the anthony dobranski blog


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NaNoWriMo recap (winner!)

National Novel Writing Month was a huge personal success for me, and a big confidence booster. I will miss my silicone NaNoWriMo bracelet tomorrow.

By the numbers, 50,028 words, finished in the wee hours of November 27. On the twenty-three days I wrote, I averaged 2,175 words a day, due mainly to a big push in the first two weeks that had me writing close to 2,500 a day.

As a project, I reached the end of the draft narrative. I kept control of the pacing so I landed it roughly as I intended. It was an active effort, matching my word count to the outlines, planning scenes ahead in 500-word increments, fleshing out passages still short of their part of the total.

However measured, when I could write, I did, at speed and with some level of consistent craft throughout. I’m not sure I believed I could do it. I am glad to no longer have to rely on belief.

I don’t think I have universal advice, but for me it started well before November 1. Continue reading


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NaNoWriMo update at the halfway mark (yay)

I keep meaning to blog! And it isn’t that I am SO BUSY – NaNoWriMo has become so all encompassing that all my draft blogs are navel-gazing treatises on processes which inform the start of my day but go by the wayside when it’s ten pm and I still have seven hundred words to go. Anyway.

In short, I am well ahead, 70% done (35,286 words out of 50,000) at the halfway mark.

I won’t be able to keep up this pace, but that was my point in pushing hard early – a strategy developed with and supported by my wife, who took point on family issues these last two weeks.

Still, to say a marathon is unsustainable as a lifestyle is to miss the point of the extremity. The point of the extremity is something personal to each extremist. Continue reading


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No tablets for me

NaNoWriMo 2015 Day 02 – 3775 words. I think it is the most I have written in one day ever. I had an outline but a lot of patches that I found promising ways to fill. Many more distractions today than yesterday, including house painters, so I worked very late at it, but I am pleased to have beaten the goal on this biggest single day of my schedule.

One good thing about being a slow blogger is that you don’t have as much to undo.

At several different points this past year I was convinced I had found a way to use a small touchscreen device – sometimes a tablet, sometimes my phone – in a way that helped my writing more than the extra work it took to use. I even wrote posts but never finished them.

None of my tools survived so much as a week. While the hardware form-factor was pleasant, the compromises of using apps designed to take over the screen and only open one document at at a time (with no local storage) was too inconvenient for long-form writing.

That said, I had some fun. My most noteworthy creation was to take a hinged keyboard for a tablet, and replace the tablet with plexiglass and poster-hanging putty, to make a rest for the phone.

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It worked well enough that I know in a pinch I could do remote work on it at length. Despite its appealing 1970s-tech look, I wouldn’t want to.

The real question of course is why I do this. Continue reading


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Pandoc makes for easy document conversion

NaNoWriMo 2015, Day 01by the site’s count, 1966 words, seventy more than my goal. It went smoothly, without many breaks. When I was within 300 words of the goal I was more interested in using them to flesh out what I had already written than to push forward. This kind of internal editing is what they all tell you not to do, but it helped me find places I was repeating myself and places where I hadn’t gotten the point across.

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My serial novel developed an idiosyncratic workflow for each week’s chapter:

  • I wrote plain text files using Markdown syntax which I discussed here
  • I send my editors Word docx format
  • My final version goes out in HTML

It works for the project. I like to compose drafts in plain text, with no settings to change or distracting questions from the software. Using Markdown syntax, I tag words or lines for later formatting. It’s also easier to write on the go. Markdown-aware smartphone text editors are nimbler tools on phones and tablets than full word-processors.

In Word docx format, my editors can use the Track Changes feature, letting me accept the edits into the final text with a click. Since the final destination is a WordPress website (and, an ebook), it “goes to press” as HTML.

Thanks to a nimble command-line document converter called Pandoc, I can get clean trustworthy conversions between different formats. I can use each app for what it does best, and maintain a smooth process. Continue reading


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My return to writing, via NaNoWriMo

I have long been absent from public life and social media. In July I had severe medical problems – short-lived, thankfully, but requiring rest.

In some way, the medical problems deflated me. My mood, always a little low to begin with, got lower still. I could manage family obligations, and family joys, but I was discouraged, and lost my way in my booklife.

I am still finishing the serial. But, in my lows, I saw that both my novel and the serial are very rigid stories, requiring a lot of facts or details from the real world. I wanted to give my imagination a free rein.

Thus I am doubling down on my existing commitments to the serial by doing NaNoWriMo, an attempt to put down fifty thousand original words of a new novel (as much as The Great Gatsby plus a long Sunday magazine article) between November 1 and 30. Continue reading