Week two of Nanowrimo. The feeling is familiar and yet it has a tang that only comes with the project at hand. I’m on track, on target. It’s good to be writing with this level of intensity again. Taking a break has allowed me to put some thought into the way I approach the task at hand. In particular, it allows me to consider the three rules that have led me to be a four time winner of the great game. Allow me to share them with you now.
1. THOU SHALT WRITE.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Of course thou shalt write. It’s what you’re here for. It’s amazing, then, how many people find excuses not to write. Life, work and family will all conspire to get in the way of your precious time alone with your characters and that looming peril you’ve got them facing. So it’s down to you to make sure you have the time to get that 1667-count down.
Why not hook yourself up with a Skydrive or Google Docs account for fuss-free pickup of your thoughts in a lunch-break or a quiet half-hour? If you have a tablet, then there are any number of free or cheap writing apps (I like Daedelus, but WriteRoom is good–and free for the duration of Nanowrimo) that hook into Dropbox or other cloud backup solutions. I use my morning commute to bang out a thousand words, a prime use for what would otherwise be dead time.
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth experimenting to see when you’re at your most productive. Late night or early morning, everyone has a sweet spot when the words just seem to come without effort. Find yours, and you’ve just made the daily writing ritual that little bit easier.
2. THOU SHALT BACK-UP.
Speaking as someone that once lost two days work to a flaky battery on my old netbook, I know the exquisite pain of seeing hard-earned writing vanishing into the aether. I would spare you that pain, Writership.
So, set your main writing platform to auto backup, and shunt your project into a seperate archive. Dropbox is brilliant for that, but there are all sorts of strategies, from emailing your project to yourself to good old USB dumps. Whatever works best for you is fine by me, but make sure you do it, and if you can automate the task so you don’t even have to think about it, so much the better. Your brain’s full enough this month as it is. No need to clutter it up with details if you can help it.
3. THOU SHALT NOT REREAD WHAT THOU HAST ALREADY WRITED.
The tempation to just have a look at what you did yesterday in that wonderful fugue state of creativity, that moment when your fingers just flew over the keyboard, can be overwhelming. Don’t do it. There will be something in there you don’t like. Probably a lot. Before you know it you’re tinkering, tweaking and maybe even taking stuff out. Why wuld you spend valuable time erasing stuff you’ve already written?
There’s a time and a place for editing. It’s called December. November is for writing, and it doesn’t matter if what you put down is pig-ass ugly and clunky as a Lego hand-whisk. It’s wordcount, and you can start putting lipstick and a dress on it later. For now, ever onwards. Don’t look back. There’s a story in front of you, and it won’t take kindly to hanging around while you’re looking for another word that’s like intransigent.
Those are the rules that work for me. There’s one more.
THOU SHALT WRITE IN THE WAY THAT SUITS YOU.
In other words, the way I work might not do the do for you. If you want to write on an endless scroll of typewriter paper like Kerouac, go to it. If you don’t make the 50K, but you manage something that makes you proud, even if you spend the last week in November tinkering, then so be it. Nanowrimo is all about embracing the creative spark inside you, and finding out that it doesn’t burn: it lights the way. However you dio Nanowrimo, I hope you find that spark.
See you at the finish line.