Taking the No out of #NaNoWriMo – Hacks for the rest of us


Subtitle: Hacking the Looming Big Writing Marathon

I’m breaking the rules this year (What, again? How boringly predictable, I hear you mutter).

I don’t have a novel to write (mmm, I do have several to rewrite), so I’m taking the No (Novel) out of NaNo. Which is possibly making it National Writing Month or more correctly, International Writing Marathon Month *InWriMaMo*

And just to make my point. This is not another post with advice on doing NaNo. It’s more about how to not do NaNo, but do what I need to do. Below, please find some hacks for the writing marathons.

Just to toss some more made-up acronyms (and a few real made-up ones) out there:

NaNoWriMo Hacks *now with even more nourishing Acronyms!*

Firstup, this is what I intend doing: –

  • FlashMo, a subset of GloShoStoMo.
  • No-FictMo or NaNonFiWriMo
  • Re-WriMo

FlashMo or GloShoStoMo*

I’m FlashMo’ing firstup. All the gurus are telling me to do some short stuff, then sell it. Or at least share it.

But. Writing shorter fiction is much MUCH harder than writing a novel. So, at the moment I’m prepping several story ideas, hoping that a few may somehow mutate into an anthology. (Because stories do that, right? Mutate by themselves…)

Flash fiction is difficult to drill down also – some writers suggest only 500 words, others up to 1000. If I went with the 500 figure that would be…big breath…100 stories created during the month of November to make up the 50,000 word target of NaNoWriMo.

You heard it. One. Hundred. Stories. Or 3-4 new stories per day during the marathon month.

Unfortunately, I’m not that imaginative. I’ve only come up with a possible seven story-lines so far, and most are missing their endings. Or beginnings. Or characters. Or meanings for their existence in the first place.

Did I mention writing shorter fiction is hard?

To top it off, I’ve just joined Joe Bunting‘s Story Cartel course, and before I can get through even halfway of Lesson One, an exercise requires that we write and share another short story.

A short story I didn’t have, and didn’t want to waste if I needed every last word for NaNo. Fortunately, with a feathery whirl, I got a brand new idea this morning, and wrote a short story in one quick sitting. Once it’s been critiqued in the course I may well share it here.

* ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo – Shannon Lawrence has taken made up acronyms to the max with Shannon’s Novel & Short Story Writing, Editing, and Submitting Month. She’s aiming to produce 30,000 words to complete a novel and write short stories, plus some editing and submitting one short story a week.

Shannon’s goals pinpoints the need in me to look at setting some SMART objectives for any of these acronymious (yep, made that one up too) challenges I join or set myself.

GloShoStoMo (Global Short Story Month) sounds a good idea to me ( so much so, I’m back to making acronyms up myself).

I still like FlashMo too – but wouldn’t it be great if we could combine with flash mobs? Perhaps seemingly random mobs of writers appear out of the crowds in a shopping mall, sit down and write stories in public. Flash Fic Mobs could take over YouTube for the month.

Non-FictMo *

Non-FictMo – some writers, who stay relatively quiet on the NaNo forums, actually use the month to not write fiction. 50,000 makes a good standard for a non-fiction guide or largish e-book. I need to revise my non-fiction book already drafted, not write another one.

But who said it has to be a book? How about a freebie content report of 1500 words, or several blog posts** of 500-700 words, enough to keep me in posts for several weeks. Do newsletters count? Like trusting British Paints, they sure can.

* There is actually a non-fiction marathon. Nina Amir, who has lately been proof-testing her newest book, The Author Training Manual (due out soon from Writer’s Digest Books) is running National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo), also known as the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) challenge.
The challenge has an impressive list of non-fiction authors and speakers providing inspiration, and a forum to join. http://writenonfictionnow.com/wnfin-2012/participate-wnfin/

*Blogher is half way through NaBloPoMoNational Blog Post Month this month, with a theme of Fall, technically less relevant to those like me in the Southern Hemisphere, although the theme of things falling or falling into love might work for some bloggers.http://www.blogher.com/fall-love-octobers-nablopomo-theme?from=bhspinner


Re-WriMo – darn-it – word count tends to jump around as you delete and rewrite so you can’t count revising drafts for marathon work like this. There are revision marathons out there like NaNoEdMo* which operate with time spent on revision for this reason. But hmmm…what about a total rewrite?

