The State of the Sushi, 2015

Look at that, a week and a half into 2015 and I’ve already broken my weekly blogging resolutions. Fortunately resolutions are often bigger things to work toward as opposed to falling off the wagon at the first sign of failure.

Books: I thought it was a good idea to start the year off with several books that would make good doorstops. I also thought it was a good idea to request holds on several ebooks while reading more ebooks, all while my physical book holds came in. The two of these combined mean I’m scrambling to read all the books currently in my possession. I’m making decent progress so far with four books read in 2015, but thank goodness for my library’s four-week checkout period on most books. There should be a book review post up around the end of the month, so look for that.

Writing: Remember all those books I mentioned? I haven’t worked on Wikiwrimo much at all since NaNo ended thanks to reading all the books. I haven’t been writing much anywhere–on here, or my paper journal, or fiction. Time to get back on that boat.

Assorted personal stuff: The holidays and my birthday have come and gone, and that leaves us with a cold, miserable winter standing between us and spring. Did I mention I hate winter? It’s cold, we don’t get snow here, and the lack of sunlight and going outside regularly makes me want to crawl into a hole until spring. At least cold weather gives me an excuse to drink lots of tea, as if I needed a reason.

I’m also still open for freelance/full-time gigs, so get in touch if you want me to write a thing. Or social media a thing. Or do lots of other things.

What I’m reading, December 2014 (part two)

I finished 2014 with 121 total books read. Since this week is looking to be a busy week, I’ll pick up reading again after the new year.

If you’re curious, here are all 121 books I read this year.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu: I had high hopes for this one, but in the end it just turned out to be okay. Maybe it was the first person present and multiple points of view, all told in present tense when the book would have worked much better in past tense. Maybe it was how the main character was kind of a boring villain. Whatever the case, I got through the book feeling like not much had actually happened. That said, I didn’t dislike the book, but it could have been done so much better.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 daggers

If I Stay by Gayle Forman: For most of the story, I was all set to give it three stars and move on with my life. The story switches between the present (in yet another first person present tense) and the past–basically Mia’s life flashing before her eyes. I couldn’t really get into all these stories from the past. But then the ending redeemed the book and pulled it up to four stars.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 cellos

The English Breakfast Murder by Laura Childs: I grabbed this because of the title, and honestly, it’s just okay. The prose was okay at best and there was so much infodumping when explaining tea terms. Some of the characters were truly annoying, and some plot points just did not make sense, nor did they come together in the end. I love the idea of a tea shop mystery, but if the others (there are fifteen or so in the series) are like this, I probably won’t pick them up.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 teapots

The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz: This is the book I wish someone had handed me in high school. To be fair, this book didn’t exist when I was in high school ten years ago, but I was good at math and liked math because I was good at it, not because of some inherent beauty behind the subject. Reading something like this probably would have sparked that mathematical love earlier. That said, this is a good read, something I would hand to an advanced high school kid who wants to see the power of math. While there are a few confusing parts, most of the book is well-explained even for someone who quit math after high school.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 maths

The Novelist by Angela Hunt: First, a disclosure–I’m an ex-Christian. This is Christian fiction, and boy is it obvious. Even putting that aside, this book isn’t great. The main character is a famous novelist who’s dealing with a troubled son. She’s teaching a class at a local college, and someone challenges her to write something more personal. So she does. She writes an allegorical novella for her son, who’s struggling with (spoiler alert) what’s revealed to be bipolar. But the narrator’s attitude toward mental illness made me yell out loud on multiple occasions. (Good thing I live alone.) Quite frankly, she’s a terrible parent, even if the kid is 21. The novella’s chapters are told almost alternately with the main story, and honestly, I wasn’t into the obvious allegorial tale at all. I wish the story had been about the jerk kid in the back of her class. He was much more interesting. So unless you’re really into preachy Christian fiction, don’t pick this up.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 allegories

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher: This is book 2 of The Dresden Files series. The general consensus among people I know is that the series picks up around book three or four. Considering the first book wasn’t bad, I gave the second one a try. This wasn’t too bad either. I didn’t love it, but it grabbed my attention, and a lot happened (as opposed to talking about things that happened). Though I have to admit, side character Murphy just might be my favorite. I’m not running out to grab book 3 immediately, but I’ll keep going with this series at some point.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 werewolves

