Winning NaNoWriMo: The Final Week

We’re just one week away from the end of Nanowrimo. I’ve been quiet on the blog front lately, mostly plugging away at my own novel, plus a bit of posting on the main Nanowrimo forums and in the Nanowrimo Facebook group. But now that the end is in sight, I thought it was time for another blog post.

If you’re Nanoing this year, then at this point in the month, you’ve probably decided whether or not you’re going to win. You may not have admitted that decision to yourself, either way, but I’ll bet you’ve made it.

To those of you who have decided to win, congratulations! That’s the hardest part. Keep on plugging away.

To those of you who have decided you’re not going to win, allow me to throw down a challenge. Change your mind.

Yes, I understand that life happens, and sometimes we feel it is the right thing to prioritize other obligations over our novel. I don’t know your circumstances; only you do. Knowing that 67% of statistics are made up on the spot, though, I’ll hazard a guess that 95% of the people who quit could definitely finish if they decided to do so. The hardest part is making the decision. The rest is managing it.

I’ve been a little hard on quitters in the past. I do have a certain respect for unapologetic quitters, those who say, “You know what? I’m not willing to put in the time this takes. I have xyz going on right now, and I’m just not going to put xyz aside.” I think that’s fine. The quitters who drive me batshit crazy, though, are the whiny quitters, the ones who refuse to take responsibility for their own success or failure in this crazy one-month noveling process. They’re easy to spot on the forums. “Oh, I can’t write 50K by the end of this month because I have a cold/just got fired/just got hired/have kids/have a REAL job/have a lot of homework/blah blah blah.” My response? If you really want to win, then win. Put aside your excuses and type the fucking novel. Put your butt in the chair, your fingers to the keyboard, and create something that never existed before. If it were really important to you, you’d get it done.

If you just felt your hackles go up, especially if you didn’t know you had “hackles” before, then pause before lambasting me in the comments. If you’re unapologetically quitting because you need to prioritize other things in your life, then stop apologizing. Just quit, and write the novel some other time. Or don’t, whatever. I don’t really care; I just want you to be happy from my little corner of New England. But if you want to win and you’ve already made up reasons why it’s impossible, then maybe my challenge is meant for you.

Imagine that the story you’ve made up about why you can’t finish is just that: a story you’ve made up. It’s not real. It’s no more real than any of the other stories you make up to explain the events of your life, the ones you treat as reality. Reality is subjective. (Whoa, too metaphysical? Sorry, I’ve been writing sexy sex all month and storing up my philosophical rants, so they might leak out here.) Your explanation of your circumstances can either be the reason you stop or the reason you continue.

I want to challenge you to win Nanowrimo. Last month, I said that winning was a decision, and I still believe it is. No matter how far behind you are, decide to win. Right now. Be willing to step forward, to take a risk in your life rather than lingering in the shallows of mediocrity. Aren’t you tired of being mediocre? Of never committing? Of settling for less than your best? To decide to win is to risk failure. You’ll never be able to say, “Oh, but I didn’t really try.” But that’s where the magic happens! Put your heart into it. Proclaim your intentions loudly, and give it your best attempt. If you fall short, you will still have achieved more than everyone who sat tentatively on the sidelines, paralyzed by indecision, until November 30th came crashing down and they never had to make that decision at all. As I say to my students all the time, be bold with your uncertainty.

If you want to win, here are a few strategies to help.

  • Word Wars and Sprints. You can find these on the main Nanowrimo forums, as well as on Twitter (#nanosprints or #nanowordsprints). Join a sprint for 10, 15, 30, or 60 minutes, and race your competitors.
  • Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die. This devious program got me through several Nanowrimos. You can set the grace period and the consequences, and just wait to see what happens. It’s available as a free Web App, but if you find it helpful, support the program and purchase the desktop or iPad app.
  • Headphones and Noveling Music. I’m as easily distracted as a raccoon in a room full of mirrors, so when I write, I have to tune out the world. I put on my headphones and tune into Pandora’s Symphonic station. (I can’t novel well to music with words.) Choose your own noveling music and your preferred program, whatever it is, and block out those pesky distractions.
    • I like to pair this with the Countdown Clock on Online-Stopwatch, which is just what it sounds like, and which I have as a widget on my iGoogle. (By the way, what the hell is up with iGoogle closing next year? Sadness.) I set the countdown for a standard length of time and just type, type, type. It’s like a sprint with myself.
  • Be cruel to be kind. No, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to a lot of Nick Lowe. It means you should withhold treats until you reach certain milestones, and then reward yourself. These treats can be candy, games, or favorite television shows, but they can also be bathroom breaks, meals, and sleep. Hey, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

To have your ass kicked mercilessly, please head over to Terrible Minds and bend over.

Good luck, people. The end is in sight. Now I’m going to go back to singing Nick Lowe.

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