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Fool Yourself: Aim High

November 3, 2009

aimhighAlthough it may be a couple of days late I thought I’d offer a little bit of advice to those of you who are NoNoing this year—advice that’s helped me cross the line each of the last two years.

Most NaNoers become fixated on the 1,667 words per day target. And why not? That pace will get you across the line just in time and with 10 words to spare. But the 1,667 word pace is a dangerous trap.

Why? Well if you’re like me you grew up in a school system that used word counts as a way to tell us how long our essays and stories needed to be. And over 16 years of school and college I got quite good at setting the pace of my writing to match the prescribed word count. If a teacher assigned an eight-page essay I’d generally start losing steam the closer to page eight I got. By the end of page eight I was out of fresh material and my subconscious would focus on nothing but wrapping things up. As I’ve moved into creative writing, the word limits given by many, if not most, of the creative writing magazines and contests out there have just reinforced this habit.

The first year I tried NaNo, I held myself to the 1,667 word standard. Most days my brain shut down right around 1,667 words. But those days when I didn’t meet goal, had me scrambling to catch up. So the next time I geared up for NaNo I set a goal of 2,500 words each day.

But wait, you ask, how will upping my goal to 75,000 words help me? You see, I don’t change my overall goal. Instead I set myself up for 2,500 in 20 out of 30 days. The other 10 days I allow myself any word count that I can manage—including ZERO.

Now If the first day I can only manage 1,500 words I don’t feel like I’m starting out in a hole. Instead, I’ve just used up on of my off days. But more importantly, I’ve put my creative subconscious to the task of hitting 2,500 words, and when I cross the 1,667 line I don’t even notice it because I know I still have a ways to go.

This can mean everything to reaching your final goal, because you’re not setting yourself up with the bare minimum as your target. But it has other advantages as well. If your story steers you into a corner you’ll have the freedom to take part—or even all—of a day of to replan your story. You’ll also have time to spend a day or two with your family—especially important for those of us with Thanksgiving to think about. I know I don’t want to be stuck in my room writing while Turkey and Football are happening downstairs.

Is it all a way of tricking myself into overachieving? Of course it is. But it’s also a way of training myself to do better than I need to…kind of like running ten miles to train for a five mile race…

I’d love to hear from my NaNo friends as to their progress. Leave a comment about how you’re doing after 2 days.

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Dale is using November, not for NaNoWriMo, but to try to get back in the habit of reading. My progress after 2 days: Technically none, as I haven’t read for pleasure. However, I am proof-reading a packet of short-stories. So that kind of counts.
11 Comments
  1. November 4, 2009 3:45 pm

    Thanks for the post. I think this plan sounds great. I started on the first day with approx 2,700 words. Day 2 a big Zero and Day 3 – 811 words. All in all, not a terrible start. Technically, I’m under the count I should be at for 3 days of 1,667, but I’m not hopeless behind. I’m going to attempt to set my goal high! Thanks for the advice.
    Karin Perry
    http://karinlibrarian.wordpress.com (book reviews)
    http://karinlibrarian.livejournal.com (writing blog)

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