1) Not write.
That’s probably the dumbest thing you can do. I do this all the time.
2) Change something.
That’s right- go back into the precious words you’ve already written and, instead of adding to them and your all-important word count, you change them which does absolutely nothing for your word count. Here’s my recommendation: Make a note in the manuscript saying something like, “This is where I started writing like Josie has killed Elsie.” Then keep writing as though Josie has killed Elsie. Don’t you dare go back into the scene where Josie ALMOST kills Elsie and change it! You know you’re going to be revising the novel anyway, just save all the changes for that revision. I just did this dumb thing. I changed the beginning instead of pretending that the beginning had already been changed.
3) Blog instead of write your novel.
Yeah, blogging is fun. Especially when you know you should be doing something else. In fact, it’s probably more fun when you should be doing something else. I am doing this dumb thing right now. As I write this.
4) Give yourself an out.
“Oh, I have a new baby…” “I didn’t start until a week late…” “I’m going through a kitchen renovation…” “I’m sick…” I’m on the verge of doing this dumb thing every day. If you give yourself an out, you will use it. So don’t. Don’t give yourself an out.
5) Get obsessed with “writing props.”
There’s this parenting book I’m reading that talks about “sleep props-” things that your baby absolutely must have in order to go to sleep, like a pacifier or a bottle or something. The book is very anti-sleep prop. You should be anti-writing props. If you absolutely must have cinnamon hot chocolate in your WRITER mug and be listening to Beastie Boys Pandora with all of your Facebook notifications taken care of, you have a problem. You just wasted about 20 minutes of valuable writing time. I do this dumb thing all the time.
“If you do all these dumb things, Laura, then how have you won Nano for two years running?”
Because I’ve done these five smart things to counteract the dumb things:
1) Have a support person that MAKES YOU WRITE.
I love my husband more than anybody. When he comes home from work, all I want to do is hang out with him and our baby. So when he comes home and says, “How many words have you written?” and I say, “Um…” he says, “How about I take the baby and you write?” That is a huge incentive. I want to get at least 1000 words out before he comes home so I can hang out with him instead of writing up in my own little corner as he and Google have fun.
2) Get excited about your idea.
Tell people about it. It will make you want to write about it. Especially when people ask, “So how’s that beard book coming?” I mean, come on? Who wouldn’t want to write that?
3) Post your word count some place public.
Especially if it’s your first year. Your Facebook friends (or Instagram buddies or whatever) will be thrilled that you’re actually writing a novel! You’ll get more “likes” than George Takei. (Well, that’s a bit ambitious). Plus, it’s good shaming when you don’t have much to post. Just check the bottom of this blog. I’m practically weeping.
4) Set ridiculous goals and have at least two marathon days.
That’s what this whole thing is about, right? I always have at least two 5,000 word days. This is how they go: Get up. Make cinnamon hot chocolate. Write while still in my pjs. Eat breakfast. Write some more. Take a shower and change into “real” clothes. Do some laundry or take a nap or something. Then write like crazy until dinner. Get take-out or eat leftovers. Write some more as my husband gets to watch tv. Finally, I reach word 4,999 and type, “yeah” just to make 5,000. “Done,” I say. Let’s see how that goes with a two-month-old.
5) If you get stuck, talk to somebody about it.
Take one of their suggestions- what’s the worst it can do? You don’t have to keep it for the rest of your life. This is an ever-changing novel, not a new sidewalk. You are not sticking your hands into literary cement- you can (and will!) change it when you’re done.
So this is my secret to winning Nanowrimo for two years running: Do as many smart things as you do dumb things.
Maybe in my next procrastinating blog, I’ll post about how both years turned into real novels instead of a bunch of crappy words.
I’ll leave you with a cute picture and a word count:
Word count: 4,259. Pathetic. See? Don’t change things. Just pretend they’re already changed.