NaNoWriMo & MeMo

by Pari

Contests and I have a fairly testy relationship. You see, I don’t tend to win them. And not winning tends to engender all kinds of pesky feelings like, well, insecurity, anger, envy . . .

Yeah, I know. Pretty unproductive, hunh?

So when I heard about this whole wacko NaMoWriMo contest – the writing of a 50,000+ word novel during the month of November when holidays demand attention too – I wondered why anyone in his or her right mind would sign up. What possible benefit could there be to having to write so fast there wouldn’t be time to edit? I mean, really. That would just be another 50,000 words added to the crappy inventory of crappy stuff already out there.

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about anyone else’s output. Just my own. 50,000 words in 30 days? It’d have to be crap. Right?

(At this point you might wonder how, with such a negative attitude, I manage to get up each day. . . especially at 6 AM. Believe me, it’s a struggle.)

Well, this year, having gone to the intensive master class and wanting to put a fire under my productivity anyway, I defied all my initial objections and committed.

From November 1 until today . . .

I didn’t
— upload a single word count at the website
— sign up for a single forum to chat with others about the experience
— watch videos for encouragement
— talk with friends or anyone else about what I was doing (not really)
— edit my prose
— worry about the crappy quality of the writing DURING the act of writing (night-time sweats were another thing, of course)

I did
WRITE 52,000+ words in 26 days*

And today, after “winning” this contest, I’m sitting here wondering if I should bother turning in the manuscript for the final word count.

Because, you know what? I’m not sure I need other people to know I’m a winner on that website. My sense of accomplishment has more to do with having done it than announcing it to the world (except my Murderati buddies, of course).

But I’ve got to admit, I feel GREAT! 

I’m not done with the novel yet – maybe 2/3 of the way through – but I know where I’m going with it. As of tomorrow, with the end of the contest, I’ll have time to do a little research on some questions that came up during the writing. And I think, realistically, I’ll have the first draft of the entire book before the end of the year.

Sure . . . some of the writing in this new book is really bad. Some of it is really good.

So what?

I’m 52,000+ words closer to completing a new novel than I was on November 1.

The beauty of committing to NaNoWriMo – at least for me – was just that. I committed. I didn’t second-guess myself about the writing. For 26 glorious days, I ignored all the junk that can impede a writer’s originality and output. [During the same time period, I also wrote a few short stories and an article for a local magazine.]

And you know what?

I really, really felt like the writer I want to be. Butt in chair. Working. No excuses. Reveling when the words flow. Pushing through when things get tough and the Muse and I are trying to find ways to torpedo each other. 

I loved it all.

Every damn minute of it.

 

Today I’m wondering about several things:

—  Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? If so, what did you think of the experience?

— Should I upload my manuscript? Is there a benefit to doing that of which I might not be aware?

— If you haven’t tried NaNoWriMo, is there another similar experience you’ve had where you were required to jump in without self-censorship and just make it happen within a defined period of time?

I’m looking forward to your answers today. Our conversations are always so interesting.

 

*I had to go out of town during the contest and couldn’t be alone to write during that time. So I had to finish early.

49 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo & MeMo

  1. Jen B

    Congratulations on your first NaNoWriMo! It really is glorious fun. I did my sixth this year and every year I learn something new about my writing and what I want to produce.

    There’s no benefit to uploading your novel except to receive the winner goodies, which are web badges, a certificate stating you’ve won, etc. It’s all for you. They don’t keep (or read) your novel. But last year I printed off all the certificates that said I’d won, and that was somewhat affirming.

    NaNo is truly one of a kind, but the Friday Flash that a lot of people do seems to produce the same anti-censorship type writing, as long as you keep up the habit.

    Reply
  2. billie

    Congrats, Pari!

    I have done it before, didn’t this year, and never signed up for any of the ‘official’ recognition. The commitment and the pages I wrote were all I wanted from it.

    However, I think it’s a good thing to celebrate hard work – and for many people that extra recognition is a great thing.

    Reply
  3. L.J. Sellers

    I participated this year for the first for the same reason: the motivation to write as much as I could every morning before work for a month. It was terrific! My personal goal was to finish the draft I had started and I achieved that, logging 36,000+ words. I’m not a "winner" but I feel terrific about the outcome and I’m in a better writing habit.

