Coping With NaNo: Writing Sprints

At the beginning of November, when I’m enthusiastic and inspired, I write in long bouts of 45 minutes or an hour.

A few days before the end, when I’m way behind & madly scrambling to the finish line, I won’t let myself stop for hours on end.

In the dreaded Weeks Two & Three, however, a powerful combo of procrastination-inducing thoughts takes over:

  • The usual snippy remarks from my inner editor ‘You’re using THAT word? Really?’
  • The story isn’t exciting enough yet to carry over the slump ‘They’ve not warped yet? Really?’
  • I can still tell myself that there is a lot of time left and I’ll be just fine ‘I’m ONLY 10K behind…’

It tends to leave me much less eager to write and when I try to put my head down and write for a full hour, I just end up checking Twitter on my phone half the time. So instead of a long slog, I go for short sprints.

Writing sprints are my November lifeline and are the only reason I won three Nanos. If I focus, ignore the distractions and type like the wind, I can get 300 words down in ten minutes. I know some people will think that’s not a lot and some people will think they couldn’t top that, and that’s okay. We all have different paces, what I love about knowing mine is that I can organise my writing sessions around it.

If I can do 300 words in 10 minutes, I only need six ten minutes sprints to be over the daily word count goal. I could just write for an hour instead but I know for having tested the theory time and time again that it would be less productive for me.

For the people of the internet age who have ridiculously short attention spans, sprints are just perfect – it’s so much easier to set aside distractions (read ‘cat gifs’) for 10 minutes than it is to resist them for a full hour.

Approaching a mountain of words ten minutes at a time can also be a lot less daunting, especially when you’re quite a bit behind like I am.

Just set an alarm for 10, 15 or 20 minutes and write without pausing for anything. Switch off the wifi if you have to, or try writing full-screen (programs like Q10 or Write or Die let you do just that) and type until the clock ticks. You can alternate your short, concentrated bursts of pure noveling genius with getting a coffee, doing some plotting or interacting with the people you’ve been neglecting this November.

If you’re on Twitter, follow @NanoWordSprints, where MLs from around the world run regular sprints day and night, complete with mini pep-talks and optional writing prompts.

You can also hang out with fellow writers in the Nano London Chatroom: After you’ve registered here, you can log in to the chatroom here. Writing sprints, plot discussions and possible procrastination await.

10681 words

Originally posted at www.nanolondon.org.


Wise Wrimo’s Survival Kit: Writing Software

Welcome to this side of November, everyone!

If you’re like me, you’ll be eager for anything that can help make your life that little bit easier (read ‘less insane’) this month. And you’ll jump on any occasion to try out new gadgetry.

I haven’t found the software that’ll write my novel for me yet, but I have found many nifty programs, ranging from the simplest to the most elaborate word processors.

They’ll either encourage you or guilt you to the finish line, and better yet – most of them are very cheap, or very free.

I’ve put together a list of them for you, because that’s much easier than writing my novel. So pick and choose what sounds good to you and put together your own customised Software Survival Kit.

The Basics

The first piece of writing kit that springs to most people’s mind is probably MS Word. It comes pre-packaged on some computers, but if you don’t have it, there are plenty of other options. The popular shareware Open Office, available here, is ad-free and easy to use, but isn’t the best in terms of file extension compatibility. While it’s useful to have a basic word processor on hand, it’s often impractical to keep large word-counts in one single document, as you have to wade through dozens of pages to find any given scene.

The Swiss-Army Knives

You might want to consider a software designed for fiction-writing, especially if you’re writing in a non-linear way. My personal favourite is long-time Nano sponsor Scrivener, available for Mac and PC, it offers a conveniently-timed 30-day free trial and will give you a discount on the full product if you win your Nano. It might seem daunting to get your head around, but it’s actually very intuitive and you can read @LorelaiSquared‘s excellent tutorial here.

I have also heard good things about Storyist, but as it is Mac/iPad only, I do not have personal experience of this program. The Nano site calls it ‘a powerful novel writing environment’ with ‘some great self-publishing tools too!’. As it’s a Nano sponsor, it’s offering a special Nanowrimo free trial for November and a 25% discount with the code ‘NANOWRIMO12’.

The Catch-Uppers!

Despite our best intentions, most of us will end up missing a day or two of writing, or fall behind a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with that – I do it every year – but it helps to have strategies to get back ahead.

Mine is timed writing sprints, and particularly Dr Wicked’s infamous Write Or Die, which is tag-lined “Putting the ‘Prod’ in Productivity” with good reason. Instead of rewarding you for good behaviour, Write Or Die ‘punishes’ you for pausing in your writing by flashing red, giving you a reminder that you should be writing, playing an annoying song or slowly deleting your words. You can choose your pace, sprint-duration, grace period and even punishment. You can also go full screen or disable the backspace key to prevent on-the-fly editing. You should try it, it’s fun and it really works – I’m not sure I would have won any of my Nanos without Write Or Die. The web-based version is available for free, and the desktop version (for PC, Mac and Linux) is $10.

I also have a soft spot for Q10: a free full-screen text editor, small enough to fit on a USB drive (on which you back up your novel OFTEN), with customisable formatting, target counts, timer alarms and typewriter sound effects. Which you can swap for Supermario sound effects. Enough said.

A Wealth of Web-Based Apps

If you have an office job, don’t miss an opportunity for some sneaky wordcount-padding at your desk! You could simply write an email to yourself, or use Google Drive to write up and save word files for free. I use Google Drive constantly when it comes to writing articles and sharing to-do lists and resources with friends, but I know concerns have been raised over Google’s privacy and copyright policies. I haven’t read Google Drive’s Terms & Conditions, so I don’t have an informed opinion to offer on the subject, but I do have a nifty alternative app.

750 words is a website designed to host writing privately and for free. Once you’ve created your account, you can type in near full-screen mode, and your writing will be saved – but only for your own eyes. I particularly like getting stats on my writing when I’m done, and collecting cute badges for various achievements.

Finally, every time you need cheering up, go and write a hundred words at Written? Kitten! It is exactly what it sounds like.
1202 words

Originally posted at www.nanolondon.org.