Of Gauntles In Roadways

Seamus Bayne is my good friend from Viable Paradise, and occasionally my therapist. Now we shall become more: brothers either in victory or humiliation.

Seamus and I have a large corpus of work sitting around that needs to get revised and Out. The. Damn. Door. Already. I have three short stories that I have been tweaking since time out of mind, and I still have not gotten them right. I have a Very Cool Novel that was supposed to be revised and out the door about the same time Sam was born. It is still not to third draft, even after some amazing critiques with many good point by Tina Connolly and Nikki Trionfo, both spectacular writers in their own right.

Seamus and I made a pact yesterday that the short stories would be out the door and the novels would be to beta readers within one month. March 15th is the day of destiny. If I do not, I must film myself dancing to Hot Chocolate's "I Believe In Miracles."

My wife describes my dancing thus: "it's like you hate your own body."

World, I have a sacred charge not to show you such a thing. Wish me the best of luck in avoiding it.


See these things?

They eat. A lot. Not what I set in front of them at dinner, mind, but they do eat stuff.

Unfortunately for this situation, my work has announced a round of impending layoffs. I think my chances are worse than many; I have less credentials than others and less experience. I have volunteered for a few dirty jobs; such a thing may redeem me or at least count for a good recommendation.

Right now I am trying to avoid the blues/the panic/the inevitable "but unemployment would mean so much writing time!" thoughts. (I already work from home. I have tons of writing time. It's just that lately I've used it to play the drums because HOLY CRAP THIS IS STRESSFUL.)

If you read this blog, you probably know me; if you don't, I have many years' experience teaching and tutoring with a major emphasis in online pedagogy, a Master's in English, a TESOL certification and a lot of experience with special-needs students. I worked for two years in publishing. I taught wilderness survival skills once (although I know eff-all about doing that stuff in the Northwest; drop me in a desert and I'd be fine).

We're trying to stay in the Northwest if possible. If you know of any steady, real jobs, holla.

Interview with EVIL

Today I have gone to a dark place.

I have decided to interview my nemesis, Jake Kerr. From the moment I met Jake at Viable Paradise 14, I knew he was pure evil. Maybe it was his evil eyes, his Easter Island-style head, or the kittens he was chomping down between lectures, but I knew that one day I would have to kill him. It seemed a shame to do so without giving him a chance to speak for himself.


Me: Jake, tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer and an evil genius who must be stopped.

Jake: First of all, I think you can safely change the word "must" to "cannot." As to the "evil" part. That's all in the eye of the beholder now, isn't it?

I started in high school writing horrible Pern fan fiction in a desperate attempt to be Anne McAffrey. Only male.

After that failed attempt I went off to college and eventually spent fifteen years as a music industry and then technology columnist for various magazines. All of them subsequently folded after I left. A lesson for others, to be sure.

Me: Music? Hey, I play in a band. YOU killed the radio star.

Well, if I didn't kill it, the fact you are now in a band certainly will. But I thought we were talking about writing, painful as that topic may be to a failure like yourself.

Me: When I fail myself into a lecture circuit and a house on the coast of Italy, your definition of winning will be "cry like a toddler with no cookie."

Jake: Whatever helps you sleep at night. Anyway, a few years ago my former classmate, Laura Hillenbrand, wrote a book called Seabiscuit, and an email exchange with her inspired me to go back to the love of my youth--the stories of Bradbury, King, and Sturgeon; the novels of Philip K. Dick; the rollicking adventures of Piers Anthony and Edgar Rice Burroughs. So I sat down and started writing fiction again.

Me: Okay, that's actually a pretty cool story. You take this round.

Jake: I find it cute that you are keeping score.

Me: Out of pity, Jake, in the exact same way Bilbo pitied Gollum.

Jake: I can only assume you mean pity for yourself, which makes you both Bilbo and Gollum. I think from now on I'll call you "Gilbo." So, Gilbo, after some significant...

Me: Gilbo? Is that the best you can do? You'll never be a great writer, Jake. Never. It's sad, really.

Jake: After some significant critical work with the Writers Garret here in Dallas and a trip to the Viable Paradise writer's workshop, I sold my first story last year to Lightspeed Magazine. I understand you are still seething in jealousy over that, are you not?

