I’ve been rolling along pretty nicely this November, having, as of last night, pulled together slightly less than 30,000 words. My writing buddies are doing similarly well: Two friends have broken 8,000 words and another four are well past 10,000 words (two of those are hovering around 15,000 words right now). Many of my friends are staying at or above the daily average of 1,667 words required to finish NaNoWriMo on time. They are rocking right along. Yet so many fellow WriMos have expressed how difficult it is keep up with the word count, and indeed, this pressure to pound out words each day does make NaNoWriMo so difficult. I have a slightly easier job of it because I’m writing full time, while many of my fellow WriMos are squeezing in their words after work, during their kids’ naps, on their lunch breaks, whenever they can grab a few minutes.
One of my fellow WriMos, who lives up in Dubai, a few hours away from me, commented that she is going old-school and writing her 50,000 words out longhand (a heroic effort!), and that she actually does most of her writing on the new Dubai metro, during her commute to work. Which got me thinking about all the other ways we can write during NaNoWriMo.
I’m an self-confessed addict to the keyboard, a condition I’ve written about elsewhere, and so I find I do my fastest (if not my best) work while typing on the laptop. But thinking about my WriMo buddy and her pen and paper on the metro, I realized that I’ve been writing a lot this November off the laptop. I take my little writing notebook with me pretty much everywhere these days, so I can scribble ideas or even whole scenes in the taxi to the store or at a coffee shop. I don’t get a lot of work done in that little notebook, but I’ve written a surprising amount there already.
And that’s not all. On those occasions when I forget my notebook, I have resorted to whipping out my cell phone and texting myself ideas. Usually they’re just character names or ideas for a scene–I have about as basic a phone as you can get, with no QWERTY keypad and almost no fancy texting features–but once in a while I’ll get carried away. Not long ago, I actually texted myself a 120-word scene of dialogue.
There are other tools, too. This past summer, my wife bought a small digital voice recorder so her could interview her parents for a cultural heritage project here in the United Arab Emirates (her parents lived in Dubai in the `70s). Once she’d finished her interviews, she loaned me the recorder and I’ve been using it to talk out story ideas and narrate scenes all this fall. It’s a strange sensation, talking out a story as though dictating it, but it’s been fantastically useful because, even more than writing with pen and paper, it removes the possibility of editing on the fly. I just talk a story out, and unless I want to bother with deleting the recorded file and starting over, I have to talk through the mistakes or changes I make–I have to keep moving. That is, in many ways, the essence of NaNoWriMo, and it leads to some fascinating and surprising ideas I probably would have nixed in second-guessing before I ever typed them out.
A couple of my non-WriMo friends have mentioned that they’d like to participate but don’t know when they’d find the time. But our days are full of time. If you’re willing carry along a notebook, or break your thumbs texting, or talk to yourself in public, you can actually get a lot of writing done on the way from the car to your office, while you’re eating dinner or drinking coffee, while you’re waiting on the bus, while you’re at a friend’s house, while you’re doing yard work. You’ll have to find the time to transcribe the writing later (unless you have one of those fancy phones that let you text your own e-mail address, or one of those awesome voice-recognition programs that can transcribe your dictation for you), but in the meantime, you’re inching closer and closer to your 50,000-word goal.