Are you ahead or behind as of right now this minute? Even if you were precisely on schedule, and have been doing exactly the 1667 words per day for 22 days, you'd have 13,336 words left to write by midnight on November 30th. That is, as of today, do you have 36,674 words done? Is that you? Some people could write 13k words in a day (I've done it more than once, when I'm on a roll and have no interruptions). Some people can't write 13k words in a month. Which are you? How you answer this word count question is the biggest danger of all this week. Are you being honest with yourself or conning yourself and everyone else?
Be truthful with yourself. Don't worry about checking in with your Nanowrimo buddies, don't even care about logging your word count at the site and having to explain it to anyone. Just be sure you're being honest with yourself. You are the only one whose opinion matters when it comes to how you "should" approach your writing activity. In addition, you have to live with yourself no matter what you're doing or how you're doing it, so be honest and you'll have an easier time of sleeping at night--you need your sleep to think clearly and write!
Are you ahead, on schedule or behind? Just make sure you know where you are now and then you can figure out how to get to where you want to be. Nanowrimo is supposed to be FUN not a conscience-breaking activity of guilt, stress and worry. Take a breath, sit back and click through the jump-break to see which of the following applies to you: Ahead of Schedule, Right on the Mark or Falling Behind.
Ahead of Schedule
You are the lucky ones but don't get too full of yourself. You could still fail to meet the 50,000 words in 30 days goal unless you're already so far ahead you have met or passed that goal today. If you're, for instance, at 45,000 words and think No problemo, I can write another 5,000 words after the Thanksgiving break.
Careful! Don't bet that nothing will happen to get in your way. Murphy lurks around the corner just waiting for you to think like that. Also don't bet that taking a few days or a weekend off writing completely won't have an impact on your ability to get your head back into the story. Sometimes the best thing to do when you're a little ahead is take a short break to just relax, but don't take a long one. Keep up your energy and enthusiasm and rhythm until you are at or past the deadline. THEN you can relax ^_^
Right on the Mark
You are not out of the woods just because you're on the mark. You still have 13k words to write! If you can get a little ahead, you might want to do that while you still have time. If you're American, this week is going to be so full of distractions and temptations to not write it's going to set you back unless you're a strictly self-disciplined individual. Not to denounce my own kind, but creative writers aren't usually the most organized or disciplined individuals. Sometimes, you run across one (like me) who's compulsively organized or analytical (I'm an engineer), but usually, creative writers (artists of all creative endeavours, actually) are kind of lacksadaisical about deadlines.
In fact, generally, the more a creative person tries to "force" their creativity onto a schedule, the harder it is to create. That's kind of the point of Nanowrimo--forcing yourself to learn how to be creative "on demand" and work against a deadline. It's not easy and in fact, if you've achieved 36k words already, you can pat yourself on the back for being committed for the first 21 days. Good job! Now for the home stretch.
Falling a Little Behind
I'm distinguishing this last category into two parts because if you're just a little behind--say at 30k words--you still have a chance to catch up. It's not impossible. If, however, you are at say, 5-10k words still, I'm pretty sure you'll never make it. I'm about as prolific a writer as it gets and I'd have trouble churning out 40k-45k words in 8 days. That is, I would if I had to live real life as well. I could do it if I had 16 hrs a day to devote to nothing but writing and had my meals prepared for me, groceries magically appeared and laundry either got done by itself or didn't need to be done at all. Seriously, who's taking the last 8 days of November "off" from life, work, home, and everything else just to devote 100% focus to writing the bulk of the project? No one, that's who.
If you're still in the 5-10k range, admit you've given up and just enjoy the rest of your month. Hit the Nano forums and play the Nano games. Or better than just blowing it all off, help someone else meet the goal! You can encourage your fellow Nanowrimos by reading their stuff and commenting on it. If you can't write your own 50k words, don't beat yourself up for it. You can still benefit from the Nanowrimo experience.
One of the best-known ways to improve your own writing skills is to read others' work, and learning to verbalize a critique in a constructive and useful way is a hard-to-learn skill you can achieve this last week while helping others. It can still become a win/win!
If you're just a little behind or right on schedule (and American with holiday weekend plans), then the balance of this post is for you. Here are some tips for how to time-manage yourself for the next 8 days. First of all, if you're American, then you've probably already encountered the "mad rush" at work or out and about. Americans are scrambling to get "everything" done by Wednesday because either they're travelling to join family for Thanksgiving on Thursday or have company coming. If you're a Brit, you are at a serious advantage right now! This week is why you Britons keep slamming us Yanks on the word count each year.
So what's Thanksgiving got to do with your Nano plans? Accept the reality that you are probably not getting 7 days of productive time this week. Maybe 3, if you're lucky! Don't lay a guilt trip on yourself. Accept it and optimize the time you have left. (Geez, sounds like you've just gotten a death sentence, doesn't it?)
8 Tips for the Last 8 Nanodays
(1) Schedule a specific amount of time at a specific time of day to devote exclusively to writing. Say 1 hr every morning from 6am to 7am (before everyone else in your house is up; maybe that's 5am in your house. I'm up at 4am so no sympathy here! haha)
(2) Think about your writing during the other 23 hours when you're not at the keyboard. Don't ever stop "editing" in your head. Replay the last scene you wrote--you should be able to remember that much, right? Keeping your head in the game while away from the keyboard will get you back onto the keys that much faster when it's writing time again
(3) Use a kitchen timer to clock your 1 hr a day and enforce the NO INTERRUPTIONS rule. If this has been a problem in your house for the first 3 weeks, I suggest you draw the analogy that you would like to have your writing time treated as though you are sitting on the toilet. Note that you really need the privacy and would appreciate receiving that level of respect.