Yep, got one of those on the back-burner. A series of short-stories that need to be condensed, and rewritten with proper endings and stuff. Stuff like – oh, in some cases, an actual meaningful story. I see a trend here in my shorter fiction…

So, I’m planning on opening up that old draft, getting a sense of each story, sin-binning it, and sending out a new player.

*There doesn’t appear to be any official National Novel Revision Month possibly because the acronym NaNoReMo has been swiped for National Novel Reading Month, which is again, an unofficial challenge without a supporting website (but a really good idea!).

The need to revise all these NaNoWriMo, CampNaNo and similarly inspired drafts is thankfully gaining recognition. Some propose revising NaNo novels immediately in December. More realistically, leaving a bit of a gap for composting and Holidays, the Office of Literature and Light supplied two months of revision prep emails from January 2013, leading into the NaNoEdMo events held separately.

* For whatever reason, NaNoEdMo always tickles my fancy. I turn it into NeighNoEd-o in my head – for something the Famous Mr Ed might want to consider.

Done with singing “A horse is a horse, of course, of course…” yet? No, no, thank you.

Doing the SMART Maths

nano maths

For any kind of marathon, the smart people do the maths. NaNoWriMo does that for us – 50,000 words divided by days in November equals 1667 words a day.

Factoring in real life, and the consideration that we might like a few days off for say, holidays or breathing, or doing the grocery shopping and all that, then we’d probably be safer betting on 2000 words each day, and bathing in the luxury of having made up on words at a later date.

Choosing hacks to do instead of writing a 50k novel brings in the need for more maths. If I want to still meet that 50k ultimate target and get the certificate, I’ll need to create that many new words over the cycle of my marathon attacks.

*Gets the calculator out, wets it and waves it in the air*.

Let’s see. I make that –

  • 500 words of short story per day
  • 1000 words of re-writes/total re-writes per day
  • 500 words of non-fiction per day.
  • Total: 2000, with a safety factor.

That’s roughly two-three hours work (I know non-fiction takes longer for me to write than fiction fast drafts), but doesn’t factor in the fact that I don’t have working ideas for a new short story or non-fiction piece every writing day (I only have seven of the former so far) so this thinking and planning-a-little time also needs to be included in the writing day to ensure the next day’s writing stays on-track.

At best guess, a couple more hours for priming the creative pump. Risk mitigation plans – should the priming not work: more non-fiction work.

It’s not often I dedicate an entire month, with approximately 5 hours per day, 6 days a week, with full-on projects and tasks like this. That kind of discipline is either the making or breaking of many writers. But then…I don’t care.

Worst case scenario: I can’t meet the word target or win NaNo this year. Which isn’t that bad after all. Because I still get some words done.

Do You Care? Do I? Should we?

nanowrimo 43 folders

Nope. Not really. I’ve previously got a lot out of NaNo, or sister marathons, CampNaNo. I’m one of those irksome writers who has the ability and resources to sit down and simply push out lots of words. Other contestants *HATE* me.

But this year, I don’t care if I “win” or not. I do care enough to register and stick up a fake novel ID on there, just in case I somehow manage 50K of awful new words over the month. I enjoy the geekiness of it all.

Even if I lose the challenge this year, at worse case, I’ll at least get a few thousand words in stories and pieces I didn’t have before.

NaNo is just a tool. For writers like me it helps motivate more productivity, but it’s still just a tool. I typically have a love-hate relationship with it (just like I do with software or my gardening shovel, for that matter).

This year, I plan to take the No out of NaNo, and see what happens.

Credit: Top poster by Jake Fleming, who designed the NaNo flair for 2013.


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