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli: I picked this book up in one of those little libraries and didn’t have any particular expectations for it. That turned out to be a good thing. This book features a female war photographer during the Vietnam war and her two main love interests over the course of the book. Yes, it’s a romance, but there are plenty of war scenes where romance isn’t happening at all. While this book did do a good job at not glamourizing the war, I couldn’t really get into the story. Maybe it was the long bits of prose that while well-written, were definitely skimmable. Maybe it was the confusing beginning and the sudden shift to the past. I dunno, but that’s why this book gets a 3 from me.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 war photos

St. Mallory’s Forever! by Saffina Desforges, Miriam Joy, Charley Robson: I follow one of the authors on Twitter. This story is told from the perspectives of multiple characters, all in the form of blog posts. Since the prose is all blog posts by boarding school students, the writing is not at all formal, and there’s a lack of formal polish that is easily explained away by this. Still, even though the story is confusing on occasion (mostly in the beginning), it’s engaging, funny, and it kept making me wonder what was happening next.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 lacrosse sticks

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: I started this book on Christmas Day and slogged through the first half of the book. The first part was boring, the other parts in the first half, not much better, and I wasn’t seeing much hope. Halfway through I was debating whether to give the book one or two stars, and when you get to that point, there’s not much point in slogging through the rest. So I put it down and felt so much better for it.
Goodreads rating: No rating, did not finish

Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: I’ve performed most of my past work as part of a distributed team, so I’m well experienced in remote work and its perks and downfalls. Because of this, not much was new in Remote. Still, it’s a good read for anyone interested in remote working, or as a guide to give your boss to make the case for remote working, and that’s why this book gets a solid 4.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 teleconferences

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: This is the Basecamp founders’ other book about succeeding in business. It espouses a lot of ideas I’ve embraced for years. No, you don’t have to be a workaholic, no you don’t have to get funding, you just need to put your words into action. And that’s the biggest message of all, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee wanting to get out of the rat race.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 no-BS ideas

Carrie by Stephen King: Somehow I’ve never read anything by Stephen King. I know, I know, take away my reader card. So I picked up Carrie and zoomed through the book yesterday. It’s I’m not the biggest fan of the narrative style, the main story alternating with future reports of the event. But it does the job, and Stephen King’s writing makes up for almost all of this story’s flaws. Considering this is his first of many novels, that’s a good thing.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 PLUG IT UP chants

What’s next? 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, then working my way through the library books waiting for me over the next few days. And after that, who knows? I probably won’t repeat 120 books in 2015, but if I have more time on my hands, you never know. Here’s to another year of reading!

What I’m reading, December 2014 (part one)

I’ve read a lot of books in December. I mean a lot. It’s the 26th and two books stand between me and 120 books for the year, nearly twenty of them read in December alone. Since the original review post for December’s books was getting quite long, here’s the first half now.

(Okay, you might also be getting the first half now so I can make this two posts. Shhh.)

Here goes!

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Oh. My. Baty. This is beautiful. I was skeptical about reading another Cinderella retelling (especially since I was meh about the other one), but after hearing my friends rave about it (including one who won Meyer’s 2013 Write Like Crazy challenge), I had to grab a copy. I’m so glad I did. The writing is beautiful, the story stuck out (hello, cyborg mechanic!) in a wonderful way, and every character had a distinct personality (or personality chip). Time to pick up the second book!
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 cyborgs

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell: This was another one that lots of friends raved about, and for good reason. I was overcome with emotion about seventy pages in and bawled my way through the book, even though the book wasn’t just a sad story. My new goal in life is to write as frankly as Rowell does in third person.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 mixtapes

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe: This book is gorram brilliant. All the questions are silly, but Randall uses science and math to solve them, along with some stick figures and [citaton needed] for good measure. The science is sound, but it’s explained so clearly that non-science nerds can also enjoy what’s going on. Stop reading this review and go read this book.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 [citation needed]

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (okay, JK Rowling) : I don’t read too many mysteries, but this is a JKR mystery, so of course I had to. The characters are well-rounded, and the mystery was brilliantly crafted, and now I need to grab the next one (which is about a novelist, I hear).
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 designer handbags

Divergent by Veronica Roth: Unpopular opinion time: I did not like this book. It left me wondering “Why?” but not in the way that keeps you turning the page. Why were the factions like that in the first place? Why were only these traits the ones to focus on? If this novel takes place in the large city of Chicago, why were there so few initates in Beatrice’s group? Things don’t add up. The first few chapters left me wondering if this was a Hunger Games fic. This book should not have been told in first person present. That said, the book wasn’t awful; I did find myself reading chapter after chapter, if only to get it over with. I won’t be seeking out the other books.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 factions

