Everyone has heard the typical NaNoWriMo advice:
Just write your story.
Even if you know what you’re writing is awful, just keep pushing!
This year was my third NaNoWriMo and every year has been a unique process; I’ve made countless mistakes, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself as a writer from the experience. And I think I’ve finally uncovered five foolproof steps to winning…
Step 1. Reorganize Your Book Shelves:
I have the urge to clean my house when I’m avoiding a deadline, and NaNoWriMo is no different. When the feeling laid me low this November, I headed for my messy shelves. During the process I found the ubiquitous unread hardcover bestseller. Finding this book created an overwhelming level of guilt; I always meant to read this book. All my friends read this book. All the reviewers told me I should read this book.
What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I read this gosh darn book when I had the chance?
This triggered a reading panic attack and turned my cerebellum into an impassable labyrinth with all paths leading back to the same glowing tome of magnificence that everyone in the world had read, but me. And it taunted me.
So I wrenched open the pristine dust jacket knowing exactly what this diversion was costing my writing timeline. Halfway through the novel, disgust bubbled in my veins. The book was awful! The only thing I wanted to know about these characters was how I could erase them from my memory banks, forever! I was seething with the realization that I paid $29.99 for this… this… this door stop!
I positioned the book in a place of shame, (the center of my desk) and with renewed zeal, I opened Scrivener.
Step 2. Get a kitten:
Although logic would dictate that adding another living being requiring food, warmth and extra care into your home while also trying to write a novel in 30 days is a bad thing, nothing could be further from the truth.
In case you didn’t know it, kittens are insanely comical. They fall off window sills and into bathtubs full of water. They eat strange things, like peanut butter. And they get their heads stuck in Kleenex boxes. It’s a laugh a minute with a kitten in the house, and studies show that getting a good chuckle is beneficial to increasing your creativity. If your muse is a bit sluggish, a kitten is sure to perk her right up.
Also, a very young kitten will cry for its mom all night long! And it will engage in this high-pitched, mournful cry for a solid week, two if you’re lucky. This ever-present nightly cry will disrupt all those stupid regular sleep patterns you normally have. Eight hours of sleep? Who needs it? A darling kitten with a nocturnal vigilance for constant attention will make it possible for you to work around-the-clock. The only thing that rivals a kitten in your dreams of midnight NaNo success, is giving birth to a baby. You can be assured months of REM-free sleep with a newborn in the house.
Best of all, a normally active kitten can easily type a few thousand words just by running across your keyboard one, two, or three… a dozen times a day. Although those words look a bit like this: “aszx tghy jnmk ol;p” who cares, they still count. It makes your kitten worth his/her weight in kitty chow as your new writing partner!
The one downside to the kitten method is you may find yourself a few fingers short of a full complement, as your hand is frequently engaged as a kitty chew toy.
Step 3. Enroll your kids in a school that has 9 full days Thanksgiving vacation:
Once you have your little darlings home and under foot, give them unlimited access to the internet and don sound canceling headphones. You will need the headphones; they are part of the standard Mom Doing NaNoWriMo Arsenal Of Awesomeness. Without headphones you will learn to loath the sound of Minecraft, Call of Duty, or whatever video games your kids are addicted to. Trust me, the sound of them valiantly trying to beat a level boss, while simultaneously yelling at their friends to give them air cover will be blasting from at least two electronic devices per kid, for the whole 9 days of vacation.
Headphones, now! Good!
What is the NaNoWriMo upside of all this video game playing you ask?
Well, your delightful offspring will be hogging all the bandwidth and you will be cut off from social media. There will be no chance of you getting distracted by web surfing, or doing a little research that leads to a bit more research, which untimely leads to the NSA, CIA and/or Interpol opening a file on you. Your fabulous game playing brood, bless their little techno-obsessed hearts, will make any form of communication with the outside world challenging, if not down right impossible. No calls from your pesky family, no telemarketers… it’s like turning the clock back to the Dark Ages.
If you try this tip, I recommend you acquire a carrier pigeon, or two, just in case of emergencies.
This method has a rather large downside, as it might provoke countless friends and associates to mourn your demise. And don’t expect a party when you resurface from your dead zone, as your children may have inadvertently causes some blackouts with their wanton power consumption. But you will have finished 50,000 words, and isn’t that what counts?
Step 4. Embrace your love of fast food:
Junk food is your NaNoWriMo best friend, go ahead and give it a cuddle. Sorry, my mistake, you were supposed to cuddle the kitten and stuff the junk food in your face. Although not soft and fluffy, junk food is still warm and comforting! It requires no dishes or silverware. You never need to stand at the stove cooking it, or at a sink washing any pans for the sake of junk food.
It comes in an endless assortment of shapes and sizes. It’s individually wrapped.
It’s crunchy and chewy.
Oops! Excuse the drool.
Need I say more to convince you?
Don’t forget all that junk food causes heartburn, upset stomachs and packs in thousands of grams of energy producing fat and sugar. With enough junk food and coffee chugging along in your blood stream, anyone can pull off a NaNoWriMo all-nighter that rivals the ones you managed during your freshman year at college! You remember those? You partied until 2am, wrote a term paper until daybreak, ate a slice of cold pizza, chased it with a diet soda and still made your 8am class. Ah, good times!
Although a person can go at full speed for days on the right diet of junk food, it might be best to leave this one for that last weekend push.
Disclaimer: Please contact your physician before attempting this method as excessive junk food and caffeine consumption can be detrimental to your health and your bank account.
Step 5. Lie, cheat and practice wide-spread self trickery!
NaNo is not for the weak! You need to be tough! You need to be ruthless! You need to exploit your own vulnerabilities and play yourself like a slot machine! Heather tapped into this fact with her Slow Writers Scheme to Win NaNo.
After hearing my first four tips, it should come as no surprise to you that I am decidedly more diabolical than the average NaNoWriMo participant. Although most of my other tricks are not fit for polite society, I will share this one.
I engaged in systematic under-reporting. I took my model from your basic white-collar criminal; I call it “word embezzling.” I spend the first three weeks of NaNo rounding down. If I write 1260 words I reported 1200, skimming a bit right off the top. If I sat down and wrote a paragraph or two, I never reported those words at all, they went right into the black bag with the other stolen words.
Around the start of the fourth week I produced my real records and validated my word count. It’s like cracking open a piggy bank you forgot you had. It put me several thousand words over where I expected I’d be, and the rest was 2015 NaNoWriMo history.
So there you have it, five sure-fire, if totally obscure, ways to win NaNo. Will these tips work for you? Who knows? If I was a mind reader, I’d already have a literary agent.
Feel free to follow any of these fine, NaNo winning tips next year, or share some of your own in the comments.