SPS-355: BONUS EPISODE! Conquer NaNoWriMo with SPF – with Mark Dawson & James Blatch

Join SPF team members and some celebrity writing guests for webinars, writing sprints, and more encouragement to keep you writing toward your goals during NaNoWriMo 2022.

Show Notes

  • On writing roughly 1600 words a day to achieve 50K in the month of November
  • Encouragement for hitting word count milestones
  • Advice for keeping up with your word count goals throughout November
  • Upcoming webinars to keep you motivated

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SPS-355: BONUS EPISODE! Conquer NaNoWriMo with SPF - with Mark Dawson & James Blatch

Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.

Mark Dawson: In the SPF group, they're kind of the directors, so me, James, and John, me and James are the writers. So John-

James Blatch: John.

Mark Dawson: John won't be doing a sprint.

James Blatch: I think John should write that Indian masterpiece that he's always threatened to.

Mark Dawson: I don't think John has ... John hasn't sprinted for about 30 years, so ...

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers.

Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller, Mark Dawson, and first time author, James Black, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hey, hello and welcome. It's a self-publishing show. And guess what? Guess what, Mark?

Mark Dawson: What, James? What?

James Blatch: It's not Friday.

Mark Dawson: No, it's not Friday. No. As we record this, it's actually Tuesday, but this is going to be going out at some point over the weekend, isn't it? So the weekend of whatever, it's a bonus.

James Blatch: Well, whatever. It's out when it's out. But people will be ...

Mark Dawson: I think it's only our second or third non-Friday bonus episode in the history of The Self-Publishing show, which is now coming into its 65th year or something like that.

James Blatch: Yeah, well, I pressed the emergency podcast button.

Mark Dawson: And the reason we're doing that is because it's that time of year that writers around the world all know fondly as NaNoWriMo.

James Blatch: As, how am I going to write 70,000 words in a month?

Mark Dawson: 50,000. Let's not make it two difficult for ourselves.

James Blatch: 50,000, is it? Is that it?

Mark Dawson: It's 50,000. Yes.

James Blatch: God.

Mark Dawson: It's about 1,600 a day, I believe.

James Blatch: Wow. I have done it. Hands up. Who's done it? Who's completed it?

Mark Dawson: Not in November, but I've done it, I mean, I would have done it, 50,000 in a month.

James Blatch: It doesn't count. It doesn't count.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, no, I haven't done it then, in that case, no.

James Blatch: My, I mean I'm very fond, I speak fondly of NaNoWriMo because before, I did know you, actually, we were working together, but before we talked about writing together at all, I sat at my desk at the BBFC on the 1st of November 2010 and I, in the morning I saw someone tweet saying that they were going to do this. Do you remember Emily Fussel?

Mark Dawson: Yes.

James Blatch: Emily's husband, James, he said, "Oh, I'm going to do this." I don't think he did actually, but I saw the tweet opened up the link, read the bare bones, the first three sentences of what NaNoWriMo was about and started it. And that was the Final Flight, turned out to be the Final Flight 10 years later. But I wrote a first draft, did my 50, I think I got nearly 60,000 words done, really went for it. And it was hard. It was hard. I remember the first week's okay, you sort of get going. Second week you really hit a wall.

And what happened during the first week, because I tweeted about it or put it somewhere on social media, and one of my ex BBC colleagues was producing a programme at Radio 4, which is like a network station in the UK, and she said, "Why don't you come on and talk about doing NaNoWriMo, because it sounds really interesting, on Radio 4." And I thought, "Oh, that'd be great. I'll do that next week."

Got to Monday or Tuesday and I thought, "Oh, I'm going to have to keep this going to Thursday." I was going to give up, because it's hard, 1,600 words every day, particularly if you're not used to writing. I thought, "I'm going to have to give this up, but I can't give it up before Thursday because I'm on the radio." And then it turned out I got the date wrong. She meant a week on Thursday. And I think that's the only reason I did NaNoWriMo ...

