I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I say “doing”, but what I mean is “registered for”. Last year I wrote about 54,000 words, which officially made me a winner but in actuality made me very tired. Also, none of the words were salvageable. Well, maybe six words. But as a winner, I feel it is my duty to impart my tips for winning.
1. Give your children to someone else
I got up at 7am this morning – a public holiday – to write. I was so pumped. I took my laptop outside and sat under the pergola while it poured with rain and there was the kind of cool breeze that feels like angel fingers stroking your face and then bam, my kids were there. Under normal circumstances I would have enjoyed the way they set up paper and textas and glitter glue around me, demanding that I pose in particular ways so they could sketch my portrait. But the resulting writing was “GO AWAY PLEASE JUST FOR TEN MINUTES OR EVEN FIVE JUST FIVE MINUTES OKAY ONE MINUTE” which was poetic, I’ll admit, but not in keeping with my plot.
2. Break up with your friends
It’s nice when your friends want to hang out with you, truly. But here’s the thing: they won’t understand NaNoWriMo. a) they don’t understand how long 50,000 words is (it’s about 200 pages); b) they don’t understand why anyone would feel the need to create a false deadline that nearly kills them just to say that they did; c) they want you to come to the pub. FINE. GO TO THE PUB. But you’ll come home afterward and stare at that blank screen and wish with all your soul that you’d skipped the pub and written 1000 words instead because now you have zero.
3. Gouge out your eyes
NaNo has this hilarious graph on its website that tells you how far behind you are. “At this rate,” it says, “you won’t finish until February 15th 2014.” It gives you an illustrated overview of how many words you haven’t written today and how many you have to write every day from now on just to finish on time and not have to kill yourself. And if that didn’t make you feel sufficiently dreadful about every achievement you’ve never had, it also gives you a bar chart of just how far ahead of you everyone in your local area is. Without eyes, you won’t have to see it! Get some voice recognition software. One that won’t tell you how far behind you are.
4. Forget all your hopes and dreams
Having hopes and dreams – especially ones about writing – is a waste of time and energy. The space your hopes and dreams occupy in your mind should be producing meaningless tripe to put down on a page in order to meet an arbitrary word count. Ditch “I would love to have my book published” and replace it with a scene about the time he took her to the shops and there was no bread left. Abolish “Writing brings me the greatest joy I’ve ever known” and instead try cramming extra adjectives into every sentence. “At the stark, grey supermarket, Allie took Jeremiah’s cold, wrinkled hand and slowly walked the empty corridors in search of a wheaty, soft loaf. But there were none.” There, doesn’t that feel better?
5. Give up
If you don’t have access to a full frontal lobotomy, an alternative might be your local Thirsty Camel or corrupt doctor friend. Take your manuscript, set fire to it, find a good blanket and try to remember what it was like before NaNoWriMo, when you really thought you could be something.