Me: Pah! I do not deign to notice. In fact, when I read that issue of Lightspeed, my eyes skipped right over that story. I'm not even sure it's real. And definitely not eligible for Hugo and Nebula noms this year.

What kind of themes do you find yourself exploring in your writing? Are there topics or experiences that really interest you? (Besides eating kittens.)

Jake: I find any theme that causes pain to one Spencer Ellsworth particularly enriching. Beyond that, I really like to focus on the nature of the human experience and the emotions that it generates. To me the hard science is always a conduit to the real story. I'm particularly intrigued by two things: How people react and deal with situations outside their control and the nature of what it means to be human.

I should add that you are not human and you are, for the moment, outside my control. So I find you morbidly fascinating.

Me: I feel like ten thousand spiders just migrated up my spine.

Is there a work that has particularly influenced you with these themes? Can you name one (or a few works) that deal well with the issue of what it means to be human, and how people deal with situations beyond their control? How are you seeking to rip them off?

Jake: The obvious example for themes about what it is to be human would be the works of Philip K. Dick. Although SF is rich with this theme, from Matheson's I Am Legend to Bacigalupi's The Wind-Up Girl. Alfred Bester was a giant at examining themes of individuals thrust into situations that they must struggle with, much of which is their adapting to the reality or changing it themselves.

I would be remiss not to mention Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations," which was the inspiration for my story, "The Old Equations." While not very similar in structure or topic, they both address the concept of dealing with loss--an individual, through scientific situations entirely beyond his or her control, must deal with profound loss.

Me: It's interesting to me because I grew up reading Asimov and didn't discover Philip K. Dick until later, and I always thought they were more alike than people thought. At the core, as you said, their works are about people adapting redefining humanity to suit a new world.

Jake: I read a lot of Asimov, too. Science fiction from the latter half of the twentieth century has been incredibly influential to me. From the folksy Bradbury to the new wave stuff in the Dangerous Visions anthology, I really couldn't get enough.

Me: Are you just a straight-sf guy, or do you see any similar themes in fantasy?

Jake: That's a good question, which makes me wonder if you are having someone else actually write these.
I've read a ton of fantasy, from Tolkein to Stephen R. Donaldson to Piers Anthony. I don't think I ever found the kind of philosophical depth in fantasy that I found in science fiction. It is distinctly possible I just didn't read the right works, as I didn't read nearly as much fantasy as SF. That said, there is no doubt that there are great works of art in the fantasy genre, works that leave you emotionally drained at the end. And the imagination! Say what you will about Piers Anthony as a writer, he has one of the all-time great imaginations in the genre. Not to mention Gene Wolfe, whose imagination is further honed by his amazing use of language.

Me: Hypothetical situation: I am a writer and you are my biggest fan. You find me wrecked in the snow on the side of the road and take me home to nurse me back to health, only to discover that I have killed off your favorite character in my newest book. How do you react?

Jake: There are so many outrageous assumptions I can't even answer it. You're not a writer. I'd never remotely be your biggest fan. I'd never in a million years nurse you back to health. That said, I do believe you have the blackness of heart to kill off a favorite character of mine, so I think the only natural response would be to hobble you, chain you to a manual typewriter, and make you rewrite Twilight.

Me: Bella gazed longingly into Edward's eyes, and then Jake died. Horribly. Thrice.

Jake:See, I just KNEW you read Twilight. Multiple times.

Me: I was curious when I found out "Stephanie Meyer" was your pseudonym. (It explains how he funds all these space lasers and secret evil hideouts, folks.)

Your story is, as I pointed out through gritted teeth, eligible for Hugos and Nebulas and you yourself are eligible for the Campbell for Best New Writer. Why should people vote for someone who would gladly nuke Peoria from orbit if it served his evil plans?

Jake: I would hope that people would vote for others for the Campbell. I am entirely unworthy of that honor this year. As to the Hugo or Nebula, if someone finds that my novelette moved them more than others, then I would hope they would vote for me. But that is a highly personal decision. On the other hand, my winnning a Nebula or Hugo very well may drive Spencer to suicide, and ridding the Earth of his vileness is worthy enough a goal that you should perhaps vote for me whether you like my story or not.

