Nano Rules That Lead to Progress

Mocha Freeze at Cafe Borrone, With Laptop Reflection

This is my sixth year attempting Nanowrimo and my sixth (and seventh) Nano book, and I’ve learned to adopt a few rules to help make the thing progress.

  • Nanowrimo comes first. All existing writing projects should be scheduled for before or after Nano. One of the worst experiences I had was trying to finish 38000 words of Nano in 10 days after having lost almost half of it to editing FROST MOON.
  • The Internet stays off until 1,667 words are done. There are a dozen reasons to use the Internet – to look something up, to check your email, to blog on Facebook. DON’T. Not even if you’re ahead. Get a whole day’s writing in before you log on. In particular, NO BLOGGING, Tweeting or Facebooking until you’re caught up. Turn your Internet off if you have to – that’s what I do, writing on a laptop.
  • Don’t read+eat, then write; write+eat, then read. This one may not apply to you. I have a day job at The Search Engine That Starts With A G, so to get writing done, 3-5 days a week as wife, cats and friends permit, I go to dinner by myself, read something to feed my head, and then go out for coffee and write. But sometimes writing gets the short shrift when you do that, if you’re reading something interesting or get lost in email. Normally that’s OK; you should read more that you put out in writing. In Nano, I have to upend this and write first, come hell or high water.
  • Look things up later – use <angle brackets> if you have to. Even if you don’t have the Internet, there are ways to look things up when you’re writing. Don’t. If you don’t know Marcus Tullius Cicero’s name, just write <cicero’s name> in angle brackets and go back later, searching for angle brackets and looking things up. Your writing will thank you.
  • If you know the plot, write all the beats down, then expand them later. My process involves thinking about stories long before I write them. I think of a dozen, a hundred, a thousand ideas for every one I write down. I’ve been thinking about HEX CODE, for example, for a few years, and my head’s full of ideas. So sometimes, even when your writing juice is gone, you can quickly bang down the beats of the plot – “Cinnamon leaves for the Rogue. She gets paranoid by the park. She thinks she sees somebody. Then Tully surprises her and gives her grief.” There’s 500 words tomorrow, all planned out today.
  • Use the Nano community. There’s a South Bay Nanowrimo community and while I haven’t had time to go to their events this year I did have time to learn from their wisdom. In particular, they had a suggestion to get a head start by going to a Denny’s on Halloween and starting writing at midnight to get an entire day’s writing in before the first day had really started. I was too wiped to do that, but …
  • Get a head start. … but I was not too wiped to set my alarm for thirty minutes past midnight and to get up and write at home. I stayed up from about 12:45 to 3AM, alternating between writing and puttering with the cats. I got a lot written – 1129 words. Then I took my laptop to lunch and finished out my day. Then I took my laptop to dinner and started work on the next day. Then I took my laptop to Cafe Borrone’s and finished out the SECOND day. The result? I wrote 3500 words today. If I can keep up 1667 words a day, then I’ll finish a day early. Woot!
  • Track your progress. I use a spreadsheet which I’m going to detail in a later post, but the long and the short of it is that you need to do 1667 words a day to finish 50,000 words by the end of November. Track your progress and hold your feet to the fire.
  • Write, write, WRITE! Enough said? No. There’s a lot of planning you may need to do to finish Nano. WRITE FIRST. Get yourself a day or two ahead. THEN PLAN. Some of your best work will come from winging it.

Finally, one more word of wisdom. Don’t start work on your second Nano book until you’ve finished your daily quota for the first. It’s better to finish one book than it is to have two half finished books in the month. Remember, it’s better to be done! In fact, I’ll go further and say you should take a little break between the two of them, to say, for example, blog your Nano writing rules, just so you’ll tackle the second book fresh. This advice only applies to insane people trying to do 2 novels in Nano.

So, the result of me following these rules? 3500 words done today on HEX CODE:

And seriously, I’m only 96 extra words into STRANDED. Instead of trying to complete two Nano books, I’m going to try to make progress on completing my beta reader draft of STRANDED during my Nano downtime, as long as I’m making ahead-of-schedule progress on HEX CODE.

And if I finish that … THEN I can think of tackling STRANDED as a second Nano.

-the Centaur

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