-a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
|Oh, and happy Halloween, too!|
Tomorrow (in case you missed our gazillions of posts about it) starts NaNoWriMo. Since I love to pass on good advice (“it is the only thing to do with it,” says Oscar Wilde), here are my last little bits of wisdom to add to all the NaNo advice we’ve been doling out the last couple weeks:
1. Have an accountability buddy. There is one main reason I won NaNoWriMo the last two years: a best friend of mine checked in with me almost nightly. We had an email chain where we briefly wrote each other our word counts, our triumphs and defeats, our excitement at finally getting to write the kissing scenes!* And occasionally a gentle kick in the butt. Without her, I would have fizzled out. Find someone (other than a spouse) who will do this for you.**
2. Plan to write ahead, as soon as you can. Technically you only have to write 1,667 words per day to finish in time. Don’t plan for this. First of all, many of us won’t write on Sundays, and you will fall quickly behind if you’re only doing the bare minimum the other days. Second, you’re most excited in the first week or two, you have the most ideas and (if you’re an outliner) scenes planned but not yet written. It can get significantly harder as the weeks go on. So start out hard and fast. I have a spreadsheet (geek alert!) to keep track of my goals, and I plan for 2,500 words per day. This gets me ahead fast, and then when I inevitably have a few lousy days, I’m still keeping up.
3. Plan to finish early. This one goes with #2. If you plan to get ahead, then you can theoretically plan to finish early. This is great for Thanksgiving plans, great for keeping up momentum, and great for having time to catch up at the end. Oh, and also great for gloating at your other friends when they spend the last week frantically staying up until forever every night to finish.***
4. Don’t delete. When you are writing along speedily, the worst idea ever is to hit the delete button. Even when you have spelled something wrong and you know it. It takes you out of that moment of writing and slows you down immensely—both your fingers and your brain. And in November, that is a no no. Occasionally your fingers will stutter; keep typing. Here are two of my favorite finger stutters from a previous year: anytnhigagainst (“against”) and tentrusthsiastic (“enthusiastic”). See? It’s okay if suddenly you can’t spell.
5. Stare into space. Okay, perhaps you find my above suggestion a bit overboard. Perhaps you can’t stand the idea of all those little squiggly red lines all through your document. Perhaps you need to get over that. :) And here’s one way: Don’t look at the computer screen. Find a lovely, soothing picture to look at if you’d like. But nothing that draws you out of your book. That’s why I like to close my eyes or just unfocus them and stare at nothing at all. If you feel like you need to insert something earlier in your scene, just type “(insert this earlier)” and keep going. Don’t look at the screen to figure it out. Again, it takes you out of the writing.
6. Don’t have a soundtrack. I admit that lots of fun authors have soundtracks for their books. But I can’t comprehend it. How can you possibly focus on your writing when you’re listening to “Radioactive”? The same way you shouldn’t delete, look at your screen, or look at a boy band poster while you type, you shouldn’t listen to popular/radio music. If you want music, try classical, no words.
7. Accept the bad writing because you’re tapping into something completely different this month. It seems like all of this is suggesting that your writing is going to be terrible this month. And it’s a fact that your polish should be terrible (aka nonexistent) this month. And it may be scattered and riddled with holes and confused. But that isn’t the point of November. The point is to produce and learn by the producing. The speed just forces you to tap into different resources and portions of your brain than you use when you’re thinking over everything slowly and logically and editorially. You will suddenly find solutions that you’re forced into finding (when the rest of the year you say, “I’ll write the rest of the book when I figure out this plot hole,” here you just have to keep writing). It can be magical and awesome, but it may also look horrific.
8. Do something with this manuscript when the month is over. I’m not going to bother you with this one for now, because November is the month of no thinking and no editing. But November is not the end of the journey; there are bigger and better things in store . . . in December.
* Although it turns out to feel surprisingly silly writing a kissing scene.
** Spouses can be awesome, and mine certainly made a huge difference in the finishing too, but I sometimes needed the encouragement from a different source (one I didn’t live with).
*** Just kidding. I never gloat. Ever! No, really, I don’t. I just point and laugh.