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: Because that was, I found it really hard that middle bit, and that pushed me through because I thought I can't turn up on the radio having not actually done the words. I did the interview. And that point, I think once you've got to week two or three, you are through that wall, like a marathon run, and I carried on. Though I think now that I write, much more used to writing, it might be a bit different. It'd be very interesting to see how it is this year.

But the point of this, Mark, and this little story is that we are going to be here to hold people's hands this NaNoWriMo and support people. And we have tens of thousands of people in our community, and 220 odd thousand people in our email list, and we want as many of you as possible to put your hands up and say that you are going to do NaNoWriMo with me.

Mark Dawson: I'm going to quickly qualify that. So I think not everyone will do NaNoWriMo, because people will be in the middle of projects, like me. We're going to do some stuff with NaNoWriMo, but that doesn't mean you have to start something afresh. So now I'm 75,000 words into the new Atticus book, and I am writing that many, 1,600, 2,000 words a day.

James Blatch: #Amwriting.

Mark Dawson: Am writing, yeah, so what we're doing really is we have lots of things we are going to plan and, well, we are planning we're going to do during the month of November, which is when NaNoWriMo runs, which is 1st of November to 30th of November. So if you're doing NaNoWriMo in the traditional sense, i.e., you're starting a novel and you're going to try and do the 50,000 words by then end of November then this is something that you'll be interested in.

But also it will be people who aren't doing NaNo in any kind of traditional sense, but they are writing. We're going to do some stuff about writing together. We're going to try and encourage word count throughout the month of November. We're going to have some webinars. We're going to do some sprints together, which is a sprint is, I will say I'm going to be switching on the webcam at 10 o'clock, yeah, James has got a camera there for those who are listening to the podcast rather than seeing it, not a camera, a clock. I can't tell the difference between a clock and a camera.

James Blatch: A clock.

Mark Dawson: And we will, we'll do 30 minutes whereby we will all write together, and that does work. The fact that everyone is doing it at the same time will mean that you're not going to be looking at the internet, you're not going to be distracted by stuff. It'd be a good way to get maybe a thousand words in.

 So we're going to do this and the reason we are doing it is because we figure it's a good thing in any event. But also we are rebranding the 101 course, which is our big introductory to intermediate course on self-publishing, we're rebranding that as Launchpad. So we've been very busy for the last five or six weeks doing that, which is a huge amount of work, actually, in terms of changing the branding and a lot of the content in a particular course, given that this is probably a 50 hour course. And we are going to launch that in the middle of, well, towards the start of NaNo and it will close towards the end of NaNo.

So we're going to do some things that will work together. And also I just thought if people are coming to the end of November and they've got something that is perhaps close to being published, or they're closer to being published than they have been before, and they want to know what's next, then the Launchpad course is exactly what we intended would be available for them to be able to go to the next level and format and get a cover and do the metadata and everything you need to do to successfully launch a novel.

So, yeah, that was my thinking in doing this. And I think it could be quite a good. We may leave one of the Launchpad launches to November, because I think it fits really well with NaNo.

James Blatch: Yeah. And I'm excited about it. You don't have to be in the Launchpad course or be intending to buy it to take part, of course, in this, but it's just for the people who, for whom it's going to be a good fit. It's just an obvious thing for us to do. But NaNoWriMo is a lot easier when you do it with friends. I did it alone, didn't know anyone from the writing community, never looked at the website again, actually, after just learning what the basic rules were on day one. I do have my certificates still, I used to have it up on the wall. Is it Literature and Lattes, is that them, the organisation that do it or is the ...

Mark Dawson: No, that's Scrivener.

James Blatch: That's Scrivener.

Mark Dawson: The organisation is NaNoWriMo.

James Blatch: Is NaNoWriMo.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. So we should say, NaNoWriMo, for those who don't know, stands for National Novel Writing Month. So it's ...

James Blatch: National November Novel Writing Month, I believe it is.

Mark Dawson: That'd be NaNoNoWriMo. It's not NaNoNoWriMo. It's National Novel Writing Month.