Me: Please. My seppuku standards are much higher than that. I have faith that humanity will not make the mistake of recognizing your work.

But should it ever happen, I will form a resistance and google-bomb you with slashfic.

Jake: So what you're saying is you'll just redirect people to your site.

Me: I didn't say Autobot/Decepticon slashfic. My site is an entirely different animal (and by animal I mean what Megatron calls Optimus Prime in the throes of passion).

Hypothetical situation # 2: You discover that at my death, the timestream diverges into a horrific dystopian future where people are eaten alive by giant rats. With tentacles. Who are often confused with a political party because people call them "tentacrats." Only you can save me from this accidental death. Do you intervene for the good of the world, or do you take your chances with the tentacrats?

Jake: Since the dystopian future of tentacrats doesn't seem altogether that different than our current form of government, I think I'd take my chances with the rats rather than save you. Hell, who am I kidding? If saving you stopped Cthulhu from being unleashed on the world, leading to puppies and kittens dying and nothing but pain and suffering for all, I'd still not save you.

Jake Kerr, everyone! His vileness knows no bounds, and you should never read his story because it will corrupt you.

Two Things!

I found this old journal I used to write my stories in. It had some art in the sidebar by the amazing James C. Christensen, including this 16th-century-looking dude in a frilly doublet and hose, throwing up the peace sign.

I captioned it "Two things! Your cheese is rotten and your butt is huge!"

So, now that you know that, you can take care of your, y'know, problems.

I wanted to write a bit about depression and creativity. (Two things!) There's a fallacy out there that depression is linked to creativity. You have to be a little psychotic to be an artist. Chop off an ear when things get too dull.

This is a fairly powerful fallacy in medicated now because a lot of people get on antidepressants, get happy, feel better than ever before... and can't think of anything to write about. Still, better to have a dearth of ideas but be happy than have a dearth of motivation and sit on the floor crying. Right?

Ehh, it's more complicated than that. This book explains it better than I can. Depression is a by-product of our alienating and sedentary modern lifestyle. Our ancestors belonged to an incredibly nurturing community and were almost never sedentary.

Rumination is poison to the depressed. Give us too long to think and we'll start thinking about what failures we are. But Skipper, writers need time to ruminate! Writing IS sedentary and alienating by nature.

In order to fight my depression properly, I had to relearn how to write and not get depressed about it.

I took control of other things first. I got a therapist, started exercising, used a full-spectrum light in winter, and dropped some things from my massive priority list. That was when I dropped out of the publishing business. Writing works better if you know you have a few hours a day for it. I also got better meds. Right now I take what is politely referred to as a mood stabilizer, but I used to take an SSRI. It was a bad choice since I've got a form of bipolar disorder that is less crazy than the typical sort. The SSRI swung me toward mania instead of evening me out. I had to see an actual psychiatrist a few times, on top of the talk therapy, to identify these things.

I had found that the worse the depression got, the more likely I was to obsess over a piece. I rarely produced anything, and when I did, I scrutinized the juice out of it.

So I first wrote a novel I knew I couldn't sell. It was safe, like flirting with the hot girl who will only talk to you because you let her copy your homework.

I poured tons of first draft into it, just trying to tell a story. That helped me get my work ethic back, so I could tackle more reasonable goals. Revision was the toughest. I had to figure out a way to revise that did not resemble rumination. Stare at the same Word doc long enough, and you'll hate it and yourself.

Hard copies became my saviors. If I had to write a new chunk of a book, I would handwrite it. If I had to make major changes to a short story, I would print it out, scribble all over it, and actually retype the whole thing back into the computer.

The community of writers around you can really save you; I got connected to a writer's group that was ridiculously close-knit and welcoming, and, I think, still is.

I also had to make this my mantra: it's about telling a story. When I confused my professional identity, my self-worth and my desires for a "real writing career" with the joy of storytelling, I stopped cold. Let the id play, mean Mr. Superego.

I'd be curious to hear how other writers deal with depression and creativity. Can you actually write when you're depressed? Do meds make it better or worse? Is the cheese really rotten and the butt truly huge?


I got some really nice responses around the Internet to the post on writing and depression. I'm going to write a little more on it, since it's something I've struggled to write about for years. But first...

