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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Non-Traditional Tips for Surviving Camp NaNo: Multitasking

Hey all! It's Misha again.

Usually I'm here to critique people, but I only got the memo that I'm up yesterday, and... well... in case you don't know, it's Camp NaNoWriMo.

I'm taking part, mostly because I think NaNo's awesome. Mainly though, I'm about four months behind on my writing goals, and my Camp NaNo goal will catch me up on two. (I'm aiming to write 75k words.)

Since my mind is pretty much locked onto Camp NaNo this month, I thought I'd share some tips that help me get through writing marathons. (Actually, I do them much more than you'd think.)

But be warned. I'm not going to give you traditional advice. I'm basically sharing what works for me and why.

My first tip to get through Camp NaNo (especially if you have a huge goal set):

Work on multiple projects. 

Now when I say this, I hear two camps of people screaming at me. "But I can't!" screams one side. "But the rules!" screams the other. 

Easiest will be for me to go into the rules. Basically, NaNo is about writing a novel in thirty days. And furthermore, it's on an honesty system. It makes allowance for rebels of every creed. Including but not limited to: 

1) People who started the story before and now want to finish it. 
2) Script writers
3) Poets (Kudos, if you're one.) 
4) And people working on more than one novel at a time. 

All of the above qualify as winners when they hit 50k words or whatever. 

Is any of it cheating? No. I think not. If I rebel, I'm not disadvantaging any other writer by doing so. So what do you have to lose? 

Now onto the "But I can't!" camp. I admit that some of you really can only focus on one thing at a time. And those of you who have tried and failed to work on more than one project, you'll know you're someone who really can't work on more than one thing at a time. 

However, I know from own experience that at least some of you aren't quite being honest. I also said "I can't", preferring to stick to one project at a time. Then one day I had an epiphany, where I realized how much time I wasted. See... if I only had one active project and it stalled, I'd wait for months for inspiration that would get me going again. And in those months, I often didn't write at all.
This stalling in a project can be murderous in NaNo, by the way. Because the words stop coming. So you try and force them. Which makes them less likely to come. And probably pushes the inspiration part further away. Odds are, your idea won't come back if you keep poking at it. 

Multiple projects solve this. 

It works like this. I have somewhere between three and seven (current record) fiction projects running at the same time. One is my priority project, which I try to work on every day. The others I work on at random, or as inspiration or interest strikes me. If I stall on any of them, I let it lie and move on with the other projects. (Temporarily prioritizing another book.) Believe it or not (and you'll only know if you try), this is actually a really liberating way to write. 

It's saying that I HAVE TO WRITE 50k (or whatever) while saying BUT I GET TO PICK WHAT TO WORK ON. 

This is especially useful when you have a shiny project that's diverting your attention from your current one. Write both, making the shiny one the carrot at the end of the stick. If you finish writing a chapter in your main project, you get to work on the SNI. 

Because there's less pressure on performance, I've found I perform better. Whenever my project stalls and I work on something else, it now takes a few days to revert back to form. And the whole time it was stalled, I was still productive. 

And my stats don't lie. I failed three NaNos the traditional way because I kept stalling at 30k (at most). Then April last year, I decided to try and write more than one project. I won easily. So in November, I did it again. I won while revising another book in the same month and moving house on the 19th. With all the packing afterwards. 

If you're thinking that I won't finish any drafts this year... You're right. I might not. (Although I suspect I will.) But where NaNo has a way of wiping out writers faster than you can say "I'm a winner!", I'll be able to continue writing for the rest of the year. And by next month, I'll possibly have two or three books finished instead of one. 

So if you've been feeling stuck and struggling to reach your goal, why don't you try adding one project to work on when you're tired of the first one? Could be that it'll make a huge difference to your writing.

Anyone else doing Camp NaNo? How's it going? 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I confuse myself with more than one project at a time. And I tend to have only one idea at a time as well. But it's all about what works for us as individuals. I've participated in NaNo twice and won both times.
And I'd 50,000 words in anything is a win!

Misha Gerrick said...

That's how I feel too about writing 50k too.

Some people really can't work on more like one project. But I'm just really glad I decided to give it a try. :-D

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Oh that kind of multi-tasking! I'm all for that!

