We could try really hard to write something smart about how to win, but the amazing Dan Trujillo did it for us. For these of you who don't know him, Dan Trujillo is a fabulous playwright and has won Naplwrimo many times. He was also our forums moderator in 2007 and is one of our regular bloggers.
Dan's failproof advice on how to win Naplwrimo
I'm not much of a "writer's wisdom" sort. I have done NaPlWriMo twice, though, and both times I've come out with the draft of a new play. So, I do think I have a few practical tidbits to offer our new participants, about How to Win NaPlWrimo:
1. Don't Look Back, or You Will Turn Into a Pillar of Salt. The worst thing you can do to yourself, the single biggest thing that stops people from reaching the finish line (besides lack of writing time) is when they go back to fix something. That one something becomes another something, and then another, and then they spend all their time getting the 1st act just right, and run out of time for the second. Don't look back. Not to edit for consistency, not to set up something that pays off later. If you must, make a note, but don't waste your writing time fixing it. Writing time is precious. As a father of two, I know this. Speaking of which...
2. Apologize to Your Loved Ones Now. Because you're going to need every precious second, including those normally spend with them. When Thanksgiving weekend comes, and you're not at the Turkey Table, because it's Big Push Time, they'll be angry. Nothing to be done about that, but at least you can tell them, "I already apologized. Now get that cranberry sauce out of my face." Speaking of Big Push Time...
3. Don't Put Off Writing Until Big Push Time. I would quadruple-strong this, if such a thing were possible. Maintaining your pace is very important. The math is simple, even for playwrights: 75 pages divided by 30 days = 2.5 pages a day. Almost no one gets writing time every day, so plan out your month. Once you've set your expectations, keep that pace, and don't tell yourself you'll pound out the last fifty on Thanksgiving Weekend. Once burned, those brain cells do not come back.
4. Have Some Infrastructure to Start. I know some people like to go in knowing nothing about the play, and if that works for you, I'm jealous. A hack like me likes to know a few (but not all) major things about the play before he begins. The ending is a great place, because it gives me something to aim for (though usually my actual ending is far different than what I conceived). Knowing a few characters inside and out is good. Imagery can be good, although it can also be a siren that leads me to the rocks. The thing I must tell in my play, the painful/amazing thing, is the best of all.
5. When You're Desperate, Write Something Stupid. Sometimes that blank page just won't get filled. That's when I write something really stupid. It doesn't matter if it has none of the characters, if it's an entirely different tone, if it seems to have nothing to do with the play. The only victory condition in Naplwrimo is to have a play of 75 pages by 11:59 pm November 30th. It doesn't have to make sense. It can be, and often is, filled with stupid. It's amazing how often that stupid leads to somewhere awesome.