I haven't been able to think of a snarky yet humble way to do this. So. I'm eligible for a few awards in the upcoming 2012 award season, including the Hugo for two novelettes I published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show.

To vote for the 2011 Hugo Awards, you need to have been a member of WorldCon 2011/Renovation SF, be a member of WorldCon 2012/Chicon 7, or become a supporting member of WorldCon 2012. To vote for the Nebulas, you need to be an active member of Science Fiction Writers of America.

Both magazines are also fantastic purveyors of fiction and deserve Hugos of their own, in the Best Semiprozine category. I'm particularly delighted to have appeared in BCS because of the way they are nurturing the rarely-seen form of short epic fantasy. I encourage you to read around in both and

I also want to make special note of this post by editor Jennifer Brozek. Jen published a story of mine in the anthology Human Tales and is a really great editor and great person, and you ought to check out her anthos as well for fine stories.

Finally, I'm eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. For a New guy, I feel as though I've been here all along.

The Dumps

On Mur Lafferty's response to Bloggess re: depression. Um, yeah. More so for writers.

I've been meaning for years to write about depression and writing, but it's a bit like trying to untangle that mess of cords behind the TV. Does this cord go to the muse, the depression, the superego, or... what does that one do?

In 2006, I would go to work in the special ed department of Inglemoor High School and get depressed around 9 in the morning. Thank God I worked with the kindest kids in the world, or it would have been even tougher. It lasted until right before I got off work, and when I got home and sat in the quiet, I felt so relieved that the black dog was gone... until I wanted to write or do something productive.

Then a different demon set in: The Why Aren't You Good Enough Beast.

It's my drunk superego, and he's a mean drunk. I would stare at a blank page, check Facebook, maybe doodle a bit, until it was time to cook dinner, then the Beast would scream about my worthlessness for an hour until my wife got home and found me crying into the chicken mole.

I would make unrealistic goals for myself, trying to jog my writing. Two thousand words a day! A story each week! Six stories this month! A novel done by a month from now! Pulitzers a-go-go! The redemption of the F word!

The ridiculous goals made me more depressed because I knew I couldn't meet them and the Beast was now screaming, screaming, screaming in my ear that I was supposed to break in (whatever that means) years ago, dammit!

I'd like to say that my writing is always an out for depression, a place to set my sad little soul free. When I lose myself in the story, I feel that way. I love to see something take an unexpected turn, to let a character do dumb things and write their consequences.

But it's just as often a source of the depression. My superego and id don't play well together. The superego is quite helpful. I am grateful for the type-A bastard and the stick up his ass. He makes me revise, he makes me submit, and he makes me keep some kind of goal, although I have to check his ambition.

I am grateful for the id, distractable little bugger that he is, and his stormy, gooey affair with the muse. He gives me the humor, the twists and turns, and the occasional moment of brilliance.

But both of them can make the depression worse, and they want different things. The id wants whatever the hell it wants at the moment--usually chocolate, the guitar, and old comics. The superego wants only to impress.

The clinically depressed tend to ruminate. We review recent events in our life looking for proof that we are worth something, and find only evidence that we are worthless.

For anyone who feels this way out there, you're not what your rumination leads you to believe. I mentioned the special ed kids. Some of them could only say a few words. Some of them were in diapers. But every day, they smiled at me and laughed at my dumb jokes and made it a little better. They won't do much for the advancement of society. Depression was a problem for them as well.

But they mattered. Don't fool yourself into thinking you don't.

The Arbitrary Set of Stupid Days Together In Review


Writers, because we are all introspective and shit, like to write a "Best of" at the end of each year, detailing what we wrote, what we want to, and how 2012 is really the year we'll lose that "unnecessary exposition" around our collective waistlines.

But I have no Best Of, really. For the first time in for freaking ever, I had a real bust of a year for writing production.

Maybe it was the work situation. I started out the year working four part-time jobs, then I was hired on full-time at one of the jobs, and since it was a real career and all, I was a little keyed-up every time I got on the computer. I couldn't screw up (even when I screwed up). I have dental. DENTAL.

That's REAL!

