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Another !@#$% NaNoWriMo Article

Hacks for Hacks: Sense of humor required

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Do you really want to do this to yourself again? Don’t you deserve a break? Are you really doing National Novel Writing Month again?

Think of how much you could get done if, instead of spending the time hunched over your laptop trying to find the perfect synonym for “car,” you took up another hobby? Or learned a new skill? Why, I bet you could build a whole new house in a month! You could start NaHoBuiMo. It sounds no more ridiculous than its current nickname.

But you have signed up for NaNoWriMo again, just as I’ve signed up to give you another version of the NaNoWriMo advice column you’ve already absorbed again and again. We’ve danced this waltz many times, you and I, and we’ll dance it many more, no matter how often we step on each other’s toes.

So very well. Another NaNoWriMo advice article, even though we both know better.

How to Win at NaNoWriMo

Set a Daily Goal. Ye gods, that sounds just awful, doesn’t it? If you write a thousand words an hour, every word you type is about four seconds of your life you’ll never get back. That adds up to books that you won’t read. Reps at the gym that you won’t take. Hot wings you won’t eat. But you’ve already committed to it, haven’t you? Well then, sure, what’s a few more grains of sand spilling through an hourglass that only pours one way?

Give Yourself Permission to Write Badly. Permission! If only this slurry of used coffee grounds and wet cigarette ash gushing from your keyboard could be purified by merely withholding your permission! As if your wells of enthusiasm and inspiration had not dried up a week and a half ago, and you had no choice but to frack into the bedrock of madness. And not the beautifully tragic Sylvia Plath-style madness, either. You’re in the grips of full-on, I-dedicate-this-Monster-Energy-Drink-to-Odin type of madness.

Painting of Sisyphus carrying a boulder up a hill [1]
photo by ErgSap

Embrace the Community. Spend time chatting with your fellow suckers trapped in a hell of your own making. Your new friend Linda just told you this is her seventh NaNoWriMo in a row. You refrain from asking if she’s published any of them, and she offers you the same discretion; you both know the answer. And you both know you’ll be back again next year, doomed to wallow in your misery like you’re trapped in the Greek mythological underworld.

Just Write One Word after Another.  They say time slows down in a car accident. Every second feels like an hour as you watch the hood crumple into the starboard side of a Hyundai Elantra. NaNoWriMo is like that, except without the adrenaline rush or the insurance payout.

Persevere. The middle is the hardest part. Not just because this is where your story falls apart and you realize your protagonist is an unlikeable sociopath. But because you’ve passed the Point of No Return. To quit now would be to abandon almost three weeks’ worth of bad puns and lazy characterization. If you stay, you’ll crash in a fiery heap, but if you hit the eject button this close to impact, your parachute will will slow your momentum just enough to let you live through the experience of breaking every bone in your body (note: that’s a metaphor for regret). Just the thought of it makes you want to smash yourself in the head with your coffee mug, the one that says, “Writers Block: When Your Imaginary Friends Won’t Talk to You.” The mug won’t break, no matter how many times you brain yourself. Oh no, it seems to say. This month isn’t done with you yet.

Find a Reason to Finish. You’ve long since forgotten the reasons you started this fool’s errand. At this point, you’re running mostly on caffeine and spite. You hate your book. You hate your word processor. You hate the author of this column for enabling you. All of these are deserving targets of your enmity. Take solace that it may be enough to see you through to the end. If hatred was good enough a motivation for Darth Vader, it’s good enough for you, too. And on November 30, as you finish pummeling your book into existence, you will curse your own name loudest of all for putting yourself through all this again, knowing all the while we’ll both be doing this again next year.

Keep writing!

How do you power through NaNoWriMo? Share your advice in the comments?

About Bill Ferris [2]

After college, Bill Ferris [3] (he/him) left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.