James Blatch: Should be, because that sounds great.

Mark Dawson: It's either National November Writing Month, which doesn't make any sense, or National Novel Writing Month, or National November Novel Writing Month, which would be NaNoNoWriMo. I'm pretty sure-

James Blatch: NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Yeah, maybe. Or November Writing Month. That doesn't make sense. I guess it's novel ... Do you know, I always thought it was November Novel Writing. Anyway, there you go. Doesn't really matter. Point is, it's for the 30 days of November ...

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: Every year. It's always November. And the idea is that you write every day, well, you write, basically you write a 50,000 word novel, or you write 50,000 words of your novel, which gets you ... Really breaks the back of a novel if you're writing one from scratch, in a month. So you can do 2,000 words a day for the first five days and have a couple of days off if you want. Or you could do about ... If you divide 50,000 by 30, it's 1,666, or something like that. So you need to do that a day. That's your clock.

The one thing I will tell you, if you've not done this before and you want to do this, do not fall very far behind the clock. It's very difficult to catch up. So if you miss a day, that's 1,600 words, that's quite a big chunk to catch up on the next day, if you're not used to writing, in particular. So try not to miss days. Even if you only get 800 done that day, it makes a big difference. And I've got one of these pomodoro clocks. I've been doing little writing sprints with my little group. That's my dad calling me, turn that off, my little WhatsApp Group.

Mark Dawson: I've fallen off the roof.

James Blatch: Yeah. My 91 year old dad frequently goes up onto the roof to fix things, so ... But he wouldn't be calling me, I don't think.

Mark Dawson: No. No.

James Blatch: And we use this, so we wind this, we'll do 25 minutes of our writing sprints, we'll wind that up to 25 minutes.

Mark Dawson: Oh, that's good. I like that. Yeah.

James Blatch: And it's nice and visual.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: You can watch it. Lucy Score recommended this one to me.

Mark Dawson: Oh, nice. Yeah.

James Blatch: And you can see, you can glance at it every now and again and see how much you've got to go left. Obviously it makes a noise when it gets through to zero. And you're right, Mark. When you do a writing sprint with other people, and all we do, we don't even have a visual, actually, we just have a call and we can hear each other typing. But when you're doing a writing sprint, you are writing, it does keep you focused for that 25 minutes and not distracted, going off and doing other things, which is key to productivity.

Mark Dawson: We're going to do sprints within the SPF group, the directors. So me, James, and John, me and James are the writers. So John-

James Blatch: John.

Mark Dawson: John won't be doing a sprint.

James Blatch: I think John should write that Indian Masterpiece that he's always threatened to.

Mark Dawson: I don't think John has ... John hasn't sprinted for about 30 years, so ... So there's me and you, and there's young Tom we'll rope in as well, because Tom writes every day as well. So there's the three of us, maybe we'll find someone else. We could get some celebrity sprints. We can get Lucy Score to come on and do it ...

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: Do a sprint.

James Blatch: Yes. Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Well, you and I were at the Houses of Parliament last night with some very, very fine authors and the winner of the Storyteller Awards, it was the Storyteller Awards night last night. So we could get the Peckham sisters, we could get ... Who else could we get?

James Blatch: Yep.

Mark Dawson: Suzy Quinn.

James Blatch: Cecilia ...

Mark Dawson: Cecilia, yeah.

James Blatch: Mecca. I know she enjoys that productivity.

Mark Dawson: There's loads. We could have some kind of guest sprinters in the next month, which would be quite fun, just kind of all writing together. So we're going to do that. We've got some webinars planned. We've got one coming up really soon, in fact, it may ... Will it have happened already? Probably not, no, it won't have happened yet. But with Suzy K. Quinn about kind of getting started with NaNoWriMo and writing. We'll do one on editing. I'm going to do one on reviews. We'll get you to do something on something or other. And we're commissioning lots of content to be posted in the SPF community as well during the month, so things on dictation for example, which is a really good way if you want to get words in quickly.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: That's quite good.

