Doing what for what?
November is National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. Aspiring writers around the world sign up and pledge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November or die trying.
Well, not actually die. Over-caffeinate, perhaps. Lose sleep. Ignore loved ones. Giggle inappropriately at Thanksgiving dinner. But to my knowledge, no one ever died.
I’ve attempted NaNo several times. I’ve even completed it twice out of the last three tries, and I’m getting ready to scale Mt. NaNo again this year.
If anyone out there is contemplating giving this a try, I thought I’d pass along a few tricks that have helped me survive.
*Before the end of October, start freezing meals in your freezer for November consumption. Your family is less likely to rebel if they’re fed. I’ve got lasagna, two kinds of chili, stuffed shells and every variety of veggie burger sold in the Springs.
*Teach your spouse/children/roommate/pet to do laundry. The alternative is to stock up on underwear NOW so nobody runs out.
*Get out of the house once in a while. Haul your laptop or legal pad or whatever you write on to a park, the library, a coffee shop…just get out and breathe some fresh air now and then. The bonus is you could overhear some great conversations you can steal.
*That laptop? Don’t limit yourself to only writing via computerized means. If you have a small notebook and a pen or pencil, you can write anywhere. Waiting to pick up the kids. The doctor’s office. Standing in line. Going low tech is a nice change of pace, as long as you can read your own writing well enough later to transcribe it. Don’t do what I do–I use asinine abbreviations that I can’t decipher later.
*Cultivate a teenager or two. No matter what genre you write, teens are the ones who will earnestly discuss trivial details after Thanksgiving dinner. Like whether werewolves get diarrhea, or whether your hero should fall down the stairs or off the roof. Trust me, teenagers invented thinking outside the box. Any conversation is bound to stimulate your poor, tired brain.
*Tell the people around you that you’re doing NaNo. This serves two purposes: it explains enormous amounts of what might otherwise be called strange behavior, and it’s an easy out from unwelcome social obligations.
*Backstory your butt off. I know a lot of writers who drop way too much information into the beginning of their first drafts. So what? You’ve got a goal to reach, baby. Babble away. Talk about the villain’s childhood. Discuss the hero’s mother’s bunions. You can always come back in December and start editing.
*Do. Not. Edit. Not at all, not even a tiny bit. You can’t afford to. If you decide around word 15,000 that the main character should have a French accent or a wooden leg or an advanced degree in astrophysics, just make a note to yourself, highlight it, and go on. From that point forward, poof, Main Character has a poodle instead of a pit bull and lives in Maine instead of Greece.
*Stock up on your favorite caffeinated beverage. Coffee, tea, soda…just have plenty on hand for those moments when you start to flag.
*Have fun. You can really just write down whatever comes to mind, and you’ll be amazed at how freeing that can be.
My own personal secret weapon is about as low tech as you can get. I take a sheet of lined paper and number it 1-30. I take 50,000 and divide it by 29. (I’m realistic–I’m not going to write on Thanksgiving Day.) By each day of the month, I write down what my word count needs to be that day. So, for example, 1-1724. 2-3448. 3-5172. And each day I faithfully write down what my word count is, so I can tell at a glance whether I’m ahead or behind. As a total nerd, I also note how many words I’m ahead or behind. Usually in a red pen. Seeing a bunch of little (+25) or (+193) makes me fairly giddy with delight and self-satisfaction.
Along about Halloween I take this sheet of paper and write all my other November obligations on it. So I know I have a middle school field trip on the 12th, so I’d better write ahead for that day or plan to write at night.
If you’d like to learn more about NaNoWriMo, try the official website.
I’ll see you on the other side!