1. Be sure you do not have a full-time job.
I believe my unemployment status helped me not only have the time to do this but that doing this WHILE unemployed kept me from going even crazier than I would have otherwise. (Honestly, I probably would have done this if I had a job too, but I would have had to SERIOUSLY sacrifice my TV time and that would have ultimately been the hardest part.) (Also, it feels good to have this finished as I look ahead tomorrow to a promising job interview. (Cross your fingers.))
2. Be harder on yourself than anyone else is.
I don't think I'm going to end up being a novelist, but I punished and scolded myself into doing this project and writing every day because I did not want to fall behind on my word count and have to struggle more than I already was.
3. When taking up writing each day, do not fret over what is already on the page.
Actually, I was impressed with my ability to do this. I am the kind of writer who writes and then reads and tweaks and continues to write and then reads and tweaks again. Not big revisions ever but rereading and small tweaks as I go. This project was too big to do that, so I was able to take up from just the previous sentence. It kept me moving.
4. Take judgment out of it.
I often wrote just stream-of-consciousness, which upped the word count and did little else. I don't think I could have done this a couple years ago because I would have been paralyzed by self-criticism. Writing crap is part of this. Who cares?
5. Ignoring its slightly obnoxious abbreviation, sign up on the NaNoWriMo site and read all the pep talks and watch all the videos.
Dave Eggers wrote to us yesterday, first of all, which made me gasp as I opened my email. But, also, I think this is a great, fun, positive and encouraging organization, and you might as well get as much support from other people who are doing it as you can. I promise it helps. Especially since I was the only one who survived the month in the Facebook group I created. My friends were no help. (Love you guys!)
6. Get out of your house to write as much as you can.
My bedroom is so distracting. I don't know what it is, but I sit on my bed, with my computer on my lap and play games and watch YouTube videos instead of what I'm supposed to be doing. This is probably why, by the end of the month, I was waiting until at least 10:30 at night to write and felt, then, that I was racing against the day to get my word quota in. Every time I met a friend at a cafe to write, I would write quicker and with more focus. On second thought, maybe that was because of the wine.
7. Tell everyone you know you're doing this.
I'm sure everyone found it obnoxious, but I kept track of my word count on Facebook. It was partly for bragging rights and partly to keep me honest. I couldn't let down my hundreds of Facebook friends by not completing the task! Plus, when I told them I was almost finished and then that I WAS finished, they gave me lots of love and support.
8. Do it your way.
Mess up. Write a bunch of words you hate. Skip ahead in the plot to the really juicy part or the part that you were inspired to write about by seeing that creepy guy on the train. Write a full day's work on just describing the hallway. Do whatever works for you. And keep going because 30 days isn't really very long, and this will forever change not only your perception of what you can do but also how much time you thought writing 1667 words would take.
The first draft of Bright and Gray is 156 pages, 50,050 words.