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I know predictions of the far future are mostly silly, but Ernest Cline’s version of thirty years from now is not completely implausible. The narrator, Wade, sounds like that friend whose stories you can’t help but listen to, making you feel like you’ve always been there. The hunt for an easter egg in virtual reality propels the story forward, while bringing up lots of questions for how virtual reality could work in our world. All in all, a great read.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 80s references

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld: This book is about a Wrimo! Specifically, a teen Wrimo who gets a publishing deal. The story alternates between the writer’s story and the book she’s rewriting, and you can tell when things from the author’s life influence her character’s life. While I enjoyed this book, I enjoyed the author’s adventures much more than the character’s adventures and am not sure why. Sure, some of the author’s shenanigans were unrealistic, but they still kept me wondering what would happen next.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 matchbooks

Sleeps with Dogs: Confessions of an Animal Nanny in Over Her Head by Lindsey Grant: Lindsey is a past NaNo staffer, and the idea behind this book was on her staff profile. Anyway, this book tells the tale of Lindsey’s past pet nanny business, including all the unusual animals (and their more unusual humans). Stories of the rest of her life are also interwoven with the pet adventures, both from her past and adventures taking place at the same time. I enjoyed reading about all of these things, but sometimes it was confusing to find that line where she reflects on her past and how it relates to the present. If that makes sense. Still, I enjoyed reading it (and meeting her again at a book event).
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stubborn dogs

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick: Books are no longer a thing in the world this book takes place in, a futuristic world where the world is almost destroyed. The main character, an epilectic teenager called Spaz, meets an old man named Ryder who still remembers books and stories. The story moved on quickly enough with a quest to save Spaz’s sister, but the book didn’t pull me in any way. I didn’t find myself particularly invested in the outcome. While it was engaging, I found some parts confusing and a bit jump-the-logic-boatesque for me.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 normals

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith: Yep, this is JKR’s second crime story. I was particularly excited about this one because it features a novelist. The story itself pulls you through the mystery, and the side characters are just as complex as the main characters. This book is a lot of talking to people, and JKR does a good job at not making it boring. (Encouraging for me since I write so much dialogue.)
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 ropes

Recipe: Slacker poutine

Someone on Twitter mentioned poutine, which made me remember my potatoes and leftover brown gravy in the fridge.

So I present to you…

Poutine for Slackers

You will need:
* potatoes (Frozen potatoes or fries work great for maximizing the slacker nature of this recipe)
* brown gravy (You can get a can in the store to maintain the slacker name. Or do what I did: save some leftover takeout gravy. To give you an idea of how lazy this recipe gets, I used KFC gravy.)
* cheese (“What, no cheese curds?” I hear you cry. Dude. This is a slacker recipe, not a genuine attempt at poutine. Also, I didn’t have any cheese curds handy. Read that italicized part again.)

Got all that? Good.

1. Prepare your potatoes. If you’re using frozen potatoes you can just pop them in the oven or fry them or whatever the bag says. If you’re using fresh potatoes like I did, chop them up and throw them in some oil. Cook until they’re done. I like mine golden brown and a tiny bit crunchy.

2. Prepare your gravy. If you used the premade bag, you’ll actually have to make and stir the stuff. If you’re using a can or leftover gravy, pop the gravy in the microwave until it’s warm.

3. Place potatoes on a plate or other serving dish of choice. Pour gravy on top. Sprinkle cheese on top (I used mozzarella). Enjoy.

I was going to get a photo of the completed product, but that stuff disappeared in mere minutes. Another time…. oh who am I kidding, I’ll never remember.

Sushi must accomplish things: 2015 goals

It’s that time of year again: the times where every blog features articles like “X trends to watch out for in 2015″ and “Y ways to evaluate your 2014 results”. I was going to evaluate my 2014 goals until looking through my archives for a 2014 goals post… and there was none. Oops.

But I do have some things to work on in 2015. Here are a few of those things.

Update this blog at least once a week. Sometimes I get really really good at writing in here regularly, and then there are those times I drop off the planet for awhile.

Read 60 books. “But Sushi, you’ve read over 100 books in 2014, and the year’s not over yet.” I know, but I also have no idea what my 2015 schedule will look like. Sixty should still be doable even if I suddenly have a lot less time. And who knows, I might accidentally read 120 books.

