How-NOT-To Retain Your Sanity Through NaNoWriMo


Okay, so before I go into the meat of this post, please be aware that it will be a departure from my usual material. This is a “How-Not-To…” post for a reason.

National Novel Writing Month (Aka NaNoWriMo) is an annual event that runs from November 1st until November 30th. The FAQ covers everything you need to know about the people behind the event, and how it is run. But, the basic premise behind the event is that writers around the world try to write FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS over the course of the event.

While I WAS successful (50,009 words in 30 days) in completing this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, I went about it in a way that was very unlike any of my previous attempts. To say that I learned a few things along the way is an understatement.

So, without further ado, here’s my list of ways that you SHOULDN’T try to tackle NaNoWriMO:

  • Track the progress of everyone in your local area who might be attempting this impossible feat
    • Actually, tracking the progress of the three other people I knew were taking part gave me the motivation to keep going despite what the month threw at me
  • Move homes sometime in the middle of the event
    • This is a sure way to lose valuable writing time, and I highly recommend NOT doing this if at all possible
    • Do NOT leave packing and moving until the last minute, and conduct the move with limited man-power and transport
    • You will find that this cuts into your writing time even further if the move is completely disorganized
    • I did this, and STILL somehow managed to squeeze the last words in before the deadline
    • There were a couple of days where my writing time vanished entirely between packing boxes, heading to work, then going straight back to moving furniture.
  • Move as much heavy furniture as you possibly can
    • Unless you have a death-wish, I do NOT recommend trying to move heavy couches with just two people
    • Disassemble whatever furniture you can, as much as possible. That way, you CAN get it down the stairs and out the doors (which were smaller than the ones the couch came in through… Thanks to renovations by the landlords)
    • Moving the couch alone took five people on cell phones to try and find instructions that would let us disassemble it… Then three more hours to get it down from the apartment to the U-Haul truck, through the snow, and a half hour to get it into the new apartment
  • Work full-time in retail during the holiday season, and take whatever hours are available
    • Okay, so I’m a glutton for punishment. I DO work a retail job, which provides my main income, and the available hours often make a social life very hard to arrange
    • During most of the NaNoWriMO season my store was going through the build-up to Thanksgiving, which meant a lot of very large orders, and 15-30lb turkeys
    • Standing in a small box for hours on end is  great way to ramp up any pain you already feel from trying to move couches that took two professional movers to deliver
  • Stay up to write as much as possible, and sleep MAYBE four hours most nights
    • Okay, I might have got more than four hours most nights, but there were those nights where that was all I squeezed in
    • I stayed up as late as I could on a lot nights, playing catch-up on two, or even three days worth of lost word count
    • In the last ten days of the event, I started early, finished late, and wrote in every spare moment
  • Forget to eat
    • The night we moved the couch, I ate breakfast, then lunch and nothing else, because I was rushed from work to couch moving duty. That was twelve hours of work without a break, or meal
    • There were other occasions where I actually forgot to eat while working on the juicier scenes, but I was always careful to remain hydrated. Don’t ask  me how I managed that, because I have no idea

So… There are my tips for NOT retaining your sanity through the month of NaNoWriMo. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but I honestly did go through every single one of these challenges, and still managed to make it through the other end of the month in one piece. It’s just as well that I already know that November is a busy time in retail, or I might really have lost what little sanity I have left from moving apartments.


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