    Reply
  4. JD Rhoades

    Congratulations, Pari! If it’s only 2/3 done and "some of it is bad while some of it is good," I don’t see any reason to upload it. But you’re sure ’nuff entitled to brag.

    Reply
  5. Adam Chelsea

    You’ve already received the prize! The sense of accomplishment, the feeling you get when you’re really productive, getting your first draft done–or nearly done–in a short amount of time so you can start editing sooner, the joy of gagging and tying up your inner editor in chains and locking him/her in the basement with no food or water or anything to read for 30 days and nothing to watch but cheesy soap operas with cheesier dialog and saccharine storylines that would put a diabetic into a coma…but I digress.

    By validating, you get a printable certificate and some nice web badges, but I feel the sense of accomplishment is the best prize. Seriously, how many people do you know have produced 50,000+ words in 30 days or less? (Add me to that count, 54,642 as of 11/29 and I’m still writing.)

    Reply
  6. pari noskin taichert

    Jen,
    Wow! Six times. That’s wonderful.
    I’m tending to think about the "prizes" in the same way you do. After all, every time I open the manuscript, that’s a pretty big reward in itself.

    Alafair,
    You crack me up. With as busy as you are, I think your life is 50,000+ each month <g>.

    Reply
  7. pari noskin taichert

    Billie,
    Thank you.

    What made you decide NOT to do it this year? Just curious.

    LJ,
    But you see, you ARE a winner. You accomplished your goals within a specific time period — an intense time period. You. Did. It!

    Reply
  8. pari noskin taichert

    JD,
    The uploading is only for word count; no one reads the darn things. So it doesn’t matter if it’s all bad, anyone who writes that much still qualifies for bragging rights. The goal is producing as much as you can — consistently — in as little time possible and turning off that internal editor enough to do it.

    Adam,
    You nailed it.

    Sounds like you’ve also done this more than once. And congrats yourself on that great output. You’ll be soaring today.

    Reply
  9. Tracey Henley

    I did my second NaNo this year — first one was in ’07. That year I started late and only got 27K words but that’s more than half, right? This year I started on time, but laptop issues meant I was handwriting the draft and then transcribing later. Talk about temptation to edit! So no, I won’t make the deadline tonight but I have approximately 30K words of a mystery, plus a story with a beginning, middle and end. I can see the skeleton, and I can use the rest of my free time (that isn’t taken up with job, family, dogs, holidays) to put the flesh on the bones. If I keep at it, by the end of winter I should have a draft that I’m not horribly embarrassed to show people. Having to spend so much concentrated time with my characters reminded me why I like writing (although reinforcement and validation in the form of a book contract would be really nice, God knows). So like you, I found the NaNo experience worth it. I’d do it again, certainly, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to get in the writing groove.

    Reply
  10. Karen in Ohio

    Congratulations, Pari! I’m impressed that anyone can manage 50,000 words in a month as fraught with stress as November. Why can’t they do this in January, I wonder?

    I started out gangbusters, but at 8,900 words found I’d written myself into a box canyon, with no idea where to go. Then all sorts of stuff hit the fan in my personal life and I just shoved the ms aside for the time being. But I think the biggest plus from choosing to commit to NaNo is the sheer physical habit of daily writing. Don’t they say that doing something every day for 30 days is the way to create a habit? For that reason alone NaNo would help any writer.

    I just thought of a way to hit 50,000 words by tonight. Just write a bunch of words, over and over again.

    Nah, that would be cheating. πŸ˜‰

    Reply
  11. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Sounds like a fantastic experience, Pari. I’d love to try it sometime. I would definitely not feel comfortable sending my pages in–I don’t even feel comfortable letting my editor look at pages I haven’t spent a year polishing! I’m going to have to get over that. I know you said they don’t read the pages, but, still, once it’s in digital form and out there, I would always wonder.
    I can’t wait to see what your pages evolve into. Maybe next November I’ll try it myself.

    Reply
  12. alli

    Congrats, Pari! Achieving your goal and being that much closer to finishing your first draft must feel terrific. Great work!

    I did Nano in 2007 and it helped me do the same as you – rough draft but enough to feel motivated to keep going. I didn’t bother uploading, I knew I had the most valuable prizes – a sense of achivement and an MS I could work with.

