My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Three Last UberGeeky Words of Warning About NaNoWriMo

Happy Halloween/Parentalia/Samhain/Summer's End everyone!!!  Here's hoping you don't eat too many peanut butter cups and fun-sized Butterfingers.

I've gotten a lot of hate mail about my NaNoWriMo article.  I've also gotten a lot of love mail.  One Creative Writing instructor of several years says that he's afraid to say anything bad about the event but praised my courage.  I'm pretty sure it was real.  Maybe.  NaNo gets people very excited.  Sometimes even the guy saying "be careful; I just want you to still be a writer on Nov 1st and not a self-hating smear on the wall" can get steamrolled by those "you've-lost-the-faith-my-brother" robe-wearing fanatic types.

And now I have an evil clone who is going to be doing NaNo himself.

I'd like to give you all one last word of warning in geek language since the overlap between geek and Nano-enthusiast is pretty high.  In fact, the overlap between geek and tends-to-overdo-things is pretty high in general.

This is an awesome article about losing weight and getting fit.  How to Finish What You've Started This guy is a colossal geek*.

So here is my last word of warning about doing NaNoWriMo--especially to you new writers--using Steve Kamb's terminology of a finite willpower pool.

1- NaNoWriMo is a powerful boss monster.  If you haven't spent some time back near the starting village killing Enraged Spuds and Koboldlings to build up your willpower pool, this boss monster will likely be too much for you.  In other words, if you have a good habit already of writing every day, NaNo is probably doable, but if this is your first attempt at sitting down and wordsmithing for hours a day, you might want to think about smaller goals.  1667 is the magic number and that is going to take most people three or four hours.  You might have that time to spare on paper, and it might even seem doable for the first few days, but most people don't realize quite what they're getting into.  I know NaNo might sound like a great way to get started, but it's very similar to someone starting their fitness regimen by running 27 miles before doing Couch-to-5k. And maybe you CAN defeat it, but you don't want to get smug on day two.  You still have the neverending middle Phase, and the All-This-And-Thanksgiving final attack sweep to go.

Don't get cocky.

2-Will you be fighting anything else this month?  Okay, let's assume you are pretty sure you can handle NaNo.  Either you've been writing daily for years or you just have the sheer hubris to ignore the advice of seasoned vets about how hard it is.  Is it going to be just you and NaNo?  Or are other things going to jump into the fight.  A lot of boss monsters are doable until they call in six adds and it turns into a not-the-awesome-kind of gang bang.  Is your family coming for an extended visit this Thanksgiving?  Anything major happening at work?  Are you going through some shit with your family? (Or in my case...) Is someone in your house having a baby?  If so, you're not just going to be dealing with NaNo. You might want to think about the wisdom of doing it THIS month since a lot more than just NaNo is going to be sucking up your willpower pool.  There are a lot of other months, tons of other 30 day blocks, and NaNo will certainly be here next year if you just have to do it at the officially sanctioned time.

3-Do you have time to rest between encounters? NaNo isn't technically one long battle. It's thirty medium sized battles of 1667 words. (For most this is between three and five hours.) And you probably have a life going on between each of these battles. Most of us can burn the candle at both ends for a few days--maybe even a week--but then it really starts to get to us. Do you have a full time job? A family that needs your attention? Other obligations? If you've crammed everything into your schedule in such a way that NaNo only technically fits as long as you jump up from it and rush to do everything else....you're probably going to burn out a little more each day as each encounter saps you of a little more of your willpower pool. If you're cannibalizing every moment of free time to do NaNo, then you go into each new session only with that willpower you have left over from the last session, and with no recovery time. By the end of day three or four you will be in desperate need of some downtime. (And not to harp on this, but downtime is important for creative types.) Just a bit of time to relax and call your own.  If your schedule can't accommodate NaNo AND some time to recover from each day of NaNo, you have probably made it a little too full.

And you know what. I'm not going to be a negative Nancy once the ball gets rolling. I don't want to discourage you from writing. If all these things are good to go--or you just don't care and you're going to try it no matter what anyone suggests--then believe my sincerity when I wish you the very best of luck.

*How do I know this?  Because his website is called Nerd Fitness.  (That was my first clue. ) In this article he describes how willpower is a finite resource like in a video game.  (Second clue.)  He uses the idea of playing video games to describe how to lose weight without overextending yourself.  (Number three right there.)  Don't attack too many "bad guys" at once.  Don't attack a "bad guy" before you've had a chance to recover.  And don't attack something that's too powerful for you. (At this point I was fairly certain.)  Of course he's talking about losing weight, but the concepts could just as easily apply to writing.


  1. Just read your NaNo article and I think it was excellent. I recently joined NaNo because, as a newbie writer in a small town with no writing groups, I was looking for a community where I could give and receive encouragement on writing. I wanted a place where people could push me to get the words down and give me feedback on what I had written so far. Even though I have already started my first novel and am about 30,000 words in already, I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.

    In terms of encouragement, NaNo is tough to beat. I love the positive energy, the sense of excitement, and the feeling that we are all "in this together". I've already met a few "writing buddies" who, much like gym buddies, will help hold me accountable for my daily word count goal of 500 words.

    On the negative side, I don't know that this is the best site to seek critical reviews on the actual writing. Everyone is so positive and upbeat that any kind of constructive criticism is seen as, as you said, "harshing my squee". Now, maybe that's OK, given that the main goal here is to hit that word count and not fuss about the quality, but if that is the case, I wish they wouldn't even have the option of posting the work at all. Some people will post work that is in obvious need of extensive revision and the only response is typically, "This is great! I really loved it!!!". I end up feeling like I'm taking crazy pills. I had hoped to find a place where I could get some honest feedback on my writing. NaNo is not that place.

    I'll stick with NaNo for now, as it meets one of my needs quite well. Sadly, I'm still on the hunt for a good critique group.