Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Garthmeister J's Tips and Tricks for Surviving NaNoWriMo

As we move into the twilight of October, with November's new dawn steadily approaching, I thought I would slap down a post of tips and tricks for those attempting to pump out 50,000 words of questionable prose in a mere 30 day span. I am now somewhat of a veteran, having participated and completed NaNoWiMo three times so far(2001, 2002, and 2006), and thus should have some kind of body of knowledge regarding what it takes to actually survive and thrive while attempting the feat. Of course if I end up fizzling out around tip no. 2, maybe that's not the case.

1. Don't Panic

OK, deep breaths, you've decided to throw yourself into a mighty task: writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days while maintaining your job, relationships, and any semblance of sanity you might be currently clinging to. Here's the first tip: try your very best not to freak out. Don't look down, do not stare into the abyss that represents both untold words yet to be conceived and other obligations yet to be fulfilled. If you're busy flipping out over the tasks ahead of you, you'll never actually get to the tasks themselves. And that would suck.

2. Sack your Internal Editor

The Internal Editor is that pesky fellow who is continually going on and on about your writing. Always saying something like "Oh my God, that is crap! That's not writing! You need to completely throw out this dialogue, and I don't know how you think this paragraph is not tortuous!" There is no way you can write 50,000 words in 30 days while listening to that guy. If you pay the Internal Editor any attention you are almost guaranteeing that you are going to self-combust before you hit 10,000 words.

3. Make a Date

It can be very tricky to juggle things like jobs, marriages, children, and moderately insane attempts to write novels. So make a date. This can either be a time and place every day that you set aside for writing, or can just be a weekly write-in (check the NaNoWriMo forums for your local area). I'd heartily recommend coming up with some kind of schedule devoted to writing; in June I participated in Script Frenzy (writing a 20,000 word screenplay during the month) and towards the end I discovered that disappearing to an empty cube in my office during lunch was a really effective way to churn out wordcount. Combining that with moderate writing during the evenings, plus some heavy duty lifting on weekends, and I was well on my way.

4. Share the Pain

Misery loves company: try an attend a regular write-in so you can keep yourself going by talking to other people undertaking the same journey. Blog about trying to write your novel. Tell your family and friends. All of these things mean that you're buying yourself into actually completing this thing, which is handy for motivation when your tanks are running dry. And your tanks will run dry - how you go during November is going to be dependent on how willing you are to tackle a new chapter when you're not quite feeling it.

You should also be pretty clear to any family members, friends and significant others just what you are trying to do, and enlist their help in getting you through the month. Who knows, they might be as excited as you are about it... and you might even be able to find yourself a companion or two for the road ahead.

4. Enable not Disable

I also find it a good idea to find out what aids my writing process, and embrace it whole-heartedly for a month. My first year doing NaNoWriMo I drank my way through the month; my fridge was always fully stocked with beer, and I consumed it liberally while writing. Last year was the Year of Stimulants, as I regularly came home from work, got changed, and then downed a Red Bull before banging out another chapter.

Of course you may have to walk that fine line, as downing a fifth of whiskey might help you get through your protoganist's next epiphany, but if you're too hungover at work the next day you're not going to get anything done.

4. Just Keep Writing

The most important thing to do is to keep your wordcount a moving target. Don't have a lot of time today? That's OK, slap together a couple of hundred words. Got a spare half an hour before the kids come home? Convert that into a page or two of prose. By chipping away at things, while still finding time for more sustained writing sessions, you'll keep making headway. That means when you get in a dynamite day of writing, your previous chipping away will give you a nice pile of words to luxuriate in. And it also means that if you find yourself needing a big day or two towards the end of the month, it will need to be a few thousand words less, because you added to your novel in those short periods you found.

5. Remember Why You are Doing It

And when the hours are darkest, when the load seems to much to bear... try and remember why you are attempting this foolishness. Writing a novel in November is a wonderful, inspiring, amazing thing. It's not all ups, there are going to be some downs. But know in your heart that what you want to do above all is to write a novel, and that you're doing yourself a disservice if you get in the way of letting it come to fruition. Because nothing beats crossing that 50,000 word mark and thinking to yourself "Well, I'm now a novelist".

I've managed to cobble together something of a premise for this year's attempt (assuming, of course, that I don't completely change my mind before I start things off). At this stage it involves cheese. That's all you need to know.


  • Nice blog! More people should read it. If you want, you can register your blog It is free and and it automatically updates when you do an update, so visitors of our site can see when you updated your blog. The big advantage is that it will attract much more visitors to your blog.

    By Blogger Peter, at 2:55 PM  

  • Thanks for the tips Garth. This is exactly what I was searching for in the forums at nanomowri

    I am going to get my write on and give this thing a shot.


    By Blogger Biggestron, at 11:02 PM  

  • No worries Byron. Good luck, and good writing!

    By Blogger Garthmeister J., at 8:41 AM  

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