How to catch up with your NaNoWriMo backlog

November 8, 2007

NaNoWriMo logoI shouldn’t really be writing this. I’m about a quarter of the way through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo), an annual writing challenge which requires you to write a novel of 50,000 words in the month of November. This is my third year as one of the 70,000 or so people worldwide taking part in the event, and hopefully my third at being one of the roughly 10,000 winners.

To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you have to average a little under 1,700 words each day. Even with NaNo’s emphasis on quantity over quality, that’s a big writing commitment: when I’m focussed, I can manage about a thousand words an hour – but I’m not always focussed, and I can’t always find two hours a day. And some days I don’t feel like writing… so I fall behind.

Last weekend, I was facing a deficit of over 1,000 words, a seemingly insurmountable backlog. I said to myself: “Self, you can do this. You just need to break it into small parts and reward yourself for completing them.”

For me, a manageable chunk of writing is a hundred words. It’s almost trivial. This article is four hundred, and I’ve had to trim it down. Other people might write more, or less. My favourite reward is a short break – although yours might be a piece of candy or something healthier. I might step away from the computer and do a chore. I might not even get up, and instead waste a few minutes Stumbling. I turn off my writing brain for a few minutes and then come back for the next spell.

As the instructions say: rinse, lather, repeat. A thousand-word backlog drops to five hundred in less than half an hour, simply by writing a trivial amount and taking a short but well-deserved break. If you have a free evening or (better yet) weekend, you can catch up with almost any backlog. Until maybe the last week, it’s impossible to get so far behind that you can’t catch up and finish on time.

With the aid of some Bach and no other unplanned distractions (the phone is off the hook and TCB has strict instructions not to let me near my guitar until I hit an acceptable word count), I’m back on track, only 366 trivial tasks away from victory.

See you at the finish line!

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2 Responses to “How to catch up with your NaNoWriMo backlog”

  1. essbee Says:

    yeah I do it in 10 minute slots. How many words can I write in 10 minutes – times quite a few. That got me to 5k today :))

  2. kensson Says:

    Five thousand words in a day is great going! Well done!


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