An excerpt from A Cheater’s Guide to NaNoWriMo* by Laura Roberts
Why would anyone cheat at NaNoWriMo?
First, let’s talk about the definition of a cheater.
There are lots of reasons to play by the rules when it comes to NaNoWriMo, particularly if this is your first time.
But if you’ve tried to win in the past and have never quite made it – or have never quite gotten a fully formed first draft out of it – you might want to rethink your goals.
You see, NaNoWriMo is all about hitting an arbitrary word count (50,000 words) and calling it a finished manuscript. While that may work for some people, lots of us don’t usually write that way.
Writing to hit a word count can be fun, especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever tried writing anything as large as a novel. But if you’re on your second or third or tenth time out and just want to make it to 50K, well, it’s possible that this system doesn’t work for you.
Here’s where the concept of cheating comes in.
My definition of “winning” means that IF YOU FINISH WRITING THE BOOK YOU SET OUT TO WRITE, YOU’VE WON.
Notice I didn’t say “hit 50K.” Or “complete it by November 30.”
For me, what works about NaNoWriMo is that you’ve got a 30-day window to focus on your book. Maybe that’s a work of fiction, or maybe it’s a nonfictional manuscript like A Cheater’s Guide to NaNoWriMo. (Yes, I wrote this book for NaNoWriMo one year!) But whatever you choose to do, you’ve got 30 days to do it. And if your book doesn’t need to be 50,000 words, why would you want to force it?
In the end, the only person who can truly decide whether a book is “done” is its author. And if you finish your book, by your own merits – at whatever word count – by midnight on November 30th, then I consider you a winner.
You’ll be a cheater, by NaNoWriMo standards, but a real winner by any of the standards that matter.