By Becky Swanberg, author and EMoon Team Member
NaNoWriMo is a mere two days away. Have you officially signed up? Are you plotting out your story arc? Have you cleared your schedule and loaded up on your preferred form of caffeine?
Sounds like you're well on your way to hitting that 50,000 word count before December 1. Aside from registering and story prep, here’s a few more things you can do to set yourself up for success.
Carve out time….now. That’s right. When is this novel magic going to happen? Early mornings? Lunch breaks? Late nights? Start to think about how this novel is going to fit into your every day, and allow extra time the first few days. Remember- the daily goal is around 1600 words. Will you break it into pieces? Slay it all at once? Your plan can be flexible, but it helps to hit November 1 with an idea of when this is going down.
Tell your people. Now wait a sec, I don’t mean you need to blast your NaNoWriMo aspirations on all your social media platforms (though if that’s your thing- go for it!) I mean to let the people who are close to you in on this goal. That way when it’s Friday night and you ask friends to see a movie, someone will say, “Where’s your wordcount? Did you write today?” Then you’ll roll your eyes, ditch the movie plans, and feel sorry that you ever told anyone as you open your laptop. But later, when you hit your goal, you’ll be glad your people pushed you to it.
Don’t forget to account for Thanksgiving. NaNoWriMo rookies will find themselves pacing along, coming upon the end of the month with just a few thousand words left and then...Thanksgiving. That turkey coma will not only stall out your Black Friday aspirations, but it will kill a few days of novel writing. Work ahead, or plan makeup time on the back end. And if you’re travelling, don’t even pretend you’re going to hit your word count all those days. Trust me.
Don’t over edit. Your goal is 50,000 words- not 50,000 amazing and publishable words. If you stop to fix, you may kill the flow of your thoughts and feed the ego of your inner critic. Which leads me to my next point….
Ignore your inner critic. There’s a small voice that will tell you this is a waste of time, that your novel is terrible, and that everyone in your life is actually making fun of you behind your back. Turn down the volume on that voice.
Celebrate the glimpses of greatness. Have a storyline come together? A witty dialogue that makes you smile? A phrase or description that came to you in just the right moment? Be proud of those simple things. Sometimes stopping to acknowledge a little something gone right will help you to ignore the other 1500 painful words you wrote. Or the laundry piling up. Or the strange smell coming from your fridge.
Read the pep talks that arrive in your inbox. If you’re official with NaNoWriMo, they’ll send you regular pep talks from real deal authors- and they’re legit, my friend. Some of these authors tried this very experiment and have lived (and published) to tell the tale.
Take yourself seriously without taking your story too seriously. The goal is the quantity of words produced in such a short time. Give yourself the space to hit the goal, but don’t add the pressure for those words to be reader ready by the end. Let your main characters wander and grow and make decisions that are completely unsupported by their backstory. It’s OK. Really. It is.
Be open to what your novel wants to teach you. You may find that the greatest victory of the whole endeavor is learning that you actually don’t have a novel to write. Maybe you’ll discover that you don’t enjoy creating fiction. Or perhaps some things will clarify for you about why or when or what it really means for you to write. How do you push through? What time of day works best? Who are the people in your life who really get it and support you? Those are things that your novel can teach you if you let it.
Prepare yourself for the harsh reality that you might become addicted. You may think you only signed up for a month of this, but then this main character gets into your head and suddenly this novel is nowhere near done. It’s only fair to warn you that the art and craft of storytelling is a complicated hobby rife with writer’s block, endless decisions, and rejection letters. (I mean, who in their right mind pursues an interest where you pour out your soul, send it to strangers, and then they send you rejection letters? Why is anybody doing this?)
The reality is this: in this crazy month of pounding out words each day, you may find that writing a novel brings you joy. That you make more sense when you’re writing. That the every day of life is tamed a bit by the words you give to a story. And if you have the courage to admit that you can’t not write, then you’ll be glad you set out on this NaNoWriMo journey. You’ll thank this horrible first novel for waking you up, and then you’ll start the hard work of doing it all again.
Will I participate for NaNoWriMo this year? I’ve been there done that. I logged the hours, cringed at the writing, and came out at the other end knowing a bit more about story and a lot more about myself.
Happy writing, friends.
Read the two previous posts in this blog series here.