Sundays with Dr. Pauly. You will be setting up a fantasy football team consisting of a 1 QB, 3 WRs, 2 RBs, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 D using a salary cap format.

4. Every week, sign up for a new contest and create a new team. You're competing against the players in your individual contest. The top 3 in each contest wins prize money (1st - $45, 2nd - $27, 3rd - $18). Places 4 thru 10 get zilch.

5. You are also competing against me even though I might be in a different contest. To make this fair, I'm only allowed one entry per week.

6. We will be tracking the overall progress of everyone who participates. The top 3 overall point winners over the duration of Sundays with Dr. Pauly will win prizes. See below.
Overall Prizes for Sundays with Dr. Pauly:
1st Place - $100 cash and $50 added to your FSL account
2nd Place - Any football themed DVD of your choice (e.g. Rudy, Any Given Sunday, Brian's Song)
3rd Place - a copy of Blind Side by Michael Lewis
4th Place - a phone call from Daddy

Bonus: If you get more points than me in three consecutive weeks, you win an entry into a season ending freeroll with $100 added to the overall prize pool.

That's it for now. Any questions about setting up an account at Fantasy Sports Live or how to play fantasy football? Shoot me an email.

Best of luck everyone. We will be posting updates of Sundays with Dr. Pauly here and over at Blinders blog.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Trash talking of champions

While I'm in a post-y mood, why not some more from the DD?

JayO-GeTMoNey: thats not even a good hand kill urself
garthmeister: I love you. So much.
JayO-GeTMoNey: fagggg
garthmeister: I want to have major elective surgery so I can bear
your children.

He didn't talk to me after that.