    Glad it was such a positive experience for you. Excellent!

    Reply
  13. Chris

    This year was my first as well, and I felt pretty good last night when I plugged in the words and got the YOU WON graffic. I actually posted the screenshot on my site (http://tinyurl.com/ygzsc98).

    For me, it was an exercise in creating the habit of sitting down to write every day. Isn’t the story that 22 days in a row of doing something creates a habit? I’m not sure about that, but it did feel like an accomplishment, and a goal set that became a goal achieved. That’s worth something to me.

    Reply
  14. Louise Ure

    I think you used the challenge as great inspiration and that’s all you need. No validation necessary (except for here, and I’m incredibly impressed with the output!). Congratulations, my dear.

    Reply
  15. pari noskin taichert

    Tracey,
    I so admire the fact that you’ve stuck to NaNo even when the going gets rough. You’re right about it forcing you to live with your characters, to think about them and experience them in a way that a longer period might not achieve. I feel that way about this manuscript and want to keep on to that sensation.

    Karen,
    Sorry to hear about the personal stuff. I hope none of it is too serious.

    You’re absolutely right about the daily habit making a difference. Even with a slightly abbreviated schedule, I still got that benefit. BUT I feel like I really need to reinforce it now that the pressure is off.

    How about you? Do you still have that habit of daily writing?

    Reply
  16. pari noskin taichert

    Stephen,
    You might like the challenge of it. And the more I’m reading people’s comments here, the more I realize I won’t send the manuscript in. It’s not worth the time to do it; I’d rather write!

    Alli,
    So . . . what happened to that manuscript?

    Reply
  17. karen from mentor

    CONGRATULATIONS Pari!!!!
    I finished on Saturday with 51,190 and I WILL ABSOLUTELY NEVER EVER do it again…lol

    It’s an insane thing to do and I don’t know why people say that they enjoy doing it year after year. I’ll stand on the sidelines next year and cheer on all of my nutty friends. But once was enough for me. And I won’t have a novel until I add at least 30K more words…..

    I’m glad you had a positive experience. And I agree that only a young single guy would put this insane challenge in November at the start of the holiday season….sheesh!

    I think I went a bit nuts. At this point I’m waiting for the NaNo hangover to wear off. But it was fun to play on an alien planet for 30 days straight. But now I’m going to sleep for six days straight.

    Karen :0)

    Reply
  18. pari noskin taichert

    "a goal set that became a goal achieved."
    What a beautiful way to say it, Chris.
    Amen!

    Louise,
    I’m tickled with the congrats here. Thank you. But the reason I wrote this particular post was, in part, just to see how many people in our ‘Rati group have done NaNo too — and what their experiences were. What’s pleasing is how many felt that sense of accomplishment whether the original goal was met or not.

    Reply
  19. pari noskin taichert

    Okay, Karen,
    I’ve got to know . . .
    WHY won’t you do it again? What was the hardest part for you? Was it turning off the editor? Finding the time? Committing to the butt in chair when everything else — the laundry, cleaning out the litter box, scrubbing toilets — seemed like a better and more attractive use of your time?

    Reply
  20. karen from mentor

    Well Pari, I linked to my NaNo posts so you can see my descent into madness lol, but it boiled down to…..

    I never give up on something once I’ve committed to it and since November had a lot of other stuff going on…I started a new job, I am still working my other job too, I still blogged almost every day, I still wrote and submitted to literary mags every week, I still wrote my flash fiction for #fridayflash every week and I found that I DID NOT GO TO THE PARK or really outside at all for most of November and my peace of mind suffered. So it wasn’t that the thing itself was hard, writing without editing was fun for me, and once I let my captives loose on the alien planet my word count went nuts….it was just bad timing as far as too many things going on at once.

    Hope that answers your question.

    Karen :0)

    Reply
  21. Sarah

    my nano experience was much like yours, and actually, i didn’t find it all that difficult.

    Anyway, i think you should upload because there are a few discounts that you receieve if you do (one is like money off of thinkgeek and another is money off of a bookstore i believe). So if you want to do some online shopping at those places, verifying your word count will certainly help.

