So we’re in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, and I haven’t even talked about it yet. That’s just not how things are done around here, and I decided it was time to fix it. Now, last year I made some posts about NaNo and tips and tricks for managing it.
- Stay motivated during NaNo
- Things to Try if You’re Behind in During NaNo
- 3 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Scene During Nano
- 3 Reasons You Should Be Doing Writing Sprints
- 3 Things to try during NaNo
These haven’t changed. But I wanted to provide some new tips this year, so I decided to experiment with trying some new things for NaNo and see how they worked. The results were…well, they were certainly things that happened. Shockingly, trying random things and hoping for the best is not the most productive strategy.
Here’s some things I tried…so you don’t have to.
1) Writing in a park.
I live in Saint Louis, and we have a wide variety of parks. I figured it would be a fun idea to haul myself out to one of those parks and seeing if writing in nature had any impact on my writing. After all, some of the greatest authors ever have drawn inspiration from writing in nature. I can’t name any of them and don’t feel like looking them up, but I’m sure that statement is true if you decide to investigate it. And if it’s not, that’s just because you didn’t look hard enough. The burden is definitely not on me to provide evidence for this claim.
I live in Saint Louis. November in Saint Louis is not a warm time on a good year, and this year we were hit with a record-breaking cold front, as was pretty much the entire country East of the Rockies. The result of trying to write outside was being cold, miserable, and remembering that my favorite place for the outdoors is for them to be outside of doors that I am behind and are firmly closed, keeping the outdoors out where they belong.
2) Writing in a Starbucks
A couple author friends of mine like to make fun of a particular breed of “Starbucks writers.” This is not a condemnation of people who write at Starbucks. This is a joke aimed at people who go to Starbucks and make it very, very clear they are writing. If you’ve spent time in a coffee shop, I’m sure you’ve seen them – MacBooks on their table, Venti Mocha Latte Extra Expresso Frappuccino Brouhaha Malkavian, staring out the window and sighing wistfully about how tortued they are. But so many people do write in coffee shops who aren’t those types, so I figured there has to be something to it.
I believe I’ve mentioned before I have ADHD. If not, then I’m now mentioning I have ADHH. Trying to write in Starbucks resulted in me overhearing a dozen conversations that were not relevant to my life but I now know that Brad is totally banging Marie behind Tiffany’s back, and I drank so much expresso I could taste the face of God. Given how much caffeine I have normally, it took a terrifying amount of caffeine to taste the divine. He tasted like peppermint lattes. I got home, vibrated through my door as opposed to opening it, and passed out.
3) Writing when Drunk
“Write Drunk, Edit Sober.” That advice is often attributed to Hemingway, but it’s still commonly bantered around and I know people who swear by it. I’ve talked about it before and why it’s a bad idea, but I still decided to give it a go for NaNo. This decision was definitely rooted in trying to improve my writing or make the words flow more easily and not because I wanted an excuse to get drunk.
I wrote absolutely 0 words, but had a blast chatting with some writer and reader friends on discord. At least, I think I did. It’s kind of hazy after the first three drinks. Does anyone remember what happened after 10pm last Friday?
4) Reading for Inspiration
I’m on the record as saying that a writer should read. I’m not sure if I’ve said this on this blog before, but yes, if you are an author, you absolutely should be reading. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen authors say they never read, or rarely read, and every time I want to sit them down and give them a book list. It’s not that you’re not a ‘real author’ or anything if you don’t – I hate that gatekeeping stuff – but writing without reading is like being a hardcore athlete and not eating enough calories – it’s dorable, but you’re only hurting myself.
(Also, apologies to my editor for that many em dashes in a row. I got like 4 hours of sleep last night, see reason 5 for an explanation.)
Due to a recommendation from fellow blogger Amanda Cade, I decided to pick up Leigh Bardogu’s Ninth House. It was glorious. So glorious I had to see what else Bardogu has written. Then I read her entire bibliography in a week. I finished the entire first Grisha trilogy in a day. My first week of NaNo this year has been profoundly unproductive, and when I went back to look at my own pitiful words and compared them to Ms. Bardugo I wept, for they pale in imitation. I wanted to rend my garments in frustration. Then I reminded myself that Ms. Bardugo has years more practice than me, and in a sudden surge of hope I could be as good as her one day I wrote 13,000 words in a single afternoon. Then I hated most of them. This one…let’s call this one a wash.
5) Writing while exhausted
Because I owe my editor an explanation for the dashes before she murders me (she put my on a specific injunction against using them without her permission to try to break me of a bad habit of overusing them), I am writing this blog post on about three hours of sleep, because last night I decided to stay up and see if I find the words easier to manage when I’m too tired to stress about them. So I screwed up my sleep schedule, but I was able to justify it with blog research!
This is not going to win me any points.
I wrote about one thousand words I liked, two thousand words of unintelligible garbage where I rambled about turtles and my cat and several words that I’m pretty sure were just me slapping the keyboard with the grace of a baby harp seal, and then a whole lot of what I know for a fact was me slapping the keyboard with my forehead. Because I fell asleep. At my desk. I tried to get a picture of the keyboard imprint on my face, but I was too tired to work my phone camera and instead crawled into bed.
6a) Rewarding myself
Test 1: This was inspired by a teacher friend of mine, who gives herself an M&M after every time she finishes grading an assignment. I thought that was a brilliant idea, and decided to do the same thing, except it was a whole Reese’s cup, and I did it every paragraph.
I write really fast, and I often have short paragraphs. I also had an entire bag of Reese’s left over from Halloween. I ate that entire bag over the course of about an hour of writing. I then spent the next two hours bemoaning my fate.
Test 2: Given that I lost most of an evening to an upset stomach with my last attempt, I decided that this time I would reward myself with something fun that could not possibly turn out painfully – after every sprint, I’d let myself play with my cat for a bit. I get to watch him be a silly kitty, he gets some exercise, everyone wins!
Loki now associates me starting to write with playtime. I sit down at my computer, he hops onto my desk and screams for attention. If I don’t give him attention quickly enough, he reaches out and starts petting my beard with his paws until I’m overwhelmed with adorableness and have to play with him. Send help, it’s too cute and I can’t deal. How do I retrain a cat?
7) Write a short blog post to get in the writing mindset.
Sometimes just a few words will kickstart things, so I figured doing some blogging before I went on to the narrative words would help me get going.
You’re reading it. This is now one of the longest posts I’ve written for this blog. I’m going to abruptly stop before it spills over further. Right about …now.
What do you do for NaNo? Let me know below! And if you want to see what I write when I use some smart practices, pick up a free book from me!