I promise I don’t usually pull this face at write ins.
When I started NaNoWriMo back in 2004, I barely reached the finish line. I screeched into Dec 1 with a shade over 50,000 words, with 15 minutes to spare.
Now I fall into what we loosely call the ‘overachievers’ (OA’ers). It’s not a great name, but we don’t really have an appropriate one for ‘people who like to write too much, really quickly’, so for now it will serve.
The OA’ers have passed the 50,000 words in a month as a challenge. They enjoy NaNoWriMo, but a lot of the fun in nano is doing something crazy and difficult. When 50k in 30 days is no longer really hard, some wrimos elect to up the stakes and do nano on hard mode. That’s where the OA’ers come in.
You might be an Overachiever if:
- You hit 50k early (before validation starts)
- You write more than 50k in 30 days (OA’ers can write as little as 60k, or as much as a million).
- You have some really big writing days (writing 10k in a day is a pretty huge achievement!)
OR: If you want to do any of these things, but haven’t done them yet. OA’ers accept people attempting crazy goals – not just those who have managed to reach them!
There’s no right way or wrong way to ‘overachieve’, and it doesn’t make you better or worse than anyone else. Nanowrimo remains a challenge to yourself, regardless of your word count. Some people who write 5k during November struggle more to write that than those who complete the month with 200k.
It’s also important to remember that overachievers struggle, just like ‘regular’ wrimos. Their Week 2 Wall sucks just as much, and they have the exact same problems 50k’ers do, just over more words or less time. Be kind to your OA’ers – it’s not necessarily easy to them, just because they’ve done it before, or because their word count is higher. Kindness and compassion goes a long way.
You count more than your word count.
Now, all of that said, I’m not an expert at this (or anything, really). There are a few things I’ve picked up along the way, and I thought I’d compile them in a post for people might not have worked them out yet. If you have any of your own, you can post them in the comments!
My Cinder, as a kitten. Protip: If you want to write more, don’t get a cat. They are jerks, and very bad for productivity. They are super cute and fluffy though, and help when writing just doesn’t work. It’s a fine balance.
Frequently Asked Questions about Overachieving and 50kDay1:
What is your typing speed?
My typing speed sits about 110wpm, but hits a stride around 140wpm when I’m really ‘in the zone’. I tend to write in 10 minute chunks (write 10/rest 2-3/write 10), and I’ll come out of that with between 1200 and 1450 words. Admittedly the first hour or two of Day 1 I tend to pull 800-900 word sprints, just while my fingers warm up and get used to it. It’s certainly possible to pull off a 50kDay1 (or any ‘big day’) at a lower typing speed, you just need more dedication.
How much do you plot?
I prefer to heavily plot, both for speed and the sheer enjoyment of plotting. At the least, I try to go into Nano with my Day 1 novel plotted out to at least a chapter description (1-2 lines). It keeps me on track when Week 2 strikes. Even if you’re doing a novel-in-a-day, you still hit that point around 14k-26k that just drags terribly. My plots keep me on track for that and remind me that I have a plan, and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
How many hours do you write?
Last year I managed 75kDay1. I wrote for about 21 hours of that, so I think 100kDay1 is theoretically possible, though this year I’m having some health issues that will make typing harder so I’m not shooting for the stars. My first 50kDay1 I wrote for 18 hoursish, maybe 19. It’s definitely a full-day dedication. Last year took me roughly 12 hours.
How long have you been doing this?
Once you hit goals once, they’re a lot easier to achieve. 50k in 30 days seemed huge when I started 11 years ago (this will be my 12th nano), and I barely scraped across the finish line. I did my first 50k-in-a-week in 2009. I did it in a day in 2012. 75k in a day last year. It gets easier.
You get better at working out what you need to plot out to write quickly, and what you don’t need (I’ve done away with character profiles, for instance). Your typing gets faster the more word sprints you do, and you find ways to improve that (better music to write to, I use a mechanical keyboard and wrist braces, and I type both faster and more accurately with my eyes shut – little things like that).
If you write that fast, isn’t your novel terrible? How can you write something decent that quickly?
Are my 50kDay1 novels perfect? Of course not. But they’re pretty great stories, and I do love them. I also don’t think they’d take as much editing as people would like to think. My first 50kDay1 was certainly a better novel than my very first nanowrimo. We all use different measures.