Get a (better) job. Which reminds me, if you know anyone who needs a content/user support/marketing/geek of many trades in Atlanta (or remote), send them my way!

Get moving. Most of my hobbies involve me sitting on my butt. And yes, I’ve tried walking while writing, but it wasn’t very productive. So it’s time to get moving. I live near multiple multiuse trails, so let’s set a goal of getting out there and walking at least once a week. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Edit at least one novel. This will probably be The Shuttershock Worlds, which I rewrote during NaNo 2014.

Write more code. Build a thing to share or that other people can use.

Attend Night of Writing Dangerously again. It’ll be my fourth one if I manage it! The subgoal here is to win a word sprint there again, but that depends on too many external factors, like who else is there.

Plan something awesome for Wikiwrimo’s 5th birthday in June. I’m not sure what yet, but there will be a thing.

Write at least 100k for NaNoWriMo 2015. Exact goal is to be determined, but I don’t want to break my six-digit streak, which should still be doable even if I get a lot busier.

Most of these things are on my goal list every year, which means I’m not doing much to work toward them or that I want to work on these things every year. I’m not sure which. To 2015! Or better yet, can we fast forward straight to spring? I would love that.

What I’m reading, post-NaNoWriMo 2014 edition

I mentioned in my last book review post that most of my reading ceases in October and November. This was mostly true. Here’s what I’ve been reading during Nano season (and post-Nano, so far).

Bound, Possession, and The Nine by J. Elizabeth Hill: I see the author in my Twitter feed occasionally, considering quite a few people I know follow her (and each other). So it was just a matter of time before I checked out her books. Who says Twitter doesn’t sell books? Anyway. The worldbuilding and characters are brilliant and feel natural, and the story is well-written and engaging throughout the whole series.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 mirrors

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury: I picked this up at the library when I just wanted to sit down and write for an afternoon, then read it before November arrived. The book itself is an essay collection where Bradbury waxes poetic on the art of writing, and it’s beautiful and I want to print the whole thing out and hang it on my wall.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 witticisms

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition by Chris Baty: First off, a couple of tips appear in the book, so I got a free (signed!) copy. Woo! Now to the review. This book is as good as the first one. While a lot of the content is the same as from the first edition, there are published Wrimo pep talks, more tips from Wrimos (including yours truly), and no more references to floppy discs. There’s enough material unique to this edition to make it worth a read.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 brilliant metaphors

30 Chapters: 30 Cheats by Brian Wood: First, I know the author. That aside, this book is a metabook of writing advice. The advice is sound, especially when I’m chuckling at typos like Decembruary. While the book is a first draft, the writing is pretty solid, and most of the awkward turns of phrase are part of the metanovel joke. And a little birdie told me there’s a sequel soon…
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 metajokes

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell: I went into this book expecting a lot and was disappointed. It wasn’t bad, mind you, but there were plenty of stories and not enough analysis on those stories. That said, I am now thinking about how my brain does snap judgments, like how I can usually tell how many stars I’ll rate a book within a few chapters.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 snap judgments

Up next… who knows? I’m picking up close to half a dozen books at the library tomorrow. This is what happens when all my self-imposed holds end because NaNo’s over. So many books.

That time I opened a tea tin with a hammer

In case you didn’t know, I love tea. Despite the self-imposed tea-buying hiatus for the majority of this year, I finally bought more tea. To be specific, I spotted a 24 Days of Tea advent calendar from a DavidsTea store in San Francisco. Those things went out of stock on the website in hours, and the closest store to Atlanta is Chicago, so I handed over some money and a calendar became mine.

I was a good Sushi. I let the tea sit and didn’t open any of them until yesterday, December first. After getting home from my Thanksgiving weekend, I cracked open the advent calendar with a tiny 1 on it and was rewarded with my tea of the day: Forever Nuts, a fruit and nut blend that I heard turned water into a beautiful reddish pink.

Sweet, right? I got to work opening the tiny (but very cute) tin. Note the words “got to work”. See, here’s how the process should have gone. Step one: open tin. Step two. Brew tea. Step three: profit.

Here’s how it really went.

Step one: Attempt to pop tin open, but the lid is practically glued on.

Step two: Attempt to unscrew the lid, thinking it’s one of those tins you have to unscrew, but nothing budges. Grab one of those rubber grips and try. Nothing moves.

