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3 Uncommon Sense Tips for Winning #NaNoWriMo


There’s only one week left of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo)—a crazy artistic marathon challenge in which writers commit to writing a 50,000 word novel, from initial idea to finished first draft manuscript, in thirty days.

For those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo, this could be the hardest week of your creative life so far. The final stretch is when all the dramatic stuff happens: Darth Vader closes in. The opposing team throws a sixty-yard pass to end up in the red zone. Your computer has a hard-drive meltdown.

BUT, if you stay on target, the final stretch is ALSO when all the heroic stuff happens: Han Solo shows up and blasts that mouth-breathing bastard into 1983. You intercept the ball and run it back 93 yards for a touchdown. You finish the book on your grandfather’s antique typewriter, rediscover the forgotten sound of your lost childhood, and heal the psychic wounds left by generations of neglect and tightly-held family secrets. (Whoa. Where did that come from?)

In order to nudge you toward the heroic end you deserve to this completely insane month, here are three nuggets of uncommon sense advice (from a guy who did NaNoWriMo for the first time 2011 and sold a book in 2014.)

1. Go for Quantity over Quality

This isn’t about writing something brilliant. It’s about FINISHING something mediocre. Ok, probably it won’t be mediocre. But if you give yourself permission to write something mediocre, you have a better chance of finishing. Because here’s a secret: brilliance happens by mistake. Books get good when you cut out all the crappy parts, leaving only the brilliant mistakes. That’s called editing, and that can only happen AFTER YOU FINISH.

2. Take This Too Seriously

Because winning at NaNoWriMo = winning at life. You know that thing that stops you from hitting your word count goal? That is the same thing that has stopped you from getting everything you’ve ever wanted ever in the whole world ever. Winning NaNoWriMo (AKA writing 49,998 words and then typing THE END) is like beating that bastard back with a stick. And, once you’ve done that, you’ll find you can do ALL SORTS OF STUFF you didn’t think you could. Like running half marathons and getting up at four in the morning. Trust me.

3. Neglect Your Other Responsibilities

Writing a book in a month is an unreasonable proposition. Strike that. Writing a book at all is an unreasonable proposition, and it will require unreasonable sacrifices. Sacrifices you THINK you are unwilling to make—until, that is, you make them. So, for a month, neglect your significant other (just a little). Let the dishes pile up in the sink. Slack off at work. Save it all for the keyboard—but leave it all there.

Now, get back to your book. (And I’ll get back to mine.)


advice, NaNoWriMo

Jeff Garvin

Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN and THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS. Cohost of THE HERO'S JOURNEY podcast. Rock musician, D&D geek, aspiring revolutionary.

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