Ask Dayton 50 – NaNoWriMo: Dayton’s Words of Inspiration
Your Daytonness: It’s November. That means it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). How do you feel about NaNoWriMo? You have been asked many questions by the unwashed here about the writing process, and always handle it with your usual grace, charm and compassion that made you the man we follow so willingly here in Wardstown. But what is your advice, nay, what are your words of innate wisdom about keeping momentum for the month? Who knows, you may inspire the next Da…vid Mack among us!
*Genuflecting before Your Daytonness*
Holy shit! Fifty of these things? What the fuck is wrong with me?
Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I love all that shit about grace, charm, and compassion, but “Daytonness?” Does anybody besides me think that makes me sound like I should be wearing a leather bodysuit and teaming up with Cobra to go after G.I. Joe? No? Just me? I’m all alone on this? Well…okay, then. Moving on.
Yep, it’s November all right, and with it comes National Novel Writing Month. What’s the deal? Long story short, you’re supposed to write at least 50,000 words, which could either be a short novel or a goodly chunk of a longer one. To put it in perspective, my novels tend to run in the 100-130 thousand word range, so a successful NaNoWriMo sprint could net me about half of a novel I might write as one of my regular paid gigs.
Why November? Good question. It’s right in the middle of gearing up for holiday season, with kids getting ready to be out of school for Thanksgiving and families and friends criss-crossing the country to sleep on shitty fold-out couches or inflatable mattresses. Meanwhile, someone with no life or job or other responsibilities decided November was the perfect month for everyone to forsake everything in the whole damned world, in order to take a stab at writing at least a significant portion of the Next Great American Novel.
What. The fuck. Ever.
Truth be told, NaNoWriMo and me? We don’t get along too well. I go my way, and she goes hers, and we leave each other the hell alone. I tried it. Once. I registered with the site, got my little word counter for my website, and told folks I was gonna do it. I was in the midst of a contracted novel project at the time, and I thought this might be a great way to knock out about half of the thing in one thirty-day swing.
I flamed out, in spectacular fashion. Not only did I not meet the 50,000-word goal, but I ended up being behind schedule so far as my actual deadline went. Way to go, Ward. My takeaway from the exercise was that I guess I just suck at self-imposed deadlines. Sure, I’ve written that much in a similar time-frame; once, I had to write something like 70,000 words in about a month, but that was to meet a horrendous deadline. I hated every word of that slugfest, but at least I got paid. I’m a whore, that way.
For those of you who’ve chosen to undertake this challenge, I think you’re fucking nuts, but I salute you, because this isn’t some feel-good, laid-back, half-assed sorta goal you’re chasing, here. Writing isn’t easy to begin with. Writing on a deadline ain’t no picnic, either, but writing such a goodly chunk of words in such a short amount of time, while juggling all that other life and job shit? Nothing to sneeze at, that’s for sure. As for whatever helpful advice I might be able to offer to brave souls such as yours, I’m going to stick to a few easy points which I think give the most bang for their buck:
Manage your pace. You’ve got so many words to write, and so many days to write ‘em. Don’t over-think this. Figure out a words-per-day rate, and shoot for that. Take this in chunks, rather than concentrating on the 50k mark. It’ll start adding up pretty quickly. 50,000 divided by 30 days is 1,667 words a day. Sounds like a lot, right?
Now, break that down farther. 250 words an hour is a figure I like to use, because that’s an old school measure for a page—give or take a dozen words or so—when you’re using Courier 12-pt font and double-spacing your manuscript. 250 words an hour isn’t a terribly stress-inducing pace, and doing that for seven hours gets you your daily quota and some extra padding, and you can do it in easy to manage chunks that you spread throughout the day. You know, one or two before work, one at lunch, one after work, and the rest in the evening. If you need or want to adjust that number up or down or how you spread it across the day, knock yourself out. The point is to find a pace that works for you on a consistent basis, but doesn’t stress you out while you’re trying to hit it.
Don’t kill yourself. Quit for the day if you hit your quota. If, on the other hand, you get froggy and write way beyond that, then give yourself a break the next day. If you miss a day, then work a bit harder over a few days to get back on pace, rather than trying to gain it all back in one chunk. Or, just recalculate a new per-day rate to absorb the words from the missed day. Again: Chunks. Pace. Consistency. Repeat.
Write now. Edit Later. Sound familiar? I offered this bit of advice for a previous “Ask Dayton” query, and it definitely applies here. Your goal is to keep pushing forward, every day, all the way to the finish line, and you can’t do that if you keep going back over the stuff you already wrote. We all have an inner editor, wanting us to revise that paragraph or page we just wrote, or who keeps telling us that chapter we just finished yesterday needs a rewrite. Ignore that skeevy bastard. This exercise isn’t about having a perfect, polished, ready to rock manuscript at the end of November. That’s what December is for. So, tell that inner editor to sit down and shut his suck hole. Better yet, strap a ball gag on that mother fucker and stick him in a closet until next month.
So, there you go. Keep it simple, keep it steady. Win the race. If you’re taking the NaNoWriMo plunge, be sure to update us on your progress. Good luck!
But I still think you’re fucking nuts.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.
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