Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 NaNoWriMo by Pencil: Week Two Report

Pencil Shaving Roses

OK, second attempt at this post. The formatting went wonky after I posted it the first time, and when I went back in to got eaten by gremlins. And of course, I don't have the entire original. I'm attempting to fix by memory.

I'll cut straight to the pencil stuff.

A short rant on pencil variability:
1. Mirados: In my web wanderings, I'd read great things about the Mirados, and was super excited to find them in a store locally: both the yellow Classics and the flat black Mirado Black Warriors. All packages are marked Made in Mexico. Now...all have some fit and finish issues--paint chips overlapping the ferrules, that sort of thing. But the Black Warriors--or the two that I've pulled out and used so far--have issues that go beyond cosmetics. 

The very first one out of the package has a lead that's so off-center, it's a pain in the neck to sharpen the thing. and it wobbles as you write.

 The second had space around the lead...that's the only way I can describe it. Which meant that the lead flexed as you wrote with it, making obnoxious clicking noises. It drove me bonkers (not that long of a drive, perhaps). I kept sharpening it hoping it would get better, and I think I've finally reached a point where the lead is more tightly gripped and less noisy and doesn't feel about to break at any moment. But it took at least an inch off the over-all length, and at any moment, the problem may crop up again.

 It's all rather annoying, because they should be great pencils: the matte-finished round barrel feels good in the hand, and the lead is quite nice. It's greyer (lighter) than the CalCedar offerings, and no, it isn't the smoothest pencil ever (that'd be the Palomino, at least in my so-far-limited experience), but it's pleasant to write with, leaves a nice solid line, and doesn't seem to have any weird gritty chunky bits in it.

I've not had similar issues with the Mirado Classics, but I've really only used one of those heavily. Thus far, I'm wondering if I should stick with the Classics. They have a more substantial feel, too, I suppose because of the heavier lacquer. And they don't tend to charge off into their own little battles every time you set them down on a table like the round-bodied Black Warriors do.

2. Ticonderogas: Leaving overall thoughts on the whole outsourcing of an American classic thing aside...I've discovered a curious discrepancy: I have some Tri-writes and a few Ticonderogas that were marked "Made in Mexico" on the blister pack. They're...just OK, if that. Rather pale writing, and with very definite chunks in the lead here and there. Scratchy. Sometimes you have to go back over a line where they've just failed to write due to a hard bit of something in the lead.

This weekend I found myself at Staples (odd how often that seems to happen) and noted that a) they carry various grades of Ticonderogas and b) those that come in different grades come in cardboard boxes instead of the blister packs, are not pre-sharpened, and most are "Made in China" rather than Mexico. Hm. I was curious. I bought some--just reg'lar HBs for now. And they're very different. I don't think it's at all subjective--I can see the difference on a page if I switch back and forth between the two. The Chinese Ticonderogas are darker, and don't have the same issues with chunks of something making them scratchy. Maybe it's a batch variance rather than an across the board thing, I'm not sure. Or maybe the boxed Ticonderogas are made using a different "recipe". In any case, I quite like them.

Some stats:
  • Composition book pages killed: 146 as of this morning. Hoping to break into the 160s by the end of the day.
  • Pencils obliterated: Well, the original Forest Choice has retired to the short-pencil jar. Next to follow will almost certainly be the Helix Oxford, followed by the most used of the USA Golds and the crooked Mirado Black Warrior...but all but the Oxford may live to write another week. Now that I'm using the many pencils sharpened method instead of tending to use a few favorites most, the wear is more spread out.
  • Word count: somewhere upwards of 22630. I upped my words-per-page estimate to 155, since even the dialog pages I counted had at least that.

Pencil Achievement Awards--only one this week. We've run low on trophies.
  • Best bang for the buck: I continue to be impressed with the USA Golds, which were about two bucks for twenty-four at Wal-mart. They're on the skinny side, but write well even on the bagasse paper, darker than the Ticonderogas and with no weird chunks in the lead. The eraser is smallish and kind of an odd orangey pink, but it works surprisingly well: erases very cleanly, and any eraser bits curl right up into neat shreds to be easily brushed away instead of turning into smeary crumbs like some can.

Aaaand the status of the NaNoWriMo story: OK, so I still haven't really gotten to the story. Two characters who were supposed to be a flash in the pan have spent the last thirty some pages discussing debt and their first kiss and farm equipment and a cousin's ugly eagle lamp and a spider evacuation. Over hot cocoa, no less. (Incidentally, the amount of cocoa/coffee/tea consumed by my characters over the course of my NaNoWriMo career would be an interesting theme for psychoanalysis.)

Considering how much time I've spent recounting about thirty minutes of thelives of these "minor" characters...we'll see how I manage to sum up the next fifty years or so in order to get to what was supposed to be the real story.


deek said...

I've had to fast forward a few times in mine. I love the dialogue that my character have, but I need to keep moving, as there is a story going on:)

Anonymous said...

Love that photo of the shavings. They look like opening roses.

Well, my NaNo is shot to pieces this year. Two weeks on the road and family matters killed half the month. Got a few essays written so it wasn't a complete loss. There's still next year.

It seems there is a lot of variation in pencil manufacture. The Black Warriors have been well made but too light for my needs. The USA Gold have been the best so far of the affordable ones. I have some Faber-Castel pencils that are great but this model isn't available anymore, they are from a decade ago, and the current ones are just too dang expensive.

I have become a pencil sharpener snob. I really like having a sharp point and most sharpeners don't do a good enough job. Fortunately, I have two that are great: a Berol that is screwed to the wall of my office (looks like a plastic body version of the type I used in the 1950s) and a Staedtler portable version. The Staedtler has a plastic body that catches the shavings but the sharpener built into the top is metal. I haven't found a plastic sharpener that is decent.


Little Flower Petals said...

At this point, I think the original plot, such as it was, will have to become a sequel. Or next year's NaNo seed. Come to think of it, I never ended up using last year's original idea, either. I never know where things are going to go when they start rolling.

My favorite pencil sharpener at the moment is a little brass Kum wedge. It sharpens to a fine point without breaking the lead, and without needlessly chewing up the pencil. And it feels great, which counts for something--love the heft of the little thing.

It's a bit messy for on-the-go, though. One of these days I'll try to seek out a container sharpener that works as well--if there is such a thing.

Strikethru said...

What a great photo. Anyone who handwrites Nano is far more of a badass than someone who typewrites it. Just sayin. You've earned your winged pencil tattoo.