Maybe it was the bad things, which among other stuff I won't detail in a blog, included my grandparents' deaths. In some ways it was very beautiful and fitting. My grandfather was an English professor. He treasured his mind, and his facility with language, and he never lost it, right until the end. My grandmother died four weeks to the day after him. She liked to say, as his cancer raged, "I want him to reach back and pull me after him."

They were in their mid-80s, part of the vanishing World War II generation and ready to go.

But it was tough because my grandfather was very Mormon and most of his pre-death urging for me was to stay as Mormon as possible. Of everyone in my family, he is the person I wish I could be the most honest with about my mixed feelings toward Mormonism, but I wasn't about to bring that up on his deathbed. And now he's gone.

I have a few mementos of him sitting here: his unfinished novel with his instructions to 'finish it and whoever's writing is least embarrassing, put his name on the cover.' I have his Henry James books, since one of our last conversations was about his love of Henry James, who I've never enjoyed much. One day I'll rewrite this book. And read Henry James. So far, that day isn't today.

Maybe it was just burnout from Viable Paradise and the burst of writing I did when I came home. I learned a ton at VP and I came home and did NaNoWriMo in fifteen days, and then... splat.

I've heard recently of a syndrome I will call "post-workshop malabsorption," in which the rewiring the workshop has done takes a while to settle, and the muse just decides to take some time off and let it sink in.

The muse is a lazy jerk.

It was definitely somehow related to the explosion on the music front. I was in one band that "took off," relatively, then my other disbanded band rebanded with a new singer. (Bands are here and here, for the two people who haven't heard me brag about them.) I played and recorded and mixed and played and played and played. Music is very enticing when I'm not writing: it's social, it's intuitive, and it requires very little generation and a lot of practice.

A few years ago, when I was feeling creatively blocked, I threw myself into cooking with similar zest. (Cooking... zest... ah!) Everything was about the instant satisfaction of seeing my wife go, "Oh, this is good! What the heck did you do?" Sometimes you don't want the year of headgames that a novel entails.

And maybe it was just that I have two small kids and my wife and I both work from home.

Regardless, I am still staring at a pile of undone goals, most recently listed as "Finish By End of the Year," after they were updated from "Finish By End of September."

But. Weirdly enough, this year I made two pro sales, and both stories were well into novelette territory. I had a story appear in the very awesome Human Tales anthology and the incredible jennifer_brozek and her lovely house-elf Lillian scheduled me my first public reading outside of a con at Village Books, the magnificent used bookstore in Bellingham. I closed out the year with a yet-to-be-disclosed reprint sale.

So if I had just made New Year's resolutions for "more pro publications" and "get a real, respectable job in my field" and "become a minor rock star," I wouldn't feel so ashamed. With that in mind, my New Year's Resolution for 2012 is to sell a novel for a ridiculous advance.

For every one of us, living in this world
means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
that will be his best and only bulwark.

Oozing Gobs of Story!

My novelette, "The Death of Roach," is up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

I'm very proud of this sale. Earlier this year I made my first pro sale to OSC's Intergalactic Medicine Show. I had just tossed off the story. The editor liked it, but we made quite a few deep changes to the heart of the story, and then more changes to the language. I liked the end result of the IGMS story, but I kind of felt like it was a fluke.

This particular story, chronicling the life of an assassin named Roach, was culled from years of drafts on a novel that I first wrote in 2004. That one bounced off every editor and agent in existence (that I sent it to)(which was actually a lot)(don't look at me like that).

So I cannibalized and rewrote it in 2008. Then rewrote that in 2009. Then threw that away and started over in 2010. Then decided that there was too much backstory, which is why you have a short story here of 10k backstory, and decided to just write a novel of the backstory in 2011, and use the 2010 version as Book Two.

Point being...

I worked on this for a long time. Roach is a hard character to really get my head around. I had to set a fairly horrible challenge for myself when I started writing it. Could I chronicle, compellingly, a change of heart for a terrorist? She'd always been interesting but not convincing. I spent years writing my way through different sets of motivation for such a killer. I hope to devote another blog post to it, once I get my head around what she will be doing in the novel series--she's still hard to write, the jerk!

On The Sacred Cow's Dry, Dry Teats

I read something the other day that terrified me.