I know it's explicit language but I think you'll be surprised how the mention of a toilet gets attention, especially from kids who can't relate to the word "work" but can understand why you might want to be left alone in the bathroom. If you want your 1 hr, take it! If your kids are young enough that they (a) don't understand why you want to be alone in the bathroom and (b) still take a nap in the afternoon, plan your writing time for when they go down to sleep. Insist that they must be quiet--for themselves. It's nap time after all! And hey, added bonus, after a week of "training" like this, you might actually have some better-behaved kids when it comes to going to bed, huh? ^_^
(4) Color outside the lines, so to speak. Stop worrying about how to describe things or what a person "should" say and just write the first thing that comes to mind. If you're really having trouble getting past a plot point, you know, you can skip it. You don't have to write every single scene in the exact order in which it appears in the final. In fact, you don't have to write every single scene in the book right now. Or at all. Maybe the scene you're struggling with is a struggle because it doesn't need to be written.
Just put a little placeholder in there, write a note to yourself about the sucky scene or person or room description and move on. Right now, you're so deep inside the book's creation, you might bet getting lost in the forest for the sake of the trees. This is precisely the kind of situation from whence that cliche sprang! The details (trees) aren't anywhere near as important as the forest that is the whole book. You need to get to The End of the forest not wander aimlessly around the same trees five times. Slap a note on the tree so you can find it again later and keep going.
In December, when you come back to it, you might read the note and write the scene--or you might delete the whole thing and wonder why you cared so much. It's called getting a little "distance" over time. This week is not the time to get distance. Next month will be.
(5) Along those same lines, don't forget: You can write whatever you like. The 50,000 words do not have to be good words or even sequential words. Who ever wrote that rule? I definitely did not see that rule in the Nanorules and Chris Baty came up with some pretty amazing "rules." If you haven't read the rules already, you probably shouldn't take a few minutes out now to read them because they're guaranteed to give a much-needed laugh after all this "advice" of mine. Read Chris Baty's hilarious NanoFAQ. It'll cheer you up--and reassure you that you can write any scene from anywhere in the book and it'll count. My favorite is one of the first ones:
Q: Can I write one word 50,000 times?See? He thought about a minute and took THREE words to answer :) Since you never have to upload actual words, no one will know...other than you and as I said at the start of this blog post, you have to live with yourself so be honest.
A: No. Well… No.
(6) This one will probably surprise you. Stop plotting. If you've never jumped around when writing before, give it a try. It's a lot easier to just use an outline as a guide when your concern is getting a logical progression of events for your plot and you want to assure your book has a beginning, middle and end. However....
If your goal is simply to generate content, you might find it's a lot easier to not care about how it all ties together. Worry about that in December--or maybe never at all. Maybe you'll find it easier to start writing more by digging into the past of a scene or character's life. This is a technique referred to as interviewing your characters and I've mentioned it before. Here's a sample list of questions or just Google the phrase "interviewing your characters" and choose from the list of results. There are a lot of sample interviews out there. It's a fairly common technique for generating content and has been for a number of decades (since WW II era or umm, maybe back to the time of Homer--and I don't mean Homer Simpson! *GGG*)
(7) Stop watching TV, videos/movies or playing XBOX. Or anything else that might distract you like email and Facebook and Twitter. In fact, hide the Wii, XBOX or Kinetic controller until December. Just make it go away so it cannot tempt you. Unplug the modem whenever you want to write and forget that the internet exists--unless your characters use it for something ;-)
If you have other activities you tend to do instead of writing, do whatever you can or must to eliminate those distractions from your life. It's just ONE MORE WEEK. You can live without pretty much anything for just one week, right? I happen to be totally addicted to a handful of TV shows but you know, I lived for over 2 years without owning a television at all when I first returned to the US. I did not miss it as much as I thought I would--and I got soooo much writing done!
(8) Take a walk, or if you don't have time to talk a walk (or have kids and can't leave them alone in the house), do some jumping jacks, jogging in place, something to get your heart rate up and your blood flowing. I'm not kidding. A very wise man named Gardner Dozois (used to be one of the top editors in the SF/F genre and is still out there selling gems of wisdom if you look for him) once noted: Your brain is your best tool for writing but unfortunately, it's attached to your body so you must maintain your physical health in order to maintain the optimal use of your mental faculties. Exercise is the best thing you can do to give the creative juices a boost.
That's it for the inspirational tips. I know it's not much but I'm sorry to have to say again, I've never been at a lack for things to write. Most people want me to write less, not churn out more words. Well, except for my unique and special snowflake readers :-)
I'm not sure what I'll be generating for my readers this weekend but I can assure you there'll be something. Possibly some artwork. Maybe even two new hands for Cartoon Dicky!! Woo-hoo!! The one thing I can say I'll be doing by Saturday is not a surprise: before then I'll have removed the content of Conditioned Response from Authonomy, so if you wanted to read the first 80% or so of that book before I release it, now would be the time! I haven't decided if I'll kill the files on Wednesday or Thursday but "Friday's" work will be gone from Authonomy before Friday (GGG) I'm getting so close to having that book done, I can almost taste it!