Step three: Repeat steps one and two a few more times until it’s pretty clear the lid isn’t budging. Start to suspect the thing really is glued on.

Step four: Tweet your frustrations, then repeat steps one and two. You know how complaining about an annoyance sometimes makes it go away? If only it were that easy.

Step five: To Google! Look up ways to unseal a container, even though you’re already familiar wtih most of the tips. Try steps one and two again for good measure.

Step six: Grab a knife and stab the top plastic part of the jar. Manage to get a cut or two in there, but nowhere near enough to scoop out any tea. Try steps one and two again. You know, just in case.

Step seven: Bang up the sides of the container. Try steps one and two again. Tweet again.

Step eight: Refusing to accept defeat, grab a hammer and hammer the sides of the tin until it finally budges. Enjoy tea and hope to any gods listening that the other 23 days aren’t like this.

#24daysoftea: Now with hammers!

I earned that tea. I just don’t want to waste half an hour of my life on opening the others.

NaNoWriMo 2014 so far

I never seem to blog in November, do I? Funny how that works; I know a ton of folks who do manage to blog during NaNoWriMo, and some do it much more often than others.

Let’s get out of the way what a bunch of you are probably wondering: I’m at 145,400 words right now. Cool? Cool.

This year’s NaNo has been much different than any of my past years. This year is my (lucky?) 13th of participating in NaNoWriMo. Every year has presented its challenges to overcome and its achievements to unlock. This year was no exception. I got NaNo 2014 off to a fun start with making the executive decision not to start the month off with a 50k day and in fact wrote “only” 12.5k on the first day and 25k on the first weekend. This resulted in only good things, actually. In the years of a 50k day, I would find myself too exhausted to write any substantial amount for a week afterward. This year, I kept up the pace of over 10k a day for over a week, reaching 50k on day four and 100k on day eight. Coincidentally, day eight was NaNoWriMo’s Double Up Donation Day, and since doubling my donations and total word count were out of the question, I doubled my daily quota up to that point to reach 100k total.

And then I hit the wall.

Remember when I said this year brought its own challenges? Well, one of those challenges is that I wasn’t writing any new novels from scratch of my own creation this year. My first novel (finished at 70k on day six) was the plot chosen by my top Night of Writing Dangerously donor. But this year I decided to do something different. I had no idea what to write after finishing that novel, but doing a rewrite of my alternate worlds novel was lingering in the back of my mind. This is exactly what happened.

You know what? I loved rewriting that novel. Sure, it fell apart at the end because I had to start thinking about the plot and the science in science fiction, but overall I loved writing it. More importantly, I have a draft to work with that’s much less confusing to follow than my first draft, which was exactly what i wanted out of the rewrite.

But then the crash happened. Even though I loved writing the story, the pressure was on to make it, well, less sucky. This led to me writing a little more slowly and agonizing over every word… even if I know full well that word choice agony is at least a third draft problem. It also led to me trying to make the right plot choices the first time, even though there would be many many drafts where many of the plot points would change.

Who cares? I eventually had to tell myself. Just write The End and worry about it later. And that’s what I wound up doing.

Meanwhile I still needed an idea for what to write after the rewrite was over. Some plots need too much reworking on a short timeframe, others didn’t capture my interest at all right now… the list went on and on. Finally I settled on my 2006 Nano novel, a good premise that didn’t work so well now that the Internet is part of everyone’s lives. Come on, we have computers in our pockets! Surely my main character would have just Googled the person she was looking for.

So I started that novel, even winning a word sprint at the Night of Writing Dangerously while working on that novel. And then, after poking at my novel for days while writing a few sentences at a time, I realized something.

This story was boring. Sure, there are lots of things I could make happen in that story, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care enough about the characters or the plot to do so. In fact, the majority of the plot from the first draft had already happened.

It wasn’t just boredom with the story either. Everything else in my life, things I had ignored in November, suddenly looked so much more appealing. My big stack of books to read. My suspended library holds, which end December first and mean more books. My adventures in code and making things and maybe playing with the NaNoWriMo API. (There’s a write API this year. Exciting!) Writing in here. Writing in my paper journal. Wikiwrimo. Not to mention the pressures of real life pushing down on me and needing to be taken care of in the near future.

