Every year, the good folks at NaNoWriMo put together The Night of Writing Dangerously, a write-in in San Francisco. For most of us, that’s both too far away and too expensive to participate in. Not to be discouraged, the Dublin NaNoWriMo group – specifically one of our amazing MLs – organised a write-in: Midpoint Madness. We booked a room at a coffee house, brought our computers and our notes and too much food for the day (this sort of coffee house allowed for extra food) and got to writing.
Everyone wrote more that day than they did on a regular day. I shot up almost 8000 words because of the write-in. I was still 7000 words behind, but imagine how much worse-off I’d have been if I hadn’t attended.
A write-in is a tested way to bolster your word count in the presence of other writers, almost everyone wearing headphones. We’ve taken the model to our weekly meet-ups since NaNoWriMo, writing when we meet up instead of merely talking about writing. So, here are my tips:
Find somewhere that allows you to stick around all day. A Time House is ideal, but a regular coffee shop should do. Though I hate to endorse a specific brand, some Starbucks are open to social bookings if you talk to the staff in advance.
Other things to consider:
- Are there sockets for charging computers?
- How reasonably priced is it?
- How many people can you reasonably expect to stay all day?
- Is there a separate space you can stay for the day?
Picking a time of the month is important. You need something that suits everyone, and that makes sense based on when people need it. The first day is good, because that’s when people will be looking to get ahead.
The midpoint works for recovering from a poor start, or trying to get ahead in case something comes up unexpectedly.
The end of the month works for a last-minute rush to reach the desired word count.
This April, we’re lucky to have five Sundays. In Ireland, we also have a bank holiday on Easter Monday. The Dublin Wrimos will be having write-ins three times during the month, as well as our usual meet-ups.
Let’s say you can find a venue and a time that suits everyone. You need some ground rules. These are to make sure that everyone gets the most out of the write-in.
- No talking. Okay, some talking. But if someone is busy writing, don’t interrupt them with a whole conversation. Questions are allowed. Catching up on the latest episode of your favourite TV show is not.
- Show up to write, or not at all. It happens. Someone decides they’re going to write for the day. They just want to hang out. Which is fine, except they’ll inevitably break rule number one.
- Keep the music down. Headphones, obviously, are mandatory. Anyone can and should break rule one to ask someone to turn down their music if it’s unreasonably loud. (I have been guilty of this – street-level music is not the same as write-in-level music.)
We didn’t practice these, but word sprints are a good way to introduce some competition. Set a timer, and everyone writes furiously towards getting as many words as possible.
But remember: everyone writes at a different pace. Who wins in a word sprints? Everyone who did their best. The whole point is to write a lot and quickly. It doesn’t matter who writes more than anyone else, so long as everyone writes more than they would have. It’s also a good way to plan a group break, so people can talk afterwards for a few minutes.
The point of a write-in is to have fun and increase your word count. Make sure both are included. It helps if you like the people you write with. (I do. I’m really lucky that way. Except when we talk more than we write, then the books suffer.) Talk to your ML, and see what can be arranged for the next NaNo. If it’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and your Cabin is made up of your local friends, why not organise one yourself?