I sat down to give some good, solid NaNoWriMo advice. You know, like you do. Chock full of inspiration, sarcasm and gifs: just like the rest of my excellent portfolio of posts on this blog. But JARVIS decided the only legit course of action was to contact Pepper and tell her that I was giving terrible advice, and she told me I wasn’t allowed to post it.
Apparently, encouraging my ‘self-destructive tendencies’ and ‘incurable over-achievement’ in people less experienced in the world of NaNoWriMo, writing, or general life could lead to unhealthy writing practices and stress. And according to Pepper, I’m not allowed to do that.
So, being a smart-ass, I told her if she had such a problem with my advice, she could give her own. And she took me seriously. Which means I’m going to hand the rest of this post over to her, to give you sensible NaNoWriMo advice
A NaNoWriMo Pep Talk, courtesy of Pepper Potts
NaNoWriMo is a great time to be productive and get some of the writing done that you’ve been putting off for too long, but its nature as a challenge means that people tend to get into unhealthy habits by the end of the month. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve found Tony still awake after 72 hours and far too much coffee, writing away, claiming that 800k is an acceptable wordcount target. (It’s not.)
This isn’t meant to discourage you. Challenging yourself to write more than you usually do, whether more is 50k or 500k, is a great idea, and can lead you to rediscover your limits and abilities. But when your family and friends have to play nursemaid, it suddenly looks a lot less worthwhile.
This pep talk is in two parts: how to hit 50k, and how to look after yourself while you do it. The latter will crop up again later in the month: some of Tony’s associates are at least marginally more sensible than him. But while we’re still in the first week, I thought I’d get some things established before it’s too late.
Hitting 50k (or whatever your personal goal is)
I’m using the generic target of 50,000 words here, but I know many of you will be aiming for less, and many of you aiming for more. Both are awesome. You know the challenge you need. So just adapt this to your speed and targets.
Use Write or Die
For those who are unaware, Write or Die is a program that starts eating your words if you don’t write fast enough (or plays a klaxon or whatever, depending on what setting it’s on). It can be a great way to make yourself sit down and concentrate for 500 or 1000 words at a time, to make sure you get a really good chunk done. You’ll end up competing with yourself to get the most done in one Write or Die sprint.
There’s also the alternative Written? Kitten! where for every 100 words you can get a picture of a cute kitten (or bunny or puppy), if you work better with rewards rather than punishments.
This will depend on what you’re using to write, but write wherever you can. Take your laptop / tablet / notebook on the train, to school, to the office. Write in corners; write during your lunchbreak; write when you’re waiting for a friend to arrive using the terrible note app on your phone. Even if you only have ten minutes, you can write something, so do it.
Exclusive footage of Tony during NaNoWriMo
Get up early
Tony is not a morning person. I am, however, and I find that I can get plenty done before breakfast if I set my alarm half an hour earlier. Having got off to a good start means I’m less stressed when I come to write later in the day, because I’ve already racked up some words.
If you didn’t plot before you started, plan the next few chapters ahead of where you’re currently writing, just so you know where you’re going and don’t have to stop to think. This also applies if you did plot, but you’ve deviated from it: reassess, figure out where you’re going, adjust your direction accordingly.
Don’t look back
We talked about this before, but ignore the fact that your character doesn’t have a surname and one of them's changed hair colour three times and you don't actually know anything about steam engines and you're not sure whether someone would still be able to talk five minutes after being stabbed in the stomach and really, wasn't that guy alive a minute ago? Because research and continuity are for revisions, when you're fast-drafting.
Looking after yourself during NaNoWriMo
Writing quickly isn’t worth the pain of injuring your wrists or developing neck/backache. Take breaks. Relax your hands. Make sure your posture is good. You will regret it so much if you don’t. Every time I’m tempted to do more writing sprints, I remember how depressed Tony was when he hurt his hands last year and couldn’t build suits, and it makes me reconsider.
Use NaNo in a way that suits you. 50k might be too much for you, because of your other commitments or how your brain works. Don’t hate yourself for not reaching it. This is still a month when you can write whatever you want to get done, and at the end you’ll hopefully have more of it. That’s what NaNo’s about. Also, even if you don’t hit 50k this year, there’s always next year. Likewise, if 50k isn’t a challenge, shoot higher.
The community is the best part of NaNo, especially if you don’t have real-life writing buddies. Go on the forums and make friends. Find your local region and see if you can go to a write-in. These will stop you becoming a hermit, but they’ll also ensure that you feel like the month is worth it even if your wordcount flatlines after day 15, because you’ve got some lasting connections. We like to have write-ins at Avengers Tower, and they’re absolutely the best part of the month.
Your health always comes first
I can’t emphasise this enough. Tony is a self-destructive idiot, and there are a lot of people on the forums who will talk about drinking espresso at 10pm, pulling all-nighters, and writing 25k on the 29th November. It’s not worth it. Trust me, it’s really not.
If that’s what you want to get out of the month, I’m not going to stop you. You want to stay up all night writing because it’s a community thing and it’s going to be fun? Absolutely. But don’t reach a point where you’re so fixated on hitting 50k that you ignore your body’s demands for sleep and rest. Don’t push yourself until you become ill and overstressed and spend a week in bed, because that isn’t fun and it isn’t a badge of honour. It’s just unhealthy.
Last minute dashes to the finish line can be fun, but if they’re at the cost of your health, they aren’t advisable.
I know, I’m a killjoy. But I’ve seen it happen to Tony. Actually, back in 2010 I made the same mistake, and spent the final week of November feeling like hell because I’d been getting up 90 minutes earlier every morning, never taking a break just to eat lunch, and hardly ever seeing any of my friends. My body couldn’t cope with the strain, and I fell ill 7k short of a 200k target, which I then never reached. Making myself ill didn’t really serve any purpose.
Go forth and write your novels in a safe, healthy, and fun way. Oh, and remember one final, crucial piece of advice:
back up your novel
Seriously, do it. And don’t rely solely on the cloud, because HYDRA might get it. USB sticks, external hard drives, emailing it to friends, all of these are ways to ensure your novel doesn’t disappear into oblivion a day before validation opens.
I’ll see you all in December.
Avengers Tower write-ins usually devolve into showing off after a while.
(**See, I told you she was sensible. My advice was way more fun. And way more sarcastic and had more gifs. But she’s probably right. She usually is, and you should listen to her.** ~ Iron Man)