Part of me still feels bad, though. Even though I’ve already verified and won, actively quitting a story feels like quitting Nano. This is a different feeling than getting nowhere near finished with a story but still writing to the end, like I did last year. This year feels like I’m quitting, despite winning. I’m not sure how to feel about this. I know what I’m capable of and know that my main 200k goal for this year is still possible, but I want to do everything but work on that story.

“Why don’t you work on something new?” you might ask. That’s the problem. I have plenty of very vague ideas that could spark story ideas, along with at least two more Nano novels I’d like to finish or rewrite. But I have no idea what to do with them, what needs to happen… suddenly I find myself wanting a plan instead of taking a vague idea and running with it. Am I becoming a planner? Dare I say it… maybe. I need a month to flesh out some of those ideas before next November. Maybe that’ll be a camp project. That could be fun.

But for now? I’m going to attempt to resume my other life activities and use all this newly learned info to not burn out next year.

P.S. And for those wondering how the Night of Writing Dangerously went… it was amazing. There will be a post for that. And now that I’ve said as much, it’s going to happen.

P.P.S. This post is longer than what I’ve written in the novel today.

Farewell, #50kday

For the past three years, I’ve completed the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo in the first twenty-four hours. Before completing the challenge, I finished 50,000 earlier every year, so trying to reach the goal in one day was the next step. (Also, alcohol bribes were involved.)

Every 50k day is wonderful and terrible in its own way, but last November first was my last single-day attempt. That said, I am still doing NaNo this year. Just not in 24 hours.

Not that I have to justify my choice to anyone, but in case you’re wondering, I do have a few good reasons…

My body isn’t getting any younger. 50k day is a painful endeavor. Not just for the wrists (though my wrist braces help), but for the rest of my body. My posture is atrocious, meaning my shoulders and back hurt for days after a 50k day. It’s time to end that.

I like sleeping. I really like sleeping. You know how sleeping goes out the window during NaNo when you’re staying up to write enough words to hit the next thousand words or to get ahead of someone else? It’s so much worse when you’re trying to do 50k in a day. Most of that is because 50k day almost has to be done on no sleep. It’s theoretically possible to sleep a normal night’s sleep and still complete 50k day, but the reality looks much different. I’ve finished all three of my 50k days with less than two hours to go, which leaves very little time for sleeping. When you include the very short nap taken on All NaNo’s Eve, this usually means I’m awake for around 40 straight hours, with the exception of a couple of very short naps. I can’t do that anymore. Now I get sleepy before 10pm and sleep about ten hours a night. I really, really like sleeping, and 50k day ensures I get almost no sleep over the course of two days. My body can’t take that anymore.

The emotional recovery takes even longer. The 50k day experience is a roller coaster… and I’m getting off the wild ride.

If you’ve done NaNo before, you’re probably familiar with the week one fresh excitement, week two blues, week three “Hey, I can do this!”, and week four victory. It’s a roller coaster of emotions all crammed into a month of noveling. No wonder we need December to recover from NaNo!

50k day crams all those emotions in 24 hours. And let me tell you, there are few things less exciting than hitting the week two blues at 6am on the first, knowing you have 35k to go, especially on no sleep over the past 24 hours. You know how emotions seem to exaggerate themselves when you’re hungry or tired or otherwise uncomfortable? I’m usually tired and hungry and frustrated with my plot at 6am, and all that combined with the lack of daylight sends me into the 6am blues. And just like NaNo, the only cure is to keep going. And maybe take a quick nap.

But that’s nothing compared to the days following. I barely write for about a week afterward because the 50k day took such a physical and emotional toll on me. Granted, I’m usually trying to start a new novel, and after 24 hours of sitting in a chair and writing, sitting back down and starting something completely different from the last novel feels like the hardest thing. That week it takes for me to get back to writing is a week I could spend, well, writing. And in less pain.

It’s highly unlikely I’ll finish NaNo any faster. I’ve done NaNo for awhile–since 2002, to be specific. And every year I’ve completed 50,000 words earlier, from 6pm on the 30th in 2002 all the way to around 10pm on November first last year. Even my 50k days were completed earlier and earlier, where I shaved off minutes instead of days. And now I’m not sure I can go any faster. Last year’s attempt was my first with zero non-NaNo activities planned around the day, making it was my most efficient attempt. And I still used almost the entire day to write.

Am I quitting the 50k day while I’m ahead? Maybe. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

To all of you attempting a 50k day, or even if you’re just thinking about it: I salute you and your wrists. And I’ll probably still join in on a 50k weekend this year.

