Friday, October 31, 2014

How To Succeed at NaNo Without Really Trying

I've decided to resurrect my mostly-dead blog to celebrate the very imminent beginning of my tenth foray into National Novel Writing Month. Let's think about how old I am for a moment: I have been doing this for a decade. Man I feel old.

In celebration, and to promote the illusion that with age automatically comes wisdom, I would like to offer my NaNo secret, because I HAVE managed to write at least 50,000 words every time so far. I did a post on this last year, but this year I think I have managed to boil down my top seven points into just 20 words, or two principles.

PRINCIPLE ONE: If it helps you produce words, DO IT.

PRINCIPLE TWO: If it DOES NOT HELP you produce words, DO NOT DO IT.

All of last year's seven tips are basically sub-iterations of these two principles. These might seem laughably self-evident. Maybe they are. But I am consistently surprised at how many people don't seem to think this way. And, whether they know it consciously or not, it is the only way people succeed at NaNo.

If it helps you to be in competition with someone, to brag about how many words you've written in a day, or to tell people what your story is about, THEN DO SO. If telling people these things makes you feel like you're setting yourself up for failure--well, preferably think more positively about yourself because YOU CAN SO DO IT, but look at the outcome: if sharing your word count or comparing yourself with others is stopping you from writing, STOP SHARING IMMEDIATELY.

If going to public NaNo events, posting on the forums, or otherwise getting together with groups of people helps you produce words, DO THESE THINGS. If (like me) scrolling through the forums makes you feel overwhelmed with the amount of things you could say, if public NaNo events make you feel shy and block your inspiration, CEASE THESE THINGS IMMEDIATELY. Writers are shy people and muses can be skittish. The NaNo community is, by and large, awesome, but if you're like me and mostly can't stand people looking at you when you're writing, then events designed to help you are actually hindering you and no one planning them wants that.

I could come up with more examples, but I think the gentle reader probably has the idea. This can also be a litmus test for whether you should do NaNo at all: does a deadline just bottle up your muse? Well, IF you want to work professionally in a creative field you'll have to get over that eventually, but maybe at this point it's more helpful to just set a daily or a weekly writing goal--500 words a day or 5 hours every week--and let others keep their insane month-long deadlines.

Okay. Now to go buy bulk coffee.

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