James Blatch: We could get Kevin Anderson to talk about dictation. I know he's very keen on it and uses it effectively.

Mark Dawson: Yes, Kevin would be great. Or Scott Baker.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: He's another person. So, yeah, there's tonnes of people we could ask.

James Blatch: So we'll be throwing lots of this stuff at you. And the only thing you need to do to take part in this, you don't have to sign up anywhere, you simply have to stay in our community group. So if you're in our Facebook community group, which I think is called SPF Secret Group, is that right?

Mark Dawson: It might be.

James Blatch: I'll just check that.

Mark Dawson: But, yeah, if you search for SPF community will probably bring it up as well.

James Blatch: Yeah, it is. Yeah. SPF Secret Group. So if you go to, if you're not in already, join. You'll be joining 27 or 26,000 other authors there. Just stay in the group. Each post to do with NaNoWriMo will have that in the heading, probably NaNoWriMo plus Launchpad, something like that. Follow along, and then, yeah, stay tuned for those little tidbits that we're going to throw in there, little interviews with people to help you through, and tips to help you stay on track and some ... What's the word? Keeping each other honest, basically. So you are committed publicly to doing this and that is a big psychological step forward to doing it.

And one tip I'll give right at the beginning which Lucy told me is when you do sprints, in particular, don't go off and start doing research in the middle of it.

Mark Dawson: No, no, definitely.

James Blatch: Just write.

Mark Dawson: Just write. Yeah.

James Blatch: Just write a note to yourself in brackets, visit, you know, check this later, just keep writing.

Mark Dawson: I just leave, I leave square brackets. If I have something I want to, I know I need to do, I'll write a square bracket, square brackets, just put, well sometimes I leave a blank space and I'll go back and do it later. But, yeah, that's right, it's just about getting the words down. It's good advice.

James Blatch: Yeah. Good. Well, I'm excited about this. I'm about 13,000 words through my second novel, so this is a perfect time for me. And in fact, it's supposed to be a novella, so I might even get this cracked in the middle of November. But I have already decided, and Caroline Peckham looked at me with horror when I told her, this Caroline and Suzanne last night, that I'm going to rewrite it from scratch. I just think people have different approaches, but, for me, this has been quite a difficult gestation, this novel, and getting the story right, and going back and fixing stuff that I think, now that I've got the story much stronger in my mind, character journey is much stronger in my mind, I'm just going to start writing it again.

Mark Dawson: That was the dog.

James Blatch: That scared me.

Mark Dawson: That was the dog.

James Blatch: Not even use stuff I've written before. So that will probably be perfect for me. If I can get this finished, the first draft finished, in the first week and the next three weeks will be the rewrite, I'll be very excited about having this novella out for Christmas.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, entirely possible. And I'll be working on the Atticus book, so I'm kind of keen to get that done for Christmas as well. So, yeah, I think this could be good. I think it could be fun. Actually, on the Peckhams, the reason why she's probably baulking at the idea of rewriting is her books, the sisters' books, they're about, she told me last night that the book they're working on now is 350,000 words long.

James Blatch: To be fair, they have announced to their fans already that they're splitting it in two.

Mark Dawson: Yes, which didn't go down very well, apparently, she told me last night, but ...

James Blatch: No, I think it went down well with 90% of the fans.

Mark Dawson: Yes.

James Blatch: 10% were ...

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: But that's always going to happen. And I was saying to them, in all seriousness, that Caroline and Suzanne, if you don't know who they are, the Peckham sisters, well, Suzanne's surname is Valenti, it's a married name, they write the Zodiac Academy series and other series, and they are phenomenally successful. They have a devoted following.

But I was telling them, because I can see this happening on TikTok with her, with Lucy, with Colleen Hoover, it's the bigger you get, you start to attract criticism. And that's a weird thing, when you become very successful and you have to have a thick skin, they're going to enter a different stratosphere there, and it's really unfair. But some people just sort of like to bring you down and like to be the ones who say, "Well, I don't really like them." When everyone else likes them.