50k Day: how I did it

I completed a 50,000 word day on November first for each of the past three years. I fully recognize the ridiculousness of this feat and have wondered how people have done it in the past before my overachieving days, so let’s talk about how I did it.

Before beginning: I know several other people who have done a 50k day in the past, and one who went beyond this crazy to do a 75k day. At least one has written up their tips on completing the challenge. Besides the sitting down and writing part, all of our approaches are different. What works for me might not work for them (or you), and vice versa.

So without further ado…

How to write a novel in a day

Plan your novel beforehand. Or don’t. It’s up to you, really. Just be okay if that outline you painstakingly thought through weeks in advance gets tossed out the window at 5am because your main character decided to go on a killing spree. Not that this has happened before or anything. It is a very good idea to have at least a vague premise unless you’re REALLY good at making stuff up as you go along. And make sure it’s something you’re excited about writing. You know how you find yourself hating what you’re writing and the world sucks and why didn’t you just write 2k for day one? Well, imagine that feeling at 6am when you’ve barely slept for the last day. It sucks. But just like the week two blues, you can get past the 6am blues.

Take care of important tasks due during the first week of NaNo before November gets here. Chances are good you have some bill due at the beginning of the month. For me, that’s rent. Send out those bills before November first so you don’t realize they’re late on the second. Especially if, like 2014, the second is on a Sunday.

Tell everyone you know. Well, tell everyone you’re normally in contact with that you have some big plans for that day and seriously, don’t contact you unless the house is on fire or something equally in need of your intervention. If you normally work on the day you’re attempting this, I highly recommend taking a day off from work if you’d otherwise be working because you need all the time you can get.

Take a nap the evening before. This is where I usually fail miserably thanks to putting off everything until the last minute. But if you can manage it, finish all your prep before All NaNo’s Eve, then do whatever you need to do to fall asleep until around 11pm.

Sleep–but not for long. Our bodies need sleep (unless you’re already a cyborg, in which case TELL ME YOUR SECRET). But let’s be real here, you’ll probably need almost the entire 24 hours to write that 50k. Sleeping takes up a lot of time. My recommendation: catnaps. Set a timer and sleep for 15 or so minutes at a time. It won’t be as refreshing as a full night’s sleep (especially if you didn’t follow the tip about the evening nap), but it might be enough until you get that second wind.

Drink fluids that aren’t caffeinated. Caffeine is great, but too much caffeine isn’t. Water is a good thing to have too. I like to alternate tea with water or hot chocolate to hit all these needs. If you do go with coffee or soda, watch the intake.

Eat. And not just candy or chips or whatever you can get your hands on. You’re staying up for at least 24 hours straight, and your body needs long-lasting nourishment to do that without keeling over. I wake up starving every morning, and the only thing that keeps my stomach from eating itself in the middle of the night is that part where I’m sleeping. As for 50k day, I make a big pot of soup a day or two before and eat off it throughout the day (after breakfast, of course). Be prepared to eat at unusual times, like those times just before dawn when you might otherwise be sleeping.

Write consistently. That’s the only way you’re going to get this done, after all. But considering most folks need to write for almost all the 24 hours, it’s a good idea to have a consistent writing schedule and set goals for yourself. I wrote for 45 minutes, then took a 15-minute brain break. You can do this or a 15/5 or 10/5 or whatever you want as long as you sit down and write consistently. I used my fifteen minute breaks for Internet and brain and stretch and food breaks, then watched the minutes pass and thought “Hocrap, better get back into writing mode” as the top of the hour grew closer.

Pay attention to your body. This includes your wrists, your elbows, and posture. Make sure you’re writing in a comfortable and ergonomic writing environment. That means shoulders relaxed, 90-degree angle at your elbow, sitting up straight. Most of my pain didn’t come from my wrists (though there was some–the wrist braces helped there) but from my shoulders and back because my posture is atrocious. When something starts hurting, stop. That pain’s there for a reason.

Reward yourself. Who doesn’t like rewards? You can do mini-rewards or a big one at the end. Last year I had five bonbons left and ate one for every 10,000 words. My first attempt, I had a bottle of wine ready for the end. Do whatever works for you.

Stay strong. Never give up. Be awesome. No matter how much you write, you’re doing something amazing. Own it. Then when the calendar turns to November second, go to sleep, wake up later, and do something else awesome.