A writer who I respect and enjoy has taken a god's age to produce book two of his Big Fat Fantasy Series. Now, it's not as though the world is clamoring for more Big Fat Fantasies, which abound and are rich in Books Twos and Fives and Sevens. But, from someone who consumes the BFFs like milkshakes, this particular Book One had stood out for me, and so I was starting to get irked and wonder why in the world his second book hadn't come out.

I poked around his site and found his "Official Statement On Book Two."

What I saw there affected me. Actually, it affected two of me.

It affected the reader me, who said, "Oh, for f-wad's sake. I read Book One in 2009, people. Just put the damn thing out."

But it made writer me peed my pants in horror.

It seems that he had turned in his first draft, written quickly and dirtily, to the editor. The editor gave one of those responses that always show up in Hollywood writers' lives: "I can't do anything with this. It's terrible." Or something to that effect; he requested sweeping changes.

So said author, like the voice in Shel Silverstein's poem, wrote a new book. (If you don't like it, blame the goat. Or the editor.) But the new book, well over two hundred thousand words, was apparently too long. So he had to cut it down by twenty percent.

Now let us take a moment to realize that the BFF genre regularly plays host to monstrous books. Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings pushed four hundred thousand words, as did Patrick Rothfuss's Wise Man's Fear, and we won't even start on George R.R. Martin. Publishers don't want to put out huge books because they are a pain, but BFF readers associate big with quality.

This writer was, in fame and name, nowhere close to those guys, who bestride the BFF world with their girthiness. But he wrote a decent book. It sold, presumably, and it featured lots of happy reviews from fellow respectable authors. It garnered a few BFF fans and certainly didn't need a million drafts for people to read the second book.

This hits me where I live, brothers and sisters. I'm at the point where I've sold a few stories. I've even landed one meager little reprint sale. A few years ago I slavered over the thought of ANY sale, ANYWHERE. Now I scour message boards, reviews and anywhere that might display a decent (or indecent!) review of my work.

Put simply: I got over that hurdle and now there is so very much that could still go wrong. This guy has slaved and sweated over Book Two, and hopefully the delay has given readers more time to discover the first book. But damn, the thought of having to write a second book, under contract, watching deadlines disappear, THREE times... that's a nightmare.

Excuse me while I cower in a corner, eating chocolate and possibly brandishing an M-16.

The Mistakes And The Glory of Doing NaNoWriMo in 15 Days

The Mistakes and the Glory of Doing NaNoWriMo in 15 Days

I've only done NaNoWriMo a couple of times. Like a lot of long-time writers, I had my reservations when I heard about it. It seemed like an odd way of celebrating an amateurish attitude that I, clearly, had outgrown, with my maturity and monocle and all.

Once I got over my snooty self and realized writing should be fun, I flunked it in 2006, then won in 2009 on day 30. I had a blast in 2009. I loved the sense of achievement. I loved the camaraderie and the experience of checking in with friends, having write-ins, and comparing our frustrations.

Fast forward to October 2010, where I lay in bed at the Viable Paradise Writer's Workshop, and one feverish idea to salvage an old manuscript emerged in my brain.

This was no mere fancy. I HAD to write this thing. This was the kind of thing that keeps you up nights and makes you write 8k of effortless notes. The kind of thing that makes you wish you were thinking about something else, because it is ALL you can think of and you MUST write it to the point of being unable to relate to even the dude on the corner who thinks winking causing cancer.

So as of November 1st, I embarked upon it, determined not just to hit 50k, but to go even further, staking out a major piece of manuscript. 75k. 90k. Stuff like that. And on November 15th, I hit my 50k.

It was magical. Pink sparkly puppies cavorted with each other in joy. My adrenaline surged like a frothy wave of cream soda. (By now you have figured out how I can write 50k in 15 days. Similes, my friend. Similes like endless rows of dominoes up the face of Mount Doom, back down again, and up Mount Even Doomier.)

And then I actually rewrote some of it, and things were less sparkly and gushing.

What did I learn?

I'm still figuring that out. I've never written that much in such a small amount of time. Normal NaNo pace is just a hair over my productive periods; I prefer 1k a day when I'm even doing things daily.