Mark Dawson: There's an easy response to that.

James Blatch: I think that they make ...

Mark Dawson: They can kind of fan themselves with their money and ...

James Blatch: Yes, exactly, yes. Yeah. And they've got so many devoted followers ...

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: That they will start to attract that sort. So I think when they announce that they're splitting the books in two, some people are going to say that but ...

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Yeah.

James Blatch: I love them. I'm really, really excited for those two women who do a brilliant job. Yeah. So we might even have them on as guest sprinters at some point. And, yeah, this is good. I'm pleased you came up with this idea, Mark, I'll give you credit for this one. In a couple of years time, I'll be claiming it ...

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: As your memory becomes foggy, but I think NaNoWriMo's a perfect thing for us to do.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I agree.

James Blatch: In SPF, and so we'll do this every year. Good. So hands up, who's going to take part?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, me.

James Blatch: I mean, that's too many for me to count. That's thousands who have already put their hand in the air. I'm very excited. By the way, some people are on the running treadmill in the gym and just fell off, because they had to put their hand up in the air.

Mark Dawson: How would you run off if you're on a treadmill if you put your hand in the air?

James Blatch: Well, it changes your balance momentarily and then things go wrong. I've seen the videos, the vines. Okay. Right. Do we have anything else to say? So it's quite simple. Go into the group, be in the group, and that's where it's all going to start on ... is it Monday? It's actually, even November the 1st, isn't it?

Mark Dawson: It's November the 1st. Yeah, the first webinar may actually have gone out, because we are recording this on the 25th. The 31st is Monday, which is my birthday.

James Blatch: Oh, yes. Okay.

Mark Dawson: So ...

James Blatch: It's Tuesday is the 1st.

Mark Dawson: It's Tuesday the 1st. Yes. So that's when we get started. So I think actually as ...

James Blatch: And ...

Mark Dawson: As we record this, Suzy's webinar will have happened, but we will ...

James Blatch: Okay.

Mark Dawson: We'll do a ... I think it could be Friday 28th. But anyway, we'll do, people will know about this, even though this is being heard in the future, because we will have emailed people in the past.

James Blatch: Oh, yes.

Mark Dawson: Or in our future, but in their past.

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: Anyway, that's ...

James Blatch: It's like Back to the Future you went to see this week.

Mark Dawson: I did go see it, yes.

James Blatch: By the way, I did notice Michael J. Fox's autobiography title. Do you see that? A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future.

Mark Dawson: Very good.

James Blatch: Such a great title for a book.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: Complicating factor for us is that we are going to Las Vegas in the middle of this NaNoWriMo, so that ....

Mark Dawson: Well, ish, complicated ish, but ...

James Blatch: Yeah. But we have to just find the time every day to do ...

Mark Dawson: Well, I will be writing in Vegas. I'm not going to be in the conference every day.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Because we, like last time, I did make sure, I have, I've got a business to run. I can't just abandon it for a week. So I will be writing, but it'll just be a different view. So I'll be writing in a nice hotel room in Vegas with a very impressive view of the strip behind me, probably, which, yeah, it'll be fun, you know?

James Blatch: I think we'll do is some of these sprints will be casual. I might be in my hotel room before I go off to the conference and I'll just go into the group live and say, "Right, in five minutes, we're going to start a sprint for 25 minutes."

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: "Join me if you want."

Mark Dawson: Make sure you've put clothes on. That's important.

James Blatch: No, I insist that writing sprints are always naked.

Mark Dawson: God.

James Blatch: That's one of the rules. One of the rules. Okay. All right, well, that's it. Thank you to the team for putting out this last minute podcast. Very excited about NaNoWriMo. We're going to kick some ass in November, and we're going to be proud of our effort, and lots of stuff, good stuff coming away. So stay in that community group.

Mark Dawson: All right? Yeah, absolutely. Yes. Let's do it. Let's do 50,000 words each.

James Blatch: Let's do it. Okay. All that remains for me to say, it's a goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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