Misha Gerrick said...

Hahaha yeah I had to trick people into reading it, Elizabeth. :-P

Tyrean Martinson said...

Yes! I love your thinking on this one. I know it doesn't work for everyone, but when I get stalled, it's just healthier if I chase the current "squirrel" and get some writing done instead of forcing myself to slog through the same story. Sometimes when I get into the slogging, I can break through the grime and turn it into a sprint, but most of the time, I just churn out garbage. So, it's better to keep writing from one project to the next. I thought I was going to Camp with two projects, but then I worked on a short story and have decided to add that to my word count - it's all writing, right?
However, I still feel behind . . .

Charity Bradford said...

I'm the same way Misha. The idea that's the loudest in my head gets the attention. Even though I'm not doing Camp Nano, I did my own thing Jan-March and finished two drafts and went on to heavily revise one of those. Now my goal is to revise the second one while starting another idea that's been begging for attention.

Although I try and focus on 2 major projects, I often spend time plotting and making notes for one of the other 5 ideas currently in my head.

Misha Gerrick said...

Tyrean I'm the same. I also feel like I'm churning through muck when I'm trying to write through a block.

Charity, the funny thing is how easily I got to seven projects. July last year, I decided to work on a main project, another project that started as a prompt, and one dream that hit me late in June. I finished the main project.

In November, another dream concept formed in my brain, so I added that. Only to have an AMAZING dream that I had to add. Which makes four active drafts.

Then in the beginning of this year, I realized that one book I was supposed to rewrite actually needed to be drafted again, because it was four years old and I'd grown as a writer. Then I decided to do a mystery project for marketing reasons. And just before the end of last month, I realized that book 3 in my fantasy series had to be redrafted because everything I'd built the previous draft around was now in books 1 and 2, thanks to editing.

So yeah... I guess my drafts multiply when I'm not looking. :-D

mshatch said...

I never used to work on more than one project at a time but I've changed my tune recently for exactly the reason you state. The only thing I do different is I don't allow myself to get too consumed by anything other than my main wip, especially after it's over what I call a viable word count - otherwise it would never get finished! But it's great to keep writing something when I'm feeling a little stuck.

As for NaNo...nope. It ain't happening. Even if I didn't have to 'work' I don't think I could write that much in a single month. But I envy those who can!

Huntress said...

Oh wow. I can totally relate to having two or more projects screaming for attention. Two are the same genre, UF. But other one is epic fantasy and it is taking over.
After reading your post maybe I'm not so crazy working on all of the above.

Not doing NaNo but congrats to those who do.

Liz A. said...

I used to be a one-at-a-time person, but a few years ago I switched. It's so much better to be able to switch between things when one is kicking you in the butt.

ELAdams said...

I've never "won" NaNoWriMo, but I've definitely surpassed 50K in other months just by working on more than one draft. I might well try this in November!

Misha Gerrick said...

Marcy yeah I do the same. I have one project I focus on. In fact, I have a priority list for all of my active WiPs, from one to seven. But I do find that working on something else after finishing my days writing on a project refreshes me.

Carol I think it's a case of if you can, do. As long as the goal is to actually finish all three and you're not waffling without a sense of purpose.

Liz I agree with you.

Emma, it's worth a shot. :-)

Ellie Garratt said...

I'm both good and bad at balancing multiple projects. I find as a previous short story writer, my mind only thinks of a story in short bursts. So, having multiple projects on the go helps. However, I'm useless at picking the one I want to finish first. I'm also easily distracted by shiny new ideas.

As for NaNo, I don't think it matters how you make the word count. Even if it's more than one novel, as long as you make 50K you've succeeded.

Misha Gerrick said...

Hey Ellie, yeah I know what you mean about being distracted by SNIs all the time.

That's actually why I have such a detailed plan for my goals. It's easier to put the SNI aside if I've written the opening/idea down and then schedule it to be written later.

Unknown said...

This may be something I should at least try. I have so much rolling around in my head. Maybe if I shoot it out in different directions it would smooth everything out and allow a better flow and more progress.

Misha Gerrick said...

That's how it works for me, Cher. :-)