Rescue in Time for NaNoWriMo

I was asked for my thoughts about using RescueTime as a productivity aid for writers during the upcoming National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) season.

Full disclaimer time…

My buddy, Tony Wright (@webwright), co-founded PangoMedia with me. He was also a co-founder of RescueTime. Tony has moved on to other projects, but my good friends Joe Hruska (@JoeHruska) and Robby Macdonell (@robby1066) are still with RescueTime and have done great things there.

With that out of the way, on to the post!

NaNoWriMo. One month. 50k+ words.

Let’s assume for a moment that 50k equals a novel. It doesn’t, but let’s assume that it does.

Writing a whole novel worth of words is an effort of will. It truly is an exercise in discipline. I would argue that writing a novel takes significantly more than simply churning through the generation of words. Still, you can hardly write one without that step and the sheer volume of words is a daunting hurdle for the vast majority of aspiring writers.

Does NaNoWriMo help over come that formidable obstacle?


Goals, for lack of a better work, are good. The 50k goal, in and of itself, may be enough to get some storytellers over the hump. For others, structure, metrics of success and a little big brother, over-the-shoulder attention can help even more.

If it sounds like I’m describing you, you might want to give RescueTime a try this November. Seriously… whatever it takes.

Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) wrote a post about 25 things that writers should stop doing. The entire piece is worth reading from time to time. It’s a good way to do a quick reality check and get over yourself if you happen to be standing in the way of your own success.

Give it a read. With regards to NaNoWriMo, pay special attention to numbers 1, 2, 6, 22, and 25. I believe that each of those five points are poignant examples of how we get in our own way. Chuck defines them much more eloquently that I could.

Writing a novel is a destination endeavor. Sorry… that’s just the way that works. No one is going to care how you wrote your book. They just want to read the damn thing. I have yet to see a novel come in a snazzy two-volume set with a second, special-edition book that’s chock full of behind the scenes stuff. Doesn’t happen.

Just. Write.

I’m totally in a glass house, here. The reason Chuck’s post struck a chord with me, and the reason RescueTime peaked my interest, is because I do all of the things on Chuck’s list. I’m trying to be better about calling myself on it and getting back to the whole writing part of being a writer.

You’ve got about two weeks before November 1st. So, be honest … is the goal itself enough to drive you to finish?

Think of it like college.

Personally, I tend to be more of a gut it out, pull myself up by the bootstraps kind of guy. I would rather read a couple books and then hunt down some of the best in the business for to be pesterizing them with my questions. Many (most?) people don’t work that way though. Many benefit from tuition (skin in the game), a syllabus (structure), classroom settings (peer pressure), and regular measures and affirmations regarding their progress (tests and grades).

If that sounds like you, congratulations! There are a ton of tools available that are specifically designed to help you succeed. So, um… like, use ‘em ‘n’ stuff. NaNoWriMo is such a tool. The Municipal Liaisons and writer meet-ups are such tools. I think that a productivity aid like RescueTime can be such a tool, as well.

Myself, I write with MS Word on my laptop and Pandora on my phone. Anything else is a distraction. I’ve fiddled with Scrivener and still hold out hope that I’ll be able to figure out how to leverage it. Fiddling is what I end up doing, though.

Fiddling is not writing.

So… I shut off the wireless, fire myself up a little Portishead or Stevie Ray Vaughn and start typing lies. That’s what works for me.

The goal is 50k words. It’s not a novel, but it’s one helluva step in the right direction. Don’t worry about pretty. Don’t worry about how other people do it. Use anything that you can get your hands on to get there.

And then get there.

2 thoughts on “Rescue in Time for NaNoWriMo

  1. Ha. One of the other things I should stop doing is reading other people’s blogs right after freeing up the day to work.

    But I’m here, so what the heck. I’m a block-the-door-and-turn-off-the-phone kind of writer (for code, for fiction, probably for grocery lists), and I work best in long obsessive drives, so time management will probably never be my best thing…in fact, I hate even the idea of it.

    But FWIW I think Scrivener (which I just started using a few days ago, so what do I know?) is very useful after the first draft is written. It might be good for the first draft in full-screen mode, but I have a better tool so I’ll probably never find out (see below). With Scrivener I’ve split each scene of my current project into a separate file, and the exercise was great all by itself–because Scrivener encouraged me to write a synopsis for each of ’em. Which forced me to notice that some of the scenes didn’t have a good reason to exist. Plus, the chapter-level synopses were nice, because it became clear some scenes needed to migrate. Drag & drop, baby! There may be other benefits, but it’s already been more than worth the price. Of my free beta version for Linux, but I’d have gladly paid for it if I were using some crippled junkOS. Ahem.

    For a first draft? I think the best tool ever is my AlphaSmart Neo. It has 4-6 lines of text on its display, it has 700 hours of battery life, and there is absolutely nothing I can do with it except write. Since editing is such a pain, I just keep going. Best of all is to do it in a coffee shop (or a pizza joint) where they don’t mind my sitting around for hours.

    I’m about to go unplug my cable modem for the day. Did I mention I’m supposed to be working?

    Thanks for the post!

    • And thank you for the comment.

      I’ve been thinking more and more about this since reading your comment. A small display with limited editing capabilities seems /amazing/ from a productivity standpoint.

      Hmm… I wonder if I can disable the delete key on my Mac?

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