NaNoWriMo: T –4 Days ~~~~~ The Power of Onerosity

I cannot, of course, do justice to Chris Baty’s wise  exposition and witty delivery in encouraging WriMos in their schemes to succeed. You must get that flavor direct from him. What I can do is give you the Cliff’s Notes version on some methods to insure your compliance with the 50K plan.

Beyond all the other preparations you’ve been making, there is the matter of insurance, Insurance that will coerce your complete compliance to reach your writing goals. It will not allow you to quietly ignore that affidavit or even decide that a few jeers and smug attitudes at your failure to finish will be worth skipping out on crossing the finish line.  No, Baty and other crafty WriMos have devised some truly horrifying negative reinforcers. By applying them to your own process, you can tailor-make the awfulness to hit you where it hurts most.

“Gentle encouragement from your friends and family,…is just the start. Warm smiles and you-can-do-it emails won’t help you keep your butt in the chair when you’re ready to give up in the middle of Week Two. After collecting a group of cheerleaders, the next step is to leverage all their goodwill into usable quantities of fear.

Yep. Terror is the amateur novelist’s best friend. Without some amount of it pushing you onward toward your goal, you’re going to lose momentum and quit. There are just too many other, more sensible things to do with your time than try to write a novel in a month, and all of these more interesting alternatives will become irresistible if you don’t have some fear binding you to your word-processing device.

Happily, with little work, your friends and family can terrify you in ways you’d never imagined.” (pg. 52)

1. Bragging – this can become an indispensable tool when carried out in great detail to family and friends – brag early, brag often, brag in email – Baty calls this “disappointment-based motivation.”

2. Invite everyone you know to check on your progress. Frequently.

3. Invite them all to mock you for any failings in your efforts.

4. Chore-Based Betting – in this case you agree to do chores for non-compliance.
To be effective, these must be significant and their severity tied to the level of failure. For example, if you hit the 30K mark before quitting, you may have to scrub a kitchen floor, but if you stopped at 10K,  you’d be commited to scooping dog poop for a year. … Hand out several of these and the price becomes exponentially dear.

5. Word-War Bets – these go something like a bad game of truth or dare, but without the truth and double the dare. Baty recounts several examples from a couple whose bets escalated from simple things like back rubs to more humiliating acts like running down the street half naked and kissing strangers.

6. Onerosity Coupons – The Novel Writing Kit has its own variation on chore-based betting… paper coupons all set to be filled out and tendered to your potential beneficiaries.

They say:  I, __(your name)__ hereby promise to render __(chore/obligation/item of value)__ unto __(recipient’s name)__ should I fail to write __(amount)__ words of prose by __(date)__   __X__(signed)______(date)__.

onerosity coupon

There’s a stub that lets you keep track of your potential misery. (Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could work it so your coupon recipients would have to do the chores if you made it? Now there’s some motivation!)

7. Worst for Last – this one I’d never be able to take a chance on. It’s far too heinous. It was suggested by WriMo Paul Griffiths. He vowed to donate his entire life savings to the NRA if he failed to write 50,000 words. It worked.

Here are the steps to his writing assurance plan:

a.) Find an organization you detest.
b.) Write a large check to them. (large enough to wreak havoc with your finances)
c.) Seal it in an envelope, address it to the organization, put postage on it and give the envelope to a friend, telling them to mail it should you fail to write 50K words by the end of the month.
d.) Your envelope will be returned to you after you have successfully accomplished your writing goal.

And there you have it. A couple of ideas designed to make you very interested in avoiding failure.  What more could you ask?  Well, you could have Dr. Wicked erasing your words faster than you can type them…

Baty, C. (2004). No Plot? No Problem!. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Baty, C. (2006). No Plot? No Problem! Novel-Writing Kit. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.


For the most part, this blog is about reading and writing m/m romances, but there are a few personal reflections, some writerly information, and a bit of writing practice. Thank you for stopping by.

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