Archive for November, 2008


NaNoWriMo in 20 Minutes a Day

One interesting thing about NaNoWriMo is that it is the embodiment of a common technique — separating creation from editing. There is very little room for editing if you are going to generate a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The emphasis here is on quantity with the explicit removal of any expectations for quality. (If you are thinking quality while writing you are doomed. If you are thinking while writing you’re pretty much doomed. This is one place where the myth of writers block comes from.)

This 50k task translates into 2000 words per day assuming you work six days and rest on the seventh (there are exactly 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays in November 2008 so whether you choose the Sabbath as originally observed or the Pope’s sabbath you’re covered).  The funny thing is that if you approach it as writing 2000 words per day it is much less daunting. As an added bonus it will also develop a habit that you can maintain for the rest of your life. [Why choose that habit? In MJ’s Bestseller Blueprint he interviews an author who has produced nearly a hundred books with, you guessed it, 2000 words per day!]

Let’s go really extremist! (Will power and self control are highly over rated.) How can we enforce that separation of creation and editing? I have done this by typing on a manual typewriter. While fun, this did not feel very environmentally friendly, especially when it would take a ream of paper per draft! So being a geek I considered writing a program that did not let me edit while writing. Then the first of the programmer’s virtues (laziness, impatience, and hubris) kicked in.

What about not typing it in the first place!

So I asked myself “Self, how do we communicate that does not allow any editing?”

How about talking? There is no way to edit the words coming out of our mouths (as often as we would like there to be!). And as a bonus most people can talk faster than they type. Then we just need to get what we talk into a form we can edit later.  That sounds a lot like dictation or transcription. Getting your voice transcribed lets you paste together all the text to get your word count for NaNoWriMo and it lets you edit it (after November 30).

So now we need someone to follow us around and type up our every word. Sounds convenient, right?

Fortunately we live in a wonderful age and there are tons of ways to record your voice and at least as many places to get audio transcribed. If you have access to a phone I suggest using a service such as where you call a specific number and leave your message straight into an MP3 in your “drop”. Then you can use a service like PodClerk to have the audio transcribed. The upside is that you can automate the whole thing so when you call you automagically get your transcripts the next day. The downside to this method is that PodClerk costs $0.75 per minute to transcribe. While this is one of the cheapest transcription rates I’ve seen it can add up quickly if you are using this method extensively. 50,000 words spoken at about 100 words per minute means 500 minutes which would overflow a free drop (if you kept all the audio files) and would cost you $375 just for November/NaNoWriMo!

The alternative that I recommend is a service called CopyTalk. CopyTalk gives you a phone number and pin like, but rather than just storing an unlimited length recording CopyTalk lets you leave up to 4 minutes of message at a time (limit 5 per call) and emails you the transcripts of each of those 4 minute messages. Back to our 2000 words per day spoken at 100 words per minute means you need to talk for about 20 minutes a day to hit your NaNoWriMo goal. Coincidentally that means it could be done in a single call to CopyTalk (4 min/mesg * 5 mesg/call = 20 min/call). Did I mention that CopyTalk costs about $50-80 per month for unlimited messages?! The folks there do expect that their users are business people leaving memos or notes. If you are approaching your book as a business (which you should) and you are taking notes about each point in your outline (you do have an outline, right?) then this poses no problems. I have found that certain technical terms are best skipped or given a euphemism. (In one message I mentioned “die-in-package” and got “Diane ???” back.) One solution is as simple as using an abbreviation, ie QP instead of quilt packaging or DIP instead of die-in-package.

With a solid outline, a little ingenuity, and a few added constraints NaNoWriMo can be as simple as 20-30 minutes a day of “writing”.

What extreme measures do you need to take to hit your goals — NaNoWriMo or otherwise?

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan | 2 Comments »