    Reply
  22. Melanie

    I did NaNo for the first time last year and wrote 63K by November 30th. I was in the middle of another novel at the time so I didn’t return to the NaNo novel until this past summer. This year I used November to edit last year’s NaNo novel. It’s currently 92K and much closer to being ready to submit — VERY exciting for me.

    I haven’t read all the comments so I’m sure someone has already answered your question about uploading the MS. The coolest thing for me was getting the little "Winner" badges to post all over the place. It also lists you as a winner on the site.

    Reply
  23. JT Ellison

    I did NaMo in 2006, uploaded my counts, got my badge, then promptly turned that book into my second published novel. (14) It was fun. Writing is supposed to be fun. When we stop having fun writing we need to take a long look at what we’re doing.

    I love Namo simply because I did it before I was working on deadline, and it taught me how to get myself in my chair writing every day. Ingrained habits like that become hard to break. It’s how I got started on my 1000 words a day no matter what streak, one that’s I’ve stuck to pretty closely for three years now.

    So, Pari, I say to you, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Self-motivating is the hardest part of being a writer. Overcoming the resistance and actually DOING is the greatest accomplishment of any artist. Upload that manuscript, take your kudos, and know you’ve done something extraordinary that not every can do.

    What a wonderful time to be thankful for our gifts!
    xo

    Reply
  24. pari noskin taichert

    Holy Cow, Karen. Yes. That answered my question — and then some. You should feel extraordinarily proud of yourself. Just wow.

    Sarah,
    Hmmmm, you interest me strangely.
    I might still do it because of what you wrote. We’ll see where I’m sitting this evening and whether I can do it while cooking dinner etc.

    Reply
  25. pari noskin taichert

    Melanie,
    Wow. Great amount and I’m glad to hear the novel is almost done. That’s very cool.
    Thanks for the advice re: uploading as well. I appreciate the input.

    JT,
    I remember that you did it and wrote a post about it, I believe, but couldn’t recall what year.

    That is SOOOOOO coool that it became 14. Wow.

    I’ll see how I feel about the uploading this afternoon or eve . . .
    And thanks for the congrats. They sure feel good, don’t they?

    Reply
  26. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Fantastic, Pari, congratulations!

    I don’t think I would upload, myself, but you definitely have bragging rights.

    I was going to Nano this year for the first time, but was still in the outline stage, and that was more important to me to get right than jumping ahead into writing. Now that I AM writing, it’s flying, because I did all the right prep last (well, this…) month.

    Reply
  27. Rob Gregory Browne

    Marcus Sakey had an interesting post about this and why he thinks it’s a bad idea:

    NaNo Thanks

    Don’t know if I necessarily agree. Some of my favorite writers of all time — including those mentioned in my last blog post — wrote very quickly and did it very well. 50,000 word thrillers were common for Gold Medal books and I’m sure they were written in a month or so.

    I find that while I may not be completely satisfied with the work I do very quickly, the end user (the reader) doesn’t seem to respond any less favorably than they do to the work I took forever to write.

    Go figure.

    Reply
  28. pari noskin taichert

    Alex,
    We all write differently; I’ve never been an outliner, so this technique fit my style. I enjoyed the daily writing immensely as well.

    Which leads me to Rob’s post . . .

    Rob,
    I glanced at Marcus’ post and think it smacks a bit of snobbery when it comes to the idea that just because someone writes fast the product is de facto crapola. I don’t buy it. At the Master Class I attended, I wrote one of the most powerful pieces of fiction I’ve ever written — 10,000+ words — in one and a half days in spite of the fact that I also had 12 hours of classes during the same time.

    For those people who participate in NaNo who are not "professional writers" — the process of learning the discipline, of really trying to produce in spite of the millions of excuses they can stymie themselves with — well, I think the exercise is great.

    "Professional writers" can learn to tame the inner editor that squeezes the life and joy out of their writing.

    I don’t think NaNo is a waste of time — or a bad idea — for anyone who understands what he or she is getting into and what kind of product might come at the end.

    Also, the 50,000 in a month is a great beginning discipline; for most people, if they’re consistent, they won’t have "sore finger" as Marcus writes, because committing to 1000-2000 words/day is really quite manageable.

    Reply
  29. Eika

    I first participated in 2005, as a sophomore in high school. And won. I’m now a sophomore in college, and have won every year since.