The aftereffects were more severe than I thought they would be. Downright painful, actually. But I did learn a few things about how to have an EXTREMELY productive NaNo:

1- Make your writing time sacred, and set aside a lot of it. It must be the butternut squash tub you wallow in, the walrus you're stuck under, the thing that requires a lot of time but is kind of crazy.

If a person does any writing at all, said person has done this, but in 2010 I made it very specific. I planned out my big writing humps. I took days off from work, or scheduled write-ins with friends as often as possible. I would get a clear picture of exactly how much time I had and just go for that time. I would pack myself a lunch, hoof off to the local college campus where only students could access internet, and not come back until late.

It helps to work at home, by the way, and that was one reason I could do this. I had to budget work time very carefully though, too, making sure that I had enough time to finish everything. I did have two small kids, though, so don't think that I had an easy schedule.

2- Know what you're doing. Have something like a plan. Pantsers might be able to make it through 50k, but they'll do more revising than someone who has some form of outline or idea. There have to be specific scenes you are excited to write, and a plot that you can rely on when you run out of stuff to write about. An outline also means that you can skip ahead to the stuff you're excited for, and then back-fill.

3- Don't neglect your health. Eat well and exercise. This was one of my huge mistakes. I neglected both just to write for two weeks, but at the end of two weeks, I had a big battle to fight to get back in running shape, and stop eating so many sweets.

November is a terrible month for your health already. The month starts with a barrage of Halloween candy and ends with a tub of butter biscuits and pumpkin pie (in America, anyway). The weather is getting nasty (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), and you're less likely to go for a jog in cold rain or early snow.

To make it worse, food is usually the easiest, cheapest way to reward yourself. I'd love to go buy new books or new clothes each time I hit my daily goal, but a 40$ hoodie is a silly proposition, while a 2$ chocolate bar is a lovely way to end the writing session. Or start. Or get through it. Etc.

Don't make the mistake. If you want to ramp up your blood sugar and caffeine level to write, try a little meditation beforehand, or some yoga, and see how the natural adrenaline works.

4- Always leave the page wanting more; it leads you to write the next day. Save some of those juicy scenes you can't wait to write. If you're leaving the page painfully, take some time to figure out why. Remind yourself of the moments you want to get to and imagine the most vivid way to get there. Preparation time (which is what that exercise is good for as well) is half of writing.

Again, preparation is key, and preparation should make you more excited to do the book.

But, as you know, Bob, this is only if you want to really storm through NaNoWriMo quickly. A lot of people have fun discovering the story 1.8k at a time.

5- Consider your writing style as you NaNo, and rather than ignoring it to do NaNo, make the frenetic pace work for you. What kind of writer are you? I'm a born fiddler; I have to go back and add or subtract things from the earlier bits of the book. On a normal NaNo pace, this is doable if you keep it to a minimum, but if you really want to go ultra-marathon and crank out 60, 70, 100k in the month, you will have to avoid almost any meddling.

This is why, by November 30th last year, I had only made it up to 60k. I cut 5000 words the day after I won NaNo; it was all fluff I had saved for the sake of wordcount.
This has a good side, though; tis better to have 50k to meddle with than to be constantly trying to get the first chapter perfect. So either slow down and let yourself fiddle a bit, or decide that you won't fiddle until well after 50k.

And in the end, would I do it again?

Oh hell no.

In hindsight, it was awful for me. I have no idea why. I'm still trying to figure the reasons out. By Christmas, I burned out bigtime and lost nearly a year of my writing goals. I just didn't feel like writing. I didn't finish the novel. In fact, my NaNo 2011 is the same novel (thank you, Zokutou Clause) when I was hoping it would be the sequel.

I don't know, though, if I could have done it any other way. This was an idea that barreled into my mind, and I had some scenes pictured down to the exact wording that made it into the novel. The problem was, a novel on paper is a different animal than what you think it is.

No matter how well you think you know your fetus, the child will surprise you.

This NaNo I'm expanding and exploring the draft and writing what is so far a generous prequel section. I will learn some things.

I love NaNoWriMo. I've written six novels, thirtysomething short stories, and countless miscellaneous things, including a respectable amount of published columns and stories. I know writing. I can get in a rut faster than a chariot on a trolley track. At 1.8k a day or longer, you can't afford that rut.