I vividly remember the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo. It was a time of discovery, a time of hope, a time of overwhelming excitement. I was finally giving myself a chance of carrying the writer tag among others. Nothing tamed my enthusiasm.
Not my engagement and fast wedding, not my job hunt, not the astonishingly cold and snowy fall.
I went to the kick-off party just like Charly entered the chocolate factory and enjoyed every single moment of it. Even the huge following migraine. That was part of the game, wasn’t it. And I was pretty proud of myself for having written 3400 words the first night.
Then, I logged on the official NaNoWriMo site and felt my heart drop in my socks. Some wrimos had already written 5, 10, 15 even 20 k. How was that even possible ? They were cheating I was sure, they were only bragging and trolling the forum in order to discourage others. I was disgusted, I was upset by the image of myself it sent back to me. How could I call myself a writer if I wasn’t even able to keep up with them ? They would end NaNoWriMo way sooner before me and rejoice in seeing me struggle to reach the deadline.
I was hurt. And I was wrong.
Hopefully for me, I had a novel project that was very dear to me and it kept calling me back to the keyboard.
No amount of sulking or blaming others would change the fact that all my novel needed was my work.
And my sulking and blaming would never stop the others from writing and bragging about it, but it would certainly put my novel and my wordcount to an halt.
As I went back to work, I saw my wordcount grow word after word and started slowly growing confidence in my ability to win NaNoWriMo and write the first draft of a novel in a month.
What I understand from the situation now, after several participations in NaNoWriMo
These reactions were symptoms of my own insecurities and my own crazy expectations about what I would be doing with my writing. They also came from a deep misconception of what NaNoWriMo is and further of what writing is.
NaNoWriMo has no other goal than make its participants write daily for a month. Its only rewards are a winner certificate PDF and some coupons for products sold by NaNoWriMo’s official sponsors. The real reward for winning NaNoWriMo is the joy and pride of having been able to push back your own personal boundaries and committed yourself to a writing project. It’s highly personal and individual. There is no cup, no rank, no grant, no prize, no champion title.
Actually there isn’t any competition at all.
Our first job as writers is to be committed to our text(s), not watch what or how much the others are writing.
Because our creativity is unique there is no one else but ourself who can make use of it the way we would do it. Envying the other while working on a creative endeavor is a waste of energy and time.
More than that, we are in no place to tell others what they should be doing with their creativity and/or writing, and even less how they should do it.
How does someone become a fast writer ?
The first answer that always comes to mind is the easiest one. It’s usually a version of « Fast writers write crap ».
That’s both dismissive and revealing about how you feel about your own work.
There are actually techniques to help people write faster. Some writers have even written books about it.
1- Think before you write. Writers who work on their plot and plan their writing session do not have to think about where there characters will go next because they already know it.
2 – Know your characters and universe. Most fast writers benefit from the fact that they have created their narrative universe a long time ago. They are done with their exploration phase and when they start writing, they do not need to think that much about characterization, description and setting. The job has already been done, they can focus on action which has more momentum and is funnier to write, hence to keep them writing or hours.
3 – Stick at your keyboard and put in the hours. There is no hack nor secret when it comes to writing for quantity. Sure, there are tricks to add length to words but for the most part, people with huge word counts stick to their keyboards for hours and write. They do not watch TV, they do not go to the movies, they do not attend parties, they do not worry about the pile of laundry, they write and write and write and write. Most take days off from their jobs to put in the writing hours and others even stocked their freezer with food in order not to lose time cooking. Writing becomes their only goal for a month. Next time you find yourself doing something else than writing and think about these people with offensive wordcounts, just remember they certainly are writing at this very moment.
4- Learn to adapt your workstation as much as you can
I felt I had the potential to go beyond the 50 K but never actually did it because of ergonomics. The last two years felt like torture to me because my shoulders would hurt so much I could not even turn my head. I first invested in a keyboard and found relief, but if was only temporary, my desk chair wasn’t adequate.
I bought one for 30€ on LeBonCoin, our local equivalent of CraigsList, and found even more comfort but my shoulders kept hurting.
Except when I was at work.
I was lucky enough to work on a Mac, the one with the keyboard that did not cause my wrists and fingers to hurt, so I made the big decision to invest.
Others go even further and change for a BEPO/Dvorak keyboard, take typing lessons or are lucky enough to work all year long thanks to their typing abilities.
Fast typing does not happen by accident, astronomic wordcounts neither.
5- Keep your expectations in check
Most of the time, I compare NaNoWriMo to the Olympic Games because it has a lot in common with them.
You would never pretend to equal Olympic champions the first year you practice a sport, would you ?
Well, that’s the same with NaNoWriMo. Would you try to compare yourself to someone who has already done it or won it 10 times on your first participation ?
Even first time wonders who won several medals at their first participation in the Olympic Games had in fact trained for years before entering the Olympics.
It is the same with NaNoWriMo. You don’t go from writing close to zero words a day to 10k per day without a serious amount of training.
There are veterans around the site who have reached the keyboard ninja warrior level. They are wizards and they’ll be far ahead of you in the forth coming days.
And that’s Ok.
Yep, that’s fine.
Most of them give you an example of what you can become in a few years from now should you chose to follow the keyboard wizard path.
And you know what ?
Most of them would certainly be delighted to share their tricks and tips if you asked them nicely.
Still have some doubts ?
Maybe it’s time to explore your motivations for doing NaNoWriMo. Why did you enter ?
What do you expect to take from this experience ?
How does comparing yourself to the others help you achieve your goal ?
How can you focus back on your writing project ?