NaNoWriMo 2008, or The Year I Decided to Do Crazy
The leaves on the trees outside have begun to change color and drop off their branches. The air has grown extremely cold this year and I'm shivering inside again. I keep a trusty notebook near me as I worry and fret and push my mind into thinking mode. What do all these things have in common? It's October and I have less than 30 days to come up with a plot for NaNoWriMo 2008. Welcome to NaNo season!
This year is a special NaNo. It's the 10th anniversary of Chris Baty's madcap escapade into the novel writing life; it's also my 7th year doing it. This year, I've decided to break from my own NaNoWriMo traditions. Usually this means that I schlep my computer around to write my novel. I've gotten good at it but this year I felt I needed to shake things up a bit. This year, I'm going analogue. That's right, you heard me. I'm going to write all 50,000 words by hand. Am I crazy or what?
Of course, I've got friends (like iScribe) who have have done this year after year, writing their novels longhand. And I know that authors like Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman write their first drafts longhand so I know I'm in good company. Ever since I made this pact though, I've been doubting the little sanity I DO have and wonder how on earth I am going to pull this off. So, for this year's annual NaNo article, I've decided to share what I currently know about surviving NaNoWriMo longhand.
Get a good pen. This one sorta goes on the DUH side of things, but yeah, doing a lot of novel writing means you'll need a good pen. You'll want something that fits in your hand comfortably and feels good. I'm going to use one of my fountain pens. I've discovered that I prefer using a fountain pen for writing as the body is much fatter than most standard pens and that helps to relax my hand when I'm doing a lot of writing. I will also be using Levenger's Cobalt Blue ink. I have a brand-new bottle of ink and it'll be fun seeing how much ink I use during November.
Practice writing longhand. A few months ago I started a daily creative writing practice. Mostly to get me back into the habit of writing. But also to see how many words I could churn out with a pen during one sitting. This daily practice not only has helped me handle a pen, but has given me some idea of how well I'll do when I start writing my novel. I now know how long it'll take before my hand tires and where it hurts.
Tally up your words by page. My friends who write their novels long hand swear by this. After every page they write, they'll tally up the page's total words and jot them down in one corner of the page. This way, they know when they've hit the requisite 1666 words for the day. It also helps them track their daily goal on the NaNoWriMo website.
Fake the final word count. This tip, given to me by my friend ariana, is probably the thing that helped me get over the fear of doing this year's 50,000 words by hand. Basically, when you've finished your book writing, you create a faked document, on your computer, that contains the same number of words as your long-handed manuscript. Then, you feed THIS document into the final counter to get declared a winner.
To be quite honest, this last tip feels like a cop-out to me because I've always been proud to enter my original manuscript into the reader to get the final count. However, to upload my original story to the website and have it properly validated means that I'd have to write the same story twice in one month: first by hand and then entering it into my computer. I see this as a lot of work to do and something I don't want to tackle on in the same month. But this tip, sanctioned by the folks at the Office of Letters and Light themselves, does give the analogue writer a big help up in getting their nano-novels done and on time, without having to duplicate efforts.
If you want to see the past NaNoWriMo article series, please go visit the beginning here, and then go here, and then here, and here. I've also written a review of Chris Baty's book, No Plot, No Problem, and you can read about it here. And if you're doing NaNoWriMo this year, feel free to add me (innowen on the nano boards) to your friends list. I'd be happy to help cheerlead you on and do some word wars with you.