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Why NaNoWriMo is Like a Weights Work-Out

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An estimated 256,618+ writers around the world participated in NaWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, which lasts through November, last year. This year I am one of them (gulp!)

Some of you may already know that this is supposed to be a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.

Fun yes, but did I mention that it is not without much pain accompanying the proceedings? Like many of my fellow writers, I put finger to key board on the 1st of November. The difference was that I was a NaNo newbie.

1666 words per day, every day for four weeks? Not a mountain of a feat... but not a molehill either, if you know what I mean. Nineteen days in, realization dawned. NaNoWriMo is really like a weights class (my preferred is BODYPUMP™ - a resistance workout focusing on low weight loads and high repetition movements.

Each class lasts an hour, and you alternate an intense work out of the bigger muscles of your legs/ back, with recovering while you work out the smaller muscles of your arms/ stomach all set to some fast rock & R 'n B tracks which really set the pace. Sounds painful? It is. But guess what? Over a period of time, it gets easier.

So, here's why I claim that writing in effect is just like a good workout session with weights (as you lift, you discover muscles which you never you had.

1. Warm up first: You need to warm those muscles first (i.e. first cup, second cup of coffee, skim the headlines of the New York Times, set up spotify to relevant fastest electronic trance channel I can find... squirm around on seat, settle down)

2. Do the heavy lifting while you are fresh: This is where you work those thigh muscles baby with fifty squats in five minutes (grin & bear it!) Similarly I try to jump right in, plumb my sub-conscience and write those previous new words while my mind is still fully juiced up from a great night's sleep. I try (no always succeeding) to not read what I wrote yesterday, but just writing the new stuff.

3. Aternate: Just like you alternate the various sets of muscles, I prefer to do an intense ten minutes of writing, with a few minutes of FB/twitter/putting my head out of my window for a breath of icy cold gust of head-space-clearing London air.

4. Don't give up: You just have to will your body into making that final two of the fiftieth lunge of the set. Similarly I realised that I simply have to will my mind into writing those just-two-more sentences to take me over the one-hundred-and-sixty-sixth-word of the day.

5. Clothes maketh this writer: Oh! It does help if you wear the right clothes (i.e. Flashdance inspired leotard for lifting weights. For writing I prefer my Peter Parker inspired nerdy look complete with spectacles, pyjamas, lanky hair, overflowing cups of coffee & sometimes even pretend that I am writing upside down suspended from the ceiling)

6. Cool down: Finally just like the muscles need a cool down, so does the mind at the end of that day's session. Some RT'ing, hootsuiting & FB'ing/ commenting never hurt.

7. Work the audience: Nothing like a good looking man in class to keep your tummy in, butt out and eyes focussed on lifting heavier weights. Yep, my beta readers are a great shot in the arm.

8. Guess what it does get easier: After a few days of doing it, I realised that what used to be seconds of concentration and single digit tally of words had increased to minutes and sentences. Yay!

What next? Well I am at the 30,000 words mark. At this stage--the NaNoWriMo word-meter informs me--in a very Bridget Jones'y tone

Days Remaining: 11
At This Rate You Will Finish On: December 3, 2012
Words Per Day To Finish On Time: 1,819

Just need to keep up the pace then! Last year an estimated 7% of those who started completed this feat. So what do you think? If you are part of the NaNo tribe then I'd love to hear about your word count today and if you think you'll make it over the finish line.

Laxmi Hariharan is determined to complete at least half of her second novel, by the grace of NaNo. Find her at www.laxmihariharan.com.

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