1,667 words a day

Well it’s NANOWRIMO again, and for all you brave souls leaping into the breach, I salute you and offer Big Scary Hugs. Cranking out 1,667 words a day every day for a month is no easy task. So in the spirit of the occasion, I’ve knocked up some down and dirty hints and tips to help you climb the mountain.
The thing you should remember first and foremost during NANOWRIMO is that time is currency. Your life is kinda like that Justin Timberlake flick, except without to Dolby Digital Surround and Amanda Seyfried looking all at you all pouty and doe-eyed. No Cillian Murphy either, in all likelihood (sorry ladies). In fact, thinking about it, your life is nothing like a Justin Timberlake film.

  1. Prepare.
    I’m not an outliner. I’m a pantser all the way. But NANOWRIMO is all about getting words down on the gorram page. 1,667 words a day in fact. You can’t afford to spend time wondering What Happens Next. You need a plan. Even if it’s a plan that you’re updating weekly or daily. You need to know where you’re going or you’ll waste time staring at the Blank Page of Doom™ and wondering why god hates you.
  2. Understand the point of the exercise.
    NANOWRIMO is about word count. Many of the words you write will be less than sparkling. Some of them will be downright awful. A few will make the gods themselves avert their gaze. That’s okay. You can fix the words later. What matters is that you have the words to fix.
    Quality is awesome, if you can afford the luxury. I’m not discounting the importance of quality at all. But for NANOWRIMO, quantity is more important.
  3. Forget tools. 
    People spend a lot of time and research trying to find the right ‘tool’ to use: Scrivener, Storyist, Storymill, Manuscript, Copywrite, yadda yadda. And then they spend time figuring out how to use those tools. And time is something you don’t have.
    Seriously peoples, all you need for NANOWRIMO is a word processor. Hell, you don’t even need that (you shouldn’t be checking spelling tbh – it costs you time), you just need something that counts the words you’ve written. I recommend acquiring the services of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, who burst into cartwheels and pom-pom waving and “Gimmee a <insert the first letter of your name here>” every time you write a new one hundred words.
    But I realize they might be hard to get hold of.
  4. The Fortress of Solitude. 
    Even Superman needed a place to get away from the noise and rush of the world. If you want to get 1,667 words a day done, you’ll need one too. A closed door. A room without phones or interwebz. An understanding partner, who can comply with the request “do not open this door unless the child/dog/house is on fire”. If you can retain the services of several burly gentlemen in cheap suits to stand outside said door cracking their knuckles at anyone who draws near, that’s awesome.
    An attack leopard would be even better.
  5. Get a run up. 
    In all likelihood, your energy for the project will be greater at the beginning than the end. With this in mind, try to break the 1,667 words a day count whenever you can, particularly at the beginning. If you’re on a roll, don’t stop. If it’s 1am and you need to work the next day, but you’re WTFPWNing this scene, don’t stop. If the child/dog/house is on fire… yeah, maybe you should stop.
  6. Don’t go back to check it. 
    Seriously. Don’t even stop for a spell check. It’s all about the words, my friends. You are Orpheus and your book is Eurydice and if you stop and turn around, she’s going to disappear and Hades will be like ‘damn, what up with you Greeks can’t you follow a simple set of instructions I mean how hard is it’ and you’ll be all forlorn and whatnot and wind up getting torn apart by crazy drunken naked ladies on the slopes of Mount Pangaion.
    Or maybe not. But you probably won’t finish. 😛
  7. Don’t let anyone read it.
    You’re not in this for praise. Writing at this speed, you’re not turning out your best prose. This is not the point of the exercise. You are in this for words. At the end of the month, you go back, beat them into shape, get the story into a place where it’s worthy of review. For now, having someone read it is only going to a) Waste time, and b) Sap confidence (when your reviewer fails to turn cartwheels over the words you’re churning out like an underage worker in a Chinese sweatshop)
  8. Back it up.
    My god, don’t forget to save your work. In two separate locations. Every day. Haste makes waste, and NANOWRIMO is all about haste. You don’t want your hurried CTRL+S to ruin a day’s work.
  9. Remember why you’re here.
    Writing is supposed to be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, you need to ask why you’re doing it. NANOWRIMO shouldn’t be a chore. It’s more like a mission. You are James Bond, and your mission is to get into the swanky ball, make sweet love to the billionaire heiress on her arch-criminal husband’s desk, steal the plans to the Doomsday Device from her unmentionables and get out without a wrinkle in your $5,000 tuxedo (maybe getting into a punch-up and car chase on the way out). You must succeed, or else the world will fall into chaos and misery. If you view NANOWRIMO like you view doing the laundry, you’re never going to make it through to the end.
    You are a secret agent super spy in expensive threads who makes sweet love to billionaire heiresses.
    Repeat that to yourself in the mirror every day.
  10. The end is not the end.
    NANOWRIMO is an exercise in discipline. But it also leaves you with a product: 50,000 words of perhaps less-than-stellar quality, which you can nevertheless beat into serviceable shape with more hard work.
    The next step is to take the raw clay you’ve produced and make something awesome out of it. But the important thing is that you get that clay first. Everything else is secondary for now.
    And never forget the feat of writing those 50,000 words in itself is frackin’ awesome too.

You can do it. Believe it, and make it so.
Good luck, my pedigree chums!

11 Responses to “1,667 words a day”

  1. As always, enjoyable and extremely great advice. Unfortunate that I have decided not to partake in the exercise. There’s a TBR pile in need of trimming before the end of the year. And with all my ups and downs this year, I thought to spend the last two months of it just reading. Next year will be for writing. And saying: To hell with it.

    • That’s all good. Some folks don’t need the arbitrary nature of NaNo to get rolling. I think, most importantly, in an exercise in motivation. I’m sure next year you’ll rock it 🙂
      And I know what you mean about the TBR pile. Mine is so damn tall I need a step ladder to get to the top of it 😛

  2. Gina Rosati says:

    Awesome words of advice, Jay! Hilary Weisman Graham and I are talking to some teen NaNoWriMo participants on the 15th at a local library and with your permission, I’d love to make copies of this post and share it with the group (and introduce them to Your Big & Scariness 🙂

  3. Wonderful words of wisdom. I’d never seen myself as a James Bond but now nothing can stop me, not even a super-villain stroking a white cat and asking if I’ve come here to die.

  4. I tried NaNo once. I only got one day in before completely dropping the project. 2,000 words done, and I hadn’t even started at the beginning; I started somewhere at the end of the story. AND I basically did the exact opposite of the above tips.
    It was also around the time I started getting serious about writing, and I thought NaNo would be the perfect opportunity to write my first novel.
    *cough* Enough of that.

    • I think NaNo’s most vital function is that it teaches discipline. It gets people into the habit of actually sitting down and writing, which, as fundamental as it sounds, some people actually have problems with.
      It teaches folks that writing is hard work, and if you really want to do it for realz, you’re going to have to sacrifice other things in your life. Some folks already know that too.
      Plus, it can (or should) be fun 🙂

  5. Judd says:

    That was fucking awesome. I don’t know that I have anything else to say.

  6. […] Jay Kristoff reminds all WriMos that during the month of November, time is currency (yep, he mentions the new Justin Timberlake film!). His list includes tips such as ‘Don’t let anyone read it’ and ‘The end is not the end’. […]

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