A big part of it is learning to embrace trains of thought in your writing. We’re taught to shut them out to create a better piece of writing, but that’s exactly what first drafts are for. Get it written, not right. Some of my favourite scenes or dialogue chunks have started with a train of thought that I let just run.
My eldest daughter, who is definitely not writing a novel this month.
Tips and Tricks for Overachieving:
- If you can’t pull an all-nighter, try to write for an hour or so before you go to sleep. Having words on paper in the morning makes it much easier to drag yourself out of bed and start.
- Link in with the OA community. I can’t stress this enough. The OA’ers are a great bunch of people, supportive and compassionate and crazy. They are beautiful. The ‘Beyond 50k’ forum on the official Nanowrimo site is dedicated to the OA community, with all its own special goals and struggles. I also use the OA chat (or find them on #Nanooverachiever on Dal.net if you use IRC). They’re a great group of people who love you no matter your word count, but they won’t call you a cheater or discourage you from crazy goals either. Need a word war in the middle of the night? They’ll be there for you. ONE OF US. ONE OF US.
- Find ways to motivate yourself. Some people bribe themselves with something they like every 1000 words. Some people use others to hold them accountable. I use word sprints – I write for 10 minutes, then update my word count, then write again. Seeing that bar move over the hour is motivation enough for me.
- Reduce time wasters. Set up food the day before that you can heat and eat quickly so you don’t use excuses to get out of typing. Ask a friend or loved one to hang out at your house and make you tea (or coffee, or whatever your poison) on request. If you’re going to nap, go and do that – don’t make excuses to do a bunch of things before and after.
- Take care of yourself. Use wrist supports if you know that’s a problem area for you (as it is for most of us who type lots in small periods of time). If you can, prepare meals a day ahead that are *good* meals (not just heating up 2 minute noodles in the microwave). Drink a lot of water, you’ll dehydrate if you’re not careful, especially if you’re also caffeinating. You can afford that pee break. Try to sleep the day before a bit if you plan to all-nighter.
Above all – pull out if you know things aren’t okay. If you need to sleep, just do it. If you need to stop caffeinating, do that. If you need a break for your sanity, that’s okay. If you’re in too much pain, don’t push it. 50kANYday is still awesome, and day1 isn’t your only chance to do it. It’s fun, but it’s not the end of the world to try another day. (All of that said, many OA’ers can and will do all of those ‘naughty’ things – it’s about knowing your own limits, and when to push them and when to use good self-care)
- Plotting. As mentioned above, I find that plotting to at least chapter outlines makes my life a lot easier. I also keep a master list of possible names that suit my setting (that I mark off when one gets used so I don’t repeat) so I don’t spend ages looking for the ‘right’ one, and a list of main/regular characters (so I don’t forget who is who) with the major details about them. My condensed snowflake method makes this pretty easy to do in a short amount of time (like between now and Nov 1!), so you can find that buried in myblog post about plotting here from last year if you’re interested. There is also one about planning here.
(Not everyone is a plotter, and certainly some of the ‘best’ overachievers are pantsers. Do what works for you – you’ll pick up on that the more you write. Every year – every day – adds to the wisdom for the next writing session. Go with it.)
I know I certainly don’t have all the answers (or even close), and there are many others who have their own tips and tricks that work for them. Get to know what works for you, and run with that even if it seems weird. I used to be really self-conscious about typing with my eyes closed, but it’s actually really effective for me. I know my caffeine and pain limits, and I work within those (and plan to rest on Day 2!).
Do what works for you. You are more than your word count, but OA’ing can be an awful lot of fun. Don’t let anyone tell you that your goal is crazy – 50k in 30 days seemed crazy once too.
Above all – don’t accuse other OA’ers of cheating. Some people can do pretty amazing things, and it demoralises and weakens the whole community if we accuse people of cheating. Don’t do it, it’s not cool, and it will get you removed from groups if you make your complaints known. It’s an awful culture, and it’s really hurtful if you’ve worked really hard to achieve a new goal for yourself and someone stomps all over it by not believing you.
Some people do ‘cheat’ and increase their word count by ‘unfair’ means – but they’re really only cheating themselves. Nanowrimo is a competition where the only competitors are you and the clock. There are no judges, no (real) prizes. You win if you feel like you’ve achieved something – regardless of your word count. Cheating only hurts yourself, and accusing others only hurts the community.
Love the month. Love what you write. Love the other people writing alongside you. Above all, kindness is free – so use it generously.
Be awesome to each other,