NaNoWriMo 2018: an Update and a Few Thoughts on “Dirty Tricks”

I’m behind, considering I was hoping to be an overachiever this month. I’m not honestly too worried about it, but I am wondering if I’ll be able to pick up the slack and actually hit the goal of 100k (50k per project) that I was hoping to reach. I’ve been working almost exclusively in my second piece, but I am finding myself in a snag with a subplot that just isn’t coming to me easily, so I may end up taking a break and hitting Touched by Darkness today while I do some thinking about what I want to do with that.

This is, I guess, the biggest problem I have with not planning my novels. When a sub-plot happens, it usually happens randomly, without much thought. This time, the character came to me, but I’m not sure where she fits in with the story, or what she has going on in her own right. I’m likely just going to keep writing and see where it ends up, since I like her.

I can’t say for sure why I haven’t worked on TbD yet. I wonder if I planned it too much. I think when I had the idea for high-fantasy that might classify as ‘epic’ in terms of length, I got scared, and therefore I started planning, almost forgetting that once I plan something, I don’t always end up wanting to write it. I’m also still trying to introduce the character and while it’s not boring necessarily, I’m not sure if it’s adding to the story at all. It’s still something I need to know for me, though, so writing it is beneficial, even if it ends up getting cut from the finished product. While I know that section is even almost finished, the thought of going into it might be what’s stopping me. So this is my mental pep talk to me: Stop whining and just fucking do it already.

I never said I was nice to myself.

Here’s the other thing I’m “worried” about achieving my goal: I don’t use any tricks to pad my word count when I write. (Worried is in quotes because while I’d like to hit the goal I set for myself, it’s not the end of the world if I don’t. NaNo is a challenge I set for myself and even if I don’t “win” I’m still leaving the month with new words that I like and can edit.)

You may be wondering what I mean by “I don’t uses any tricks” during NaNo, and that’s the other thing I’m going to talk about. Every year (or every year I’ve checked, anyway), one of the NaNoWriMo forums has a thread called “Dirty Tricks to reach 50k” or something along those lines. It’s basically a thread of people giving advice on how to pad your word count to ensure that you “win” NaNoWriMo.

I’m not talking about this to call anyone out, make them feel bad, discredit their achievements, etc. Just some personal thoughts on how I feel about it.

I hate this thread. When I was in college doing NaNo, and that purple “winner” bar meant a lot to me, I took a peek inside the thread and even tried out a few of them to pad my own word count. Some of these tips and tricks include

  • removing all contractions from your writing/speech
  • if you get stuck, have your character pick up a book and write exactly what they are reading
  • ridiculously long chapter titles
  • add dream sequences/memories/etc
  • have characters have long, drawn out thought processes

Those are a few I can remember off the top of my head. Why do I hate these tips and tricks so much? Well, I feel like it diminishes from the achievement if you didn’t honestly reach your goal. You may come out the end of the month with a “win” but you still only have about ten thousand words that are usable. You might have won, but now you have to spend weeks rewriting speech so it sounds natural. You might have a win streak on the NaNoWriMo website, but you have two unfinished ideas since the character of your original plot picked up a book that you got carried away with, and you didn’t finish the “book” they were reading, nor did you finish the original idea.

Again, I’m not taking away from anyone’s victory, or at least I’m not intentionally trying to, I just feel that it’s not really a win if you toiled and slaved over a piece for 30 days and you come out of the month with a document consisting of 50k+ words that are completely useless. Or that require more editing than it would have taken to simply “lose” NaNo and work through the issues with your plot.

I know employing these to your writing to reach a personal goal doesn’t hurt anyone, least of all me, but there’s something about it that rubs me the wrong way. The end goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t to get a purple bar that displays “winner” on your profile. Or at least I don’t think it should be. The end goal should be to have new words for your piece. Or a new piece that you can now edit. Or most of a new piece to continue that you just got a huge head start on.

Maybe this is coming from the place where I want to one day make a career out of writing that I feel this way. I just feel that padding your word count for the illusion of a win, the illusion of a finished novel, cheapens the entire experience. It takes away from the challenge of pushing your limits and trying to write maybe more words than you’ve ever written before. And while I know that the goal of NaNoWriMo is a first draft, and first drafts are generally not perfect, by using these methods, you’ve give yourself so much more work during the editing process because you now need to remove these tricks that you’ve used.

I could likely keep going about why I dislike these tricks for ages, but I’ll stop here. I’m not innocent in any of this, as I have used tricks like this before. I haven’t looked at that piece in years because there’s no thread of idea in it. There’s nothing I can pull from to make a decent piece because every time things got difficult I used a cheap trick to pad my word count and get into another idea I had that also didn’t work. If anything, the ideas are usable, but not the words within the actual document. It was a month’s work essentially wasted typing words that are meaningless simply to get a win.

Has anyone else employed any of the above mentioned, or other, dirty tricks to reach their word count? Do you have any thoughts on the concept of using these tricks to reach the NaNo end-goal of 50k? Do you totally disagree with me and think I should shut up about the whole thing?

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 2018: an Update and a Few Thoughts on “Dirty Tricks””

  1. Those tricks just sound like those people are tricking themselves! Kinda sad when you think about it :/ I’d rather “lose” NaNo then have half my document filled with someone else’s prose and zero contractions!

    I’d say if you want to utilize a “trick” it should be more like writing a scene you’re not sure will make it into the final draft, or perhaps writing straight dialogue for a few pages (if you’re better at that then say descriptions), that way you’re at least giving future you something to work with and learning about your characters. BUT to each their own, eh?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is my first time doing NaNo, but I feel like if I just pad my word count, I’ll just have a terrible editing process.

    Granted, editing is probably going to be bad because this is my first attempt at a novel, but I wouldn’t want to make it harder unnecessarily either.

    As far as winning, that’s only a secondary goal for me personally. I’m doing NaNo to help my writing habit and hopefully knock out my first novel this year. I’ll win personally if I hit the word count, before I haven’t done it before.

    Liked by 1 person

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