Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaNo Update: The Next Phase

I've been validated!

After a roughly 26-hour writing marathon at the end of a fevered-pace weekend (with a 2,900-word count average over the past six days) , I have crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line. Word count by their validator: 50,255 words. According to my Word program, the total is 51,649, a 1,394-word discrepancy. I'll bet it's the footnotes.

I have a lot of footnotes.

According to my Word program, I had crossed the NaNo finish line about 5-1/2 hours earlier than the site's reckoning. What with NaNo's pace, the draft is already very rough, and that roughness doesn't compare with what I had slapped together in those last hours.

My NaNo is effectively over, but my work is far from done. How far?

1. The #SciFund Challenge runs through December 15, and I will continue to cover it in realtime. The #SciFund story -- part of what attracted me to this project is because #SciFund is a story -- is more than the event itself. It's more than a fabulous community of scientists who have bonded with each other -- and with non-scientists -- around the globe, in a way that transforms everyone involved (including me!).

The event has added a new layer to already-existing discussions concerning crowdfunding in general, science funding in general (both within the US and internationally), open access to research, and the state of science, period. And I'm just touching on the main points.

I am personally fascinated -- awed, frankly -- by the interplay of layers I'm seeing. By the way in which the human interest stories of individuals are getting folded into something very, very big that is happening across monetary, academic, technical, and political landscapes. And by the way those relatively tiny but powerful human interest stories are affecting those massive landscapes. It has literally taken my breath away.

That's the kind of material that is part of my ongoing process of discovery. The scope of my project has shifted from what I had first envisioned, much the way in which the dorsal fin shifts on the male spinner dolphins that Matthew Leslie is studying, where it's hypothesized that one edge of the fin grows while the other edge stops growing. When I had started this writing, I had expected to grow one "edge" of the story, but another "edge" has been growing instead, with #SciFund remaining the central focus.

2. I am also dealing with the laws of physics (or at least the laws of coffee-saturated biology). My breaking the 50,000-word barrier doesn't mean that I am up to date in assembling the data I've been collecting. My draft narrative currently runs through November 23. That means I've got five days of #SciFund-related events that I haven't even touched yet, beyond grabbing info off the Web. Before my six-day frenzy I had been running a good ten days behind. And I know I'm missing a lot that's out there, including conceptually. When the #SciFund experiment ends its crowdfunding phase on Dec. 15, I will still likely have days worth of data to process. And that's just for the realtime narrative part.

3. I have concentrated on Archie-writing rather than Michael-writing. Put another way, I have concentrated on the realtime narrative material rather than on material devoted solely to the projects themselves. Those project narratives are important to the draft, but they can be done later because the material there is relatively static. The realtime narrative is dynamic, meaning that it can get away from me if I don't keep up with it.

That still leaves me with a lot to write. However, it's material that will wait for me.

4. Good old-fashioned editing. My draft is slapdash. It's like an underpainting, with basic shapes and colors and the relationships established between forms and angles. It's missing a lot of nuance. It likely contains unnecessary repetitions and some gaping holes. And the narrative itself is choppy, with edges that need smoothing, and bridges that I need to build between sections.

All that said, watching this amazing event unfold has been and continues to be a privilege. (Want to be a Science Santa? Here's a taste!)

Meanwhile, I've had my five-hour nap following my writing marathon. I've lived the "NaNo lifestyle": holed up at home, not getting dressed, eating out of cans, and watching with increasing alarm the level in my one remaining coffee bag decrease. I have not yet seen the movie The Road to Perdition, but I had found Thomas Newman's gorgeous score, which had fueled my last-push marathon after I had spent Sunday night listening to Hearts of Space.

There are errands in my near future. And a shower. Not in that order.

And then -- back to the story.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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