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NaNoWriMo 2010

Well, NaNo is over for another year, and this makes three that I’ve pushed through and earned my WINNER!! badge, which will become my avatar soon.

This time, I am both more mentally exhausted and more gratified than I have been in any of my other attempts. In an attempt to diminish the former and enhance the latter, I’m going to make myself a list of stuff to remember for next year. Hopefully, it will help someone else along their NaN0-ing way so they can learn without having to make the mistakes I have.

Lessons Learned:

1. Life will intrude, plan accordingly. November is a traditionally hectic month for me, and adding NaNo into the mix only intensifies this. While there is more time off for most people, the demands on that time increase exponentially. Plan on getting up thirty minutes early and/or dedicating your lunch hour to getting your 1,667 on paper. Getting it out of the way early frees up the evenings for all the fun stuff no one wants to decline.

2. COMMIT to your word count goal and tell procrastination to F-OFF! I am a slacker and I’m damn good at it. I am cocky enough to know it takes me roughly 30 minutes to crank out 4-500 words if I’m running at a moderate pace. Knowing that, I tend to plan my day by saying “Oh, I can get my NaNo count in tonight before I go to bed.”  In the grand scheme of things, knowing my abilities and limitations is a huge advantage and there’s nothing wrong with choosing night as the designated writing time….except there’s no room for error and no consideration for rule number 1. For example, on Wednesdays after yoga class, sitting down is nothing more than an open door for the sleep that stalks me on ninja feet. More than once, I’ve sat down to write, read, work or do any number of things, only to wake up at four in the morning in front of the computer, with the book on the floor or sprawled out on the couch with the crochet hook still in one hand. Committing to your word count means setting the DVR, skipping every show you normally watch during the month, blowing off all the time-sucks we all indulge in and carving out real time in the day to realize your goal. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has little scraps of time they’re spending doing frivolous things like Facebook, or watching an episode of Buffy they’ve seen a hundred times. These are times you could be using to meet your goal, and should be using productively if you’re truly committed to making it happen. Don’t bank on the last few hours of the day unless that really is the only time you can carve out of your day, and remember that you better have a contingency plan.

3. Don’t make weekends the contingency plan. Seriously. Fall weekends and holiday weekends are notorious for having unplanned shopping trips that take four times longer than anticipated because everyone realized how close Christmas really is, or decided that yes, today is a fantastic day to take the screaming children to the grocery store and get all the fixings for a thirty person Thanksgiving day feast. I won’t even mention Black Friday. ~shudder~ You may be able to get ahead on your word count during a weekend, but don’t let that be the only contingency plan you have.

4. There is no such thing as getting ahead on your word count. Writing every day isn’t easy, no matter how many people think it is. Building a habit of writing every single day is a cultivated skill and some days, pulling down 1,667 words just doesn’t happen. Don’t bankroll your work and think that just because you got 3,334 words done on Monday that you can skip writing on Friday and go do something sociable. It doesn’t work that way. Each day starts at a big fat zero and you write each line and try to hit your goal for that day. Bankrolling is the hallmark of a lazy writer. I should know; I am a  lazy writer because I allow my distractions to get the better of my focus. On November 28th, I had roughly 32k words written of my 50k goal. As of the beginning of November 30th, I had 9,996 words left to write. And I didn’t call in sick to finish. Enjoy the days where words flow like water and you write 3k without breaking a sweat, but slog through the days when you’d rather be getting a root canal and get your 1,667 words in, even if relief means stopping in the middle of the sentence.

5. Brag. No, really. Posting your progress as your status on Facebook, or talking to people at work about how many words you got done in a night is helpful because it keeps you accountable. It gets awkward from time to time, especially about the fifteenth time you have to explain what “NaNoWriMo” is, but after the first week, people will start to ask how much you got done, or what your story is about. I’m a pretty private person, but knowing that it’s possible that I could be asked about my word count is motivation to sit down and get it done so I don’t have to give some lame reason why I didn’t write the night before. Like Zig Ziegler says “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

6. Make sure you know your scope before you start. Make sure your great idea is going to carry you for 50k words (roughly 100 pages depending on spacing) because there’s nothing more frustrating than getting 30k words deep and realizing that your story has reached its end and you find yourself having to start another story to make your goal.

7. Don’t get restless – see your story through. Once the creative juices really get flowing and your mind becomes accustomed to the “neutral” gear where writing becomes something like transcribing lucid dreaming, the ideas will come. And come, and come and come and come, and suddenly, there are a half a dozen ideas that are SO much better than the one you started with. Great! Write down a bullet point in a document and save it. No matter what, don’t give in to the temptation to start something new midstream. Real writers finish stories. Start, middle (even the bumpy parts where you realize you have no idea where the hell the story derailed), and end.

8. Don’t backspace or delete chunks of text. Everyone with the hubris to tackle NaNo has pages of text that didn’t come out as intended, or discovers they’ve hit a dead end and the story really needs to go down another path. Use that “strike through” font to scrap a part, but don’t remove it from the document. You will inevitably forget to count them later, or you’ll forget to save them so you can add them at the end of the document before dropping the text in for validation. You wrote those words, so you should take credit for them and not have to re-write what you didn’t like. Once you’ve “stricken” those words from the story, keep writing and go wherever you need it to go.

So, there it is, future self. Reminders about the things about NaNo that seem to slip my/your/our mind every year. Maybe some day every month will be NaNo… 😉

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