14-Time NaNoWriMo Winner Doubled His Output and Won Twice in One Month with ilys!

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Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. ilys, a NaNoWriMo 2017 sponsor, is a writing platform that helps you keep your Inner Editor far away from your creative process while you write. Today, Thomas Harper, a 14-time NaNoWriMo winner, shares his ilys success story:

Hello, my name is Thomas Harper and I have won every National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) since 2004. I’d like to share something that will help make your NaNoWriMo adventure a success.

One of the biggest challenges during any creation process is finding a consistent way to get into and stay in “the zone”––that magical place of consciousness where words and ideas flow from the brain like water from a powerfully gushing fire hydrant. In theory, getting there isn’t hard––all one needs to do is turn off all distractions. But in practice, silencing your biggest distraction (the dreaded Inner Editor) and letting your inner genius blossom forth can be quite difficult. 

I often felt that way before 2014, when I discovered a program called  ilys (which stands for “I Love Your Stories”) about a month before NaNoWriMo started. It was still in development at the time, but it’s most enduring feature had already been implemented. 

Once a writing session was initiated, editing was turned off until the word count goal was met. No fixing typos, no waffling over word choice, no writing a sentence only to rewrite it a dozen times before switching back to the original one. You can only go forward.

I tried it and soon realized that ilys provided an effective way to silence the Inner Editor until after the initial burst of writing had taken place. It unlocked that magical state within me and my words began to flow effortlessly, easily. 

Being the kind of writer who enjoys writing in public venues where I can people-watch to my heart’s content and take full advantage of the ever-changing tableau of inspirational vignettes playing out around me, I soon observed another amazing benefit of using ilys: Since only the last letter typed ever appeared on the screen, I no longer felt self-conscious that those around me could read, and thus judge, what I wrote. Instead I felt liberated and free.

Brimming with enthusiasm and optimism over the speed of my writing and the sheer quantity of words I’d been logging, I wanted to test what I and ilys were capable of during the upcoming NaNoWriMo event. Instead of writing one fifty thousand word novel during the month of November, I committed myself to writing two. Two unique stories, two unique plots, two unique novels with one hundred thousand words between them. 

How did it go?

From the very first writing session of the event, to the final one where I typed “The End” for the second time that month, my NaNoWriMo 2014 experience was the most exciting, motivating, and high-speed writing endeavor I had ever undertaken. 

I wrote over ten thousand words during my first session and I crossed the fifty thousand word mark on day 14. On day 15 my young protagonist, Mara, took off on a new adventure. I crossed the one hundred thousand word mark on day 29, a full day early even though I had written twice what I normally would write during November. Plus, between day 1 and day 29, I took four days off where I didn’t write anything at all. 

So in reality, with ilys’s help, I wrote just over one hundred thousand words and two novels in only twenty-five days.

If you haven’t tried ilys yet, do it. You will be amazed at what you are able to accomplish and I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

Yours in Victory,
Thomas Harper


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Thomas Harper has been using words since they were first invented in 1966. From the very beginning he enjoyed the sound, texture, and aroma of them so much that he dedicated his life to discovering new ways of incorporating them into conversations both with actual people and the figments of such living inside his head. One of his proudest achievements, besides successfully completing NaNoWriMo every year since 2004, was taking part in Haiku 365 and creating a haiku every day for a year. He may or may not also have climbed Mount Everest. The signs point pretty solidly toward NOT, though he very much likes to take liberties while writing creatively.