Productivity

Lifehacker Takes On The NaNoWriMo Challenge


The arrival of November signals National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), a project which challenges participants to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words in a month. This year, Lifehacker will be taking part. Here’s why.

Leaving aside my penchant for slightly over the top projects which run for extended periods of time, I really need to get a book written. When I became a freelance writer back at the end of 2000, one of my main ambitions was to actually produce a book-length work. Since then, I’ve written proposals and done research for perhaps a dozen non-fiction works and a similar number of novels, but I’ve always ended up getting side-tracked into day-to-day writing work for magazines and sites. Having a fixed deadline will force me to actually finish something.

I also figure that trying to do this will cover off a bunch of themes which get written about here on Lifehacker pretty regularly:

  • how to organise your life so you can take on big projects and meet major deadlines;
  • tools and techniques for overcoming procrastination and writer’s block;
  • useful software for distraction-free writing;
  • using portable technology to get work done on the road.

I come to the project with an obvious advantage. I write for a living, so the thought of producing at least 1,700 words a day doesn’t scare me particularly. On the other hand, I still have to keep writing for my day job, and I’ve had much more practice at non-fiction than fiction. The last time I wrote a novel-length piece of fiction was in high school, and that particular piece of teen angst crap would need a hell of a lot of rewriting to be tolerable to anyone else. (Which is not what I’m doing for NaNoWriMo, BTW; the project requires something new started from scratch.)

I’ll be running brief posts three times a week detailing my progress, the tools I’m using and the lessons I’ve learnt. Having to do that in public will, I hope, ensure I’m one of the 20% or so of participants who actually reach the goal. (Last year, 165,000 people signed up and 30,000 reached the goal). As an added incentive, my brother (who’s already well-known to many readers around here) is also taking on NaNoWriMo, so there’ll be a useful element of sibling rivalry to egg me on.

So come Monday, the novel-writing begins, along with the writing about it. First order of the day (and something I can do before the start date kicks in) will be setting up a dedicated writing machine. Hints, suggestions and critiques are, as ever, welcome in the comments.


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