    Upload if you want to. You’re allowed to scramble it first, but all you really get is a different colored ‘winners’ bar on the website and a certificate you can print off yourself.

    But why did I do it?

    Well, my first NaNo has a plot I’m proud of, and characters that I think are incredible. Real, and lifelike, and… wow. I did that? Nothing else I’m proud of, though. But, with a complete rewrite, it could be something someday. (Not even an edit can fix it, though. I’ve tried.)
    My second NaNo had a decent plot again, and the same incredible characters (I did a sequel). When I finished it, I looked back at the one before it, and I could SEE the improvement. By my third, my English teacher told my mother at parent-teacher conferences I had improved my voice so dramatically that I was now one of her favorite students to grade.
    I’ve kept writing sequels every year (and now I’ve been doing it between years- this one was book seven, and I think the last). Do I ever expect them to get published? No. It’s most definitely a series, with events in earlier books influencing later ones, and the plots of the first two, while good, aren’t nearly as strong as I’d like them. But I can see how I’ve improved as a writer, looking through them; I believe that, if I ever get a decent query written for a stand-alone book I’ve been working on, I might get published.

    For me, though, NaNo did one really valuable thing: I did participate in the forums. And I have a group of friends, most of whom came from there. Except ‘friend’ is too soft a word. Most of us have never met; we’re worldwide; we write a huge variety of genres; two are now published in magazines and one just got her full returned from an agent with the note that it was a great story and she was really torn but didn’t think she could sell it right now. I critiqued the magazine articles; they’ve been critiquing my stories.

    NaNo is a time when you write without focusing on quality, but the really valuable things are that it gets written and that you meet the other people who write. The way your typing speed tends to improve by 5 WPM forever after is just a tiny bonus.

    Oh, and I finished yesterday, but I had an added challenge this year: I was too sick to get to a computer for the first week. Oh what fun… and I still got a coherent story. Maybe I’m cut out to be this writer person. (And if you want to look at my WC-bargraph to prove it, I’m Eika on there, too.)

    Congrats on winning. Upload or not, you can be proud.

    Reply
  30. pari noskin taichert

    Eika,
    You see? What you just wrote is exactly why I think NaNo is a good idea. I’d never shove it on anyone who didn’t want to do it, never urge someone who didn’t want to commit to take the plunge . . .

    But . . .

    You brought up so many good points in your comment that I hope others read it.

    I love that your writing voice has improved in such a marked way. And the fact you’ve made friends across the globe, friends with similar goals/interests re: writing, is just wonderful.

    Thank you so much for your comments today and CONGRATS right back at ya.

    Reply
  31. Jill James

    I love Nano, I’ve done it for four years, only won once. I didn’t upload my work; it was just for me to know I won. I think you get a badge to put on your blog or website. It is so freeing to just put your butt in the chair and write. You are so right. You feel so productive that you feel like a ‘real’ writier.

    Reply
  32. ZoΓ« Sharp

    Pari, I’m in awe – many congratulations not only on achieving your goal, but with the renewed confidence and enthusiasm that’s just bursting out of the page from you at the moment. Now THAT’S inspirational … ;-]

    Reply
  33. pari noskin taichert

    Jill,
    I applaud the fact you’ve done this for four years. Just wonderful. And to have succeeded is great, too.

    Butt in Chair.

    I read a quote the other day from SF writer Kevin Anderson: "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

    Yeah.

    Zoe,
    Thank you. I want to keep this up. The quote above can be adjusted a little to fit my current mood: The more I write, the more I enjoy writing.

    Funny that.

    Reply
  34. Gin

    I did for the first time, finished with 51,000 words, submitted it and bragged. You can say you did it, but you’re not a NaMo winner unless you do submit. I haven’t finished anything in years, my novel’s not finished yet, but I did it, and have the proof. You don’t have to print your winner’s certificate, or have your name listed, but making it official is fabulous!

    Reply
  35. Jemi Fraser

    I say upload it for the pretty purple bar that says winner! We all need more pretty in this world πŸ™‚

    It’s my 2nd year doing nano, my 2nd win. I love the forced freedom – I don’t feel guilty about stealing time for that 1st draft, cause it’s, you know, a contest, and you can’t feel guilty when you’re competing. Right??? I don’t have a ton of "me" time (like many of you out there), so the time often gets chopped up. But in Nov, I get whole minutes at a time – sometime as much as 30 minutes at once!! Very exciting stuff.

