Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cheating at NanoWriMo ... Your new S.O.

If your a beginning writer, have you heard of National Novel Writing Month? It's pretty much what it says on the tin, an organization that promotes writers of all stripes to try for 50,000 in one month.

Holy Spit! You do know that's like more than 10,000 words a week right? True. That makes it 5k in 2.5 days, That boils down to over 2,000 words a day or 250 words an hour if you clock in for 8 hours.

And to make you feel more like underachiever, there have been published novels that come out of this. 

But if you're focusing on that, you're missing the point. 

NanoWriMo is about stretching your limits, assessing your weaknesses and discovering something about yourself as a writer.

A great example of that is the common complaint that NWM is in November, like the "All the family is coming down to start eating me out of house and home for the next month" November. This also the "No one else in the office because they've got family in town and we're trying to squeeze two months of work into what's effectively four weeks of productivity. Long days, here I come" November.

The answer is that "There never is a perfect time to write, so write every day anyway."

That's a great lesson and all, but Auntie Melissa needs my kitchen and hands to make the best damn turduken lasagna you ever tasted. So here are my tips for cheating at NWM and hit your targets in November.

In no practical order:

Start two weeks early/Go for 40k words instead: The goal is get to a new place in your writing. If it makes the task less daunting, tweak your goals a bit. Some pro organizations accept writers who work in the 40k range.

Oh. Shit. I guess that means this is your week to start. Go!

No flat surface and no writing implement  is safe from you: Who said that your word count had to be on the keyboard. Quickly count those words you wrote on that napkin, or the notepad you always keep in your back pocket. Crayon, Japanese inkstick/brush, and monkey poo are allowed. All at once if that gets the job done.

I lied about the monkey poo -- what's wrong with you!?!

Realize this a personal marathon, not a race: The NWM board and forums are not the place to lie if you are full on cheating. But they are the place to find kindred souls are going through what your going through because by about week two there's no real difference except the final word counts. 

Keep in mind the real winners those who reach a new plateau. If NWM was your inspiration that's close enough.

Get brutal about your reality check: Been told constantly that you over plot your stories, give 10 page infodumps, or spend too much time shooting for a 200,000 epic all in 17th Century Urdu? 

Then listen and reassess what your story is going to be. Make your story simpler, stop beating yourself up for the perfect metaphor. If you do tons of world building, do a modern take on your story or embrace a more pop culture/pulpy style. 

I'm not saying that you should make it opposite day for your NWM project, but maybe it's time you really wrestled with that one howler monkey on your back that EVERYONE has told you  about, but you keep falling back on. And once you pulled that primate off your spine, beat it with a lead pipe ... in the library ... and then frame Col. Mustard for it.

Do what you do best, baby: On the other hand, if your workshop mates keep telling you that you shine at something, embrace it.

Your making cookie dough, not baking the cookies: Everyone loves the cookie dough, until they get food poisoning. The baking part not so much, there's the waiting, the watching and the judging if it's time to pull it out of the oven.

The goal here is volume because every first draft is shit, even if that first draft is the fun crazy part of creating. The real work, though is putting that draft through the hot oven hell of re-writing and editing. Or as one of my favorite writers succinctly said. "I spent one month writing it and a year editing it."

All those published novels that came out of NWM? I bet the finished product looked like a Lamborghini compared to that Kia first draft.

Fuck your toughest critic .... you!: Art is messy and it take time to be perfect. This month you have to turn off that inner critic/snooty adult/snide frienemy and just let it flow.

I'm going to try this challenge myself, we see how I do. My first cheat is lowering the word limit ... for now. The challenge will be to come up with a new concept for a novel this week for NWM. 

Gentlebeings, start your keyboards and GO!

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