Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo's Last Breath

Today is the last day of 2011's NaNoWriMo. Let's see how it all has turned out, with the understanding that there are still about 16 hours left for things to change.

My 2nd period, who had a word count goal of 60,000 (30 kids x 2k words each) topped out yesterday at 62,058 words with threats from some of bringing more today. (Their class doesn't meet today.) Way to go, kids!

My 4th period came in just short of their 38,000 goal (19 kids x 2k words each) with 35,932 words. Remember, there's still 16 hours left for them to come bursting into my classroom waving sheets of scribbled words and numbers, yelling out their total word count. They aren't too very short. One kid could make it happen for them.

Each student that succeeded in hitting their goal is invited to the Thursday Dec 1 afternoon pizza party NaNoWriMo Celebration! (Wow that's a long name for a party.)

I would like to brag and celebrate my own personal success of winning MY first NaNoWriMo YWP, passing my 25k goal with 26,733 and counting! Woot for me!

My afterschool WriMos trudged in with sad faces yesterday. They were falling far short of their goals, but, I am proud to say, they were still writing. There was one that usually comes later, however. (She's in spelling bee practice the first half after school.) Word in the halls was that this sweet girl with a modest 12k goal, had over 20,000 words in hand. She arrived, and it was true. She had over 170%! Oh, how we celebrated.

Then, I went to validate her words, and she stopped me.
"No, Mister! Don't do it."

I was startled, and tried to explain that I was validating her win, so she would have her little purple Winner bar.

"No, I don't want to do that. I didn't finish the story. I'm only half way done, and there's no way I'll finish it in time. I'm not a winner yet, and I hold to that decision."

How can I not respect such integrity? I searched the FAQs but could find nothing on what to do if you hit (or explode) your word count, but aren't done with the story at the end of the month. For now, she remains unvalidated... but she's a winner in my book.


Update: My wife went and found some information and emailed me to have something to help sway the girl, since she couldn't comment from work. The email is below.

From the FAQs, The Basics, "How do you win?":

"You win NaNoWriMo by writing to your word-count goal by midnight on November 30."

Writing to your word-count goal. Not finishing your novel.

Also, in the CreateSpace talks:

"... you will receive a redemption password when you reach your word-count goal and become an official NaNoWriMo 2011 winner."

When you reach your goal. Not when you finish your book.

I'd say it's pretty clear!

So during my off period, I pulled her out of class and presented this information to her. After assuring her that she could (and should) finish the work and pursue publishing in the spring, she confirmed that she did want to validate now. So we quickly grabbed a computer and got her validated. I am so very proud of her, and excited about the future of her story.

Then, when I got home, I had the following email from the Office of Letters and Light. I think Tim said it quite well.

Hi there,

Wow, she has real grit to go with her drive, it sounds like; that's fantastic. Our official position is basically that, if she hits her word count goal, we consider her a winner. We also encourage young writers to continue writing their novels, and to edit them in later months. I'm going to link a FAQ about it here:

This is also our official position on how to win:

I hope this helps! Thank you for writing in, and please let your student know that we are incredibly proud of her accomplishment, and that she deserves to celebrate!

Tim Kim
Office Captain
The Office of Letters and Light

Monday, November 21, 2011

Missed a week

Missed a week? I don't know what you're talking about.

Yeah, okay, I admit it. I could blame it on being sick, but I didn't get sick until the middle of last week, so I don't have much of an excuse. I wish I had a really recent update on my students, but I was out sick much of last week, so I don't have their current numbers. The week before that, though, one class had a total of 35,000 words! Fantastic. I'm really excited to see what they have after this week of Thanksgiving break. It'll be the last class period during NaNoWriMo, so really have to be done by that point, and they know it. Crossing my fingers.

I, while still underscoring for the official adult WriMo goal, am having my best NaNo year yet! I currently as of yesterday have just over 15,000 words, which is 60% of my 25k goal. Today and tomorrow are dedicated to writing, with Wednesday as a safety net. I plan to be done by Thanksgiving. It is a marvelous feeling to finish a book like that. To set a momentous goal and achieve it is a sensation that you carry with you. I love seeing it in my students. I love feeling it in me.

Now, on to random-doesn't-actually-matter-just-thoughts-about-me-out-of-my-head stuff. This morning, I spent nearly an hour in Barnes & Noble waiting for the Jewelry store next door to open. I don't usually have the time to just "hang out" in B&N, or any other bookstore, much to my chagrin. Got to tell you, I love it. I imagine finding my name on the shelf. I run my fingers tenderly across the leather spines. (Have you SEEN the new B&N Leatherbound Classics editions? Bibliogasm.) I touch the covers of treasured stories from my past, or of world-changing classics and there's an electric charge that runs through me, connecting me with Captain Ahab, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dorian Gray, Shakespeare, Scheherazade, or HG Wells. It's a world that I love being a part of. The power and joy of the written word, the very feel and pleasure of holding a good book.

I do enjoy having digital books, and I use Shaker (my iPod) to read on, but shopping in iTunes and downloading a pdf just doesn't have that same experience. You can laugh. Apple and the Nook people certainly want you to, and make fun of that sentiment in their commercials, but the reality is it is true. I am not lighting torches and waving pitchforks over the coming of digital publishing; I think it's awesome. Neither, however, am I using my old paperbacks for toilet paper. They can, and will, coexist. And I will indulge in both.

Now it's time for me to get my name on one of them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day late and a few words short

This post is going up a day late because, well, life is just like that.

I had 3366 words at the end of last week, and I was excited about the forward progress. Then the weekend came and I had time to really sit down and talk through the project. I realized that i had made a mistake in my planning. Fixing it meant that I had to toss about 300 words of the labyrinth I had begun. (I saved it for later.) 300 words isn't much, but that meant my word count was going backwards! Plus, I no longer had that planned labyrinth. I had to come up with something new. It was just a setback, not an ending, and I am pushing forward and will be successful.

My students, on the other hand... nearly knocked me over with their word counts! They each have a goal of 2,000 words. Most of them came back after the first week with quite respectable word counts. Some, however, really surprised me. I have two that were within 200 words of 2k, and several that passed the 50% mark! This may not be high word counts for the WriMos that are used to thousands a day, but for a class of Middle School students that may not have chosen the class and had no idea it included a project like this, these are great numbers. The best part is that when I asked if they were almost done with the story itself, I got answers like "No way, I'm still early in the Rising Action." and "I just hit the Inciting Incident!"