Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Writing Survival Tips in the Post-October World

It's October. The kids are back in school and Fall is here in the northern Hemisphere. At least, the calenders say it's been Fall for a few weeks. Here in Louisiana we are just now feeling it. Something else is here at the end of the month, just a hop, skip, and a jump across October. No, I'm not talking about November. NaNoWriMo. That's the National Novel Writing Month.

If you're not familiar with NaNoWriMo, or you've maybe heard someone mention it but have no idea what it's about, then this post is for you. It's a month long contest to write a 50,000 word (or more!) novel in the month of November. From scratch. You can plan all year long, but the actual writing has to happen between 12:00am Nov 1st and 11:59pm local time Nov 30th.

Sounds impossible you say? 50,000 just too monolithic a number to comprehend writing in a month's time? Trust me, it's not. I type slow and I've won it. Four times. Broken down, 50K words is 1667 words/day for 30 days. It can easily be done, but you must prepare for it. Here's some tips on how to gird your loins for the 30 day battle with the word beast that is NaNoWriMo!

Stretch First

A couch slug does not simply buy new shoes and run the NYC marathon the next morning. Stretching is involved. If not, the slug will cramp up and be out of the race before the second mile. I know, because it happened to me. Not in the NYC marathon, but in NaNo one year. Had an idea, and 4 wins under my belt, a savvy veteran. I got this, right? Hadn't written all year, and fell flat on my face on day 2.

Work your way up to NaNoWrimo if you have the time by writing just a little bit, say 500 words. Then the next day, write just a little more. 550 on day two. 600 on day 3, and so on. Build yourself up to a NaNo pace (or even more than 1667/day, I'll tell you why in a bit).

Find A Jail Cell

You're going to hear this little voice in your head. It's going to whisper to you, second guessing your every decision. Casting doubts on your ability to write something that isn't complete crap. This is your inner editor. Find the deepest, darkest, dankest dungeon in your mind, and lock that little bastard away in solitary confinement for the month. NaNo isn't about perfection. It's about *WRITING*. Leave the editing for December.

Be A Thief

Steal writing time whenever you can find it. At your desk during lunch hour. While your kids are at swim/soccer/tae-kwon do/whatever practice. While riding the train/bus/carpool to/from work (Okay, not the car pool when it's your turn to drive). Carry a note pad to write on during these hidden minutes. You might only get 50 or 100 or 500 words written, but it's 50 or 100 or 500 more than you had.

Be A Hoarder

During NaNo, words are like gold coins. You need to hoard them like Smaug does treasure. Don't get to your 1667 and then think you have to quit for the day. If the Muse is riding you like a lathered up thoroughbred,  don't stop! The more you can write over the daily word count, the better. You can bank those extra words for day when you might not get to write as much. Or, the days you don't write at all and just want to curl up in a ball while your non-writing world goes to hell around you. Or your in-laws drop in unexpectedly. (Though you might still end up curled up in a ball on the floor)

Ignore Housework...

...Up to a point. When the dirty laundry pile is in danger of collapsing and burying your preteen, it's time to take a break. Stop writing, and start PLOTTING! This is especially good if you're facing a block and can't get passed it. Stop writing and do something else. Wash laundry, do dishes, vacuum, shovel snow off the drive way (if you're afflicted with such - snow, not drive ways). Mundane tasks that you don't have to really think about let your mind work in the background on your writing problems. Plot bunnies like to attack from the least likely corners!

More Stretching

Don't forget to stretch your physical muscles too! 30 days hunched over a laptop is not comfortable (but your chiropractor will laugh all the way to the bank). Remember to stand up and move around once in awhile. Rotational arm exercises to take the hunch out of your shoulders and arms are good too, and can be done in your seat.

Family Matters

Prepare your family for the month. Inform your family that Mom (or dad) isn't crazy because she/he is sitting there talking to him/herself- it's working out dialogue, or plotting. Tell them they may not see you as much for the month, and to be ready to eat lots of leftovers or take out. You'll eventually return, mostly sane. Mostly. Whether you're more sane after NaNo or less so is another discussion (Probably best had with your therapist) entirely!

Get Out

If you've joined a region, pay attention to regional forums. Often someone in your region will post information on something called a "write-in". Write-ins are a chance to meet your fellow WriMos in person, and write with others while socializing. Or socialize while writing. It often goes both ways. It helps to defeat that "I'm alone in the woods" feeling writing can give you, especially during NaNo. If you're not in a region with scheduled write-ins, or you are in an "Elsewhere" region, don't despair! Some Elsewhere regions have a chat room set up, for virtual write-ins. Poke around your forums.

In Conclusion

I could go on, but I'd likely not get this post ready before NaNo - 2014! (Procrastinatia is a monarchy, and it's good to be the king) I hope these tips help you have a successful November - if you write 50,000, 5,000 or even 5 words.

A little green muppet once said "Do, or do not. There is no try." In this case, Yoda is WRONG. There *is* a "try". Failure is always an option!  It's not whether you win or lose at NaNo, it's that you TRIED something you thought you might do "one day", or seemed scary and insurmountable.

That makes you a winner already.

If you're doing NaNo this year, leave your WriMo id in the comments and add me as a buddy (wrytersblock) and we can push/pull/poke/prod/drag/cajole each other along!

I'll be waiting at the finish with the champagne to celebrate with you - in victory or defeat! :)


  1. This list is perfect! I'm really looking forward to getting into it again :) And I'm already limbering up the old writing muscles. Good luck and see you at the finish line! (Oh, and I'll take a glass of Merlot if you don't mind)

    NaNo ID: timony-souler

  2. Excellent advice! And I think I've been to Procrastinatia. It's pretty. LOL!

    1. Border Control officials tell me you've had your passport stamped there a time or two. Or five. ;)

  3. These are awesome tips! I'm just about ready. Agh! I'm hoping this is the year I finish.

    Nano name is JEHandling

  4. Great adivce! It's hard for me to ignore some things at home because we're a homeschooling family but I plan to push aside what can be pushed aside. I'm both excited and terrified for NaNo this year. :)