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.
Most people who start NaNoWriMo never finish their book. They get busy, they run out of steam, life gets in the way. It happens. There’s no shame in that.
You, on the other hand, have been crowing since August about saving all your ideas for November and that this book will blow everyone away. “This is my year, baby!” you said. “I’ve got so many ideas! I’m gonna crank this thing out, edit it in December, get an agent by February, ink a deal by May, and lord it over my friends the rest of the year! Whoo!” Well, all that big talk has led to a plot that’s basically cribbed from Gremlins 2, and what you thought was a fleshed-out protagonist is the same snarky “tough guy” you use in all your stories, but with a different hair color. To finish by November 30, you’d have to write 2700 words per day, which is technically doable, except the very thought of spending one minute more on this bookwreck makes you want to set your desk on fire (possibly while still seated at your desk). If you bail out now, though, you’ll look like a flaky loser (which is totally what people will think because EVERYONE is very concerned with YOUR BOOK in particular).
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s how to pull the ripcord on your NaNoWriMo project and not look like an idiot.
Wrap things up early
By which I mean, just stop writing and then lie about it. “Oh, the book? Yeah, I wrapped that up by Thanksgiving.” People don’t have time to read all the books they’ve paid money for; who’s got time to read something you haven’t had time to edit yet? Oh, that’s right–you promised the second coming of To Kill a Mockingbird, and you may have friends who want to see how it turned out (or, more likely given that you’re the sort of person who reads this column, you have a rival who wants to see you crash, burn, and have a cheap funeral). If you absolutely must present your work to someone, stop writing where you are, then have your character say something self-reflective while looking at a lake. When people don’t get the ending, just say, “It’s kind of an experimental novel.” Then, give them the side-eye and say, “Not everybody’s supposed to get it.”
Announce that your book has grown into a trilogy
“Whoa,” you’re saying, “that sounds like a lot more work.” Well, yeah. But all of that work is in the future. Who cares what happens then? If people start asking how your trilogy is coming along, I’m sure you’ll think of something. It’s the classic writer’s trick of raising the stakes, except involving your own time, reputation, and mental health.