    Excuse the rambling πŸ™‚ Enjoy the win whichever way you celebrate it πŸ™‚

    Reply
  36. Persephone

    Gosh, I never even thought of it as a "contest". More like, support. Probably a better experience if one can not take it too seriously.

    Did it twice, got two novels out of it. Of course, they needed more words and more work, but that’s okay. No longer need it, but it was great to get me over that hump of finishing a novel. Before Nano, I had a bunch of half-novels. I highly recommend it; it was great fun!

    Reply
  37. pari noskin taichert

    Gin,
    I’m amused by your pronouncement re: Not being a NaNo if you don’t upload. For me, it’s not about the label; it’s about doing it. Bragging rights or not, the feeling of accomplishment has nothing to do with externals at all, does it?

    And Congrats to you.

    Jemi,
    Great job! Yippee and hooray for you. Twice? Wow. I know what you mean about grabbing minutes here and there. It’s a challenge on some days but great fun, almost like a scavenger hunt for time.

    Persephone,
    Twice as well? Wonderful.

    I’m not sure I "needed" NaNo. I’ve completed several manuscripts, sold a few too. But the contest did infuse my experience with fun and I’d gotten so wrapped up in editing etc that I’d forgotten how much enjoyment I could get out of pushing through a novel so quickly. So, it was for that that I did it.

    That and the discipline.

    Reply
  38. Doug Riddle

    DO NOT DO THE RESEARCH……….DO NOT DO THE RESEARCH……….Pari, you are on a roll, go with it. Don’t stop. Keep going. You can always do the research later. You can always rewrite the bad parts later. Go, go, go.

    Reply
  39. allison davis

    I did nanowrimo for two reasons. One, is I knew if I got a book contract I’d need to write the second book in year. Two, I wanted to instill the write every day discipline. I wrote and worked full time. I did trial prep until 9 pm and still put in my words. I went away for the weekend and still made my minimum. All of which proved to me that I HAVE the time to write, I HAVE the will to write and if a stupid, but good intentioned inventive got me to figure out I could do all this and get the bulk of my second novel done (and yes, I hit some high points I am proud of and yes it still needs a lot of work), I can do this writing gig and get it done in time.

    It’s like any race. It’s not the whole person, just the moment, but what a moment. I totally bonded with some twitter friends during the entire event as well as some friend on email where we gave each other our word count every night. It’s a bridge from the loneliness of writing. So taken as this, it was a great experience.

    Reply
  40. pari noskin taichert

    Ha! Doug,
    Thank you for the nudge; I’ll take your advice and finish the damn thing first! Thank you.

    Allison,
    Wonderful, wonderful conclusion; you summed up some of the major reasons this kind of effort can be so useful. I think the fact that you KNOW you can be a writer now, that you do have the time no matter what, is . . . well . . . phenomenal. Congratulations.

    Sarah?
    Nope. I didn’t. I wrote more in the book yesterday instead. My prize will be completing the rough before the end of this month and getting it in shape to send out.

    Reply
  41. MJ

    Congrats! I had a similar experience and benefit in my first NaNo year. I did not "win" because I’m writing a chapter of a professional treatise that is due now (and that took up a huge amount of November) but I did succeed in writing a lot without the internal critic around (or around so much). But I lost interest in updating my website word count on Nov 5 or so – who cares? I’m doing this for my own purposes, got a lot of benefit out of it, and I guess that their website just wasn’t THAT compelling to me. It is a great way to force faster writing, though. I’d do it again for that – and as soon as this dratted professional book is in I’m going to do my own private NaNo! Maybe January.

    Reply
  42. pari noskin taichert

    Kaye,
    Thank you so much. I’ll take that hug anytime!

    MJ,
    I’m with you on having a private NaNo. I think it’s a wondrous way to jump on board with a new project and give it the attention and focus it deserves at what has been — at least traditionally for me — the most difficult phase of the writing: Just getting out the framework of the story.

    I think this may be different for people who outline but for me, that initial step, the initial manuscript is the most challenging.

    If you happen back, MJ, I’d love to know what the professional treatise is on.

    Reply

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