National Novel Writing Month is no joke… it’s an endurance trial for any writer. It’s like running a marathon- not that I’d know what that’s like because fck running. No, really… it’s the same cycle every November. We’re excited, we’re prepared, we’re just positive those word counts will write themselves… lolz. Here, I’ll give you some tips to push through and keep on keeping on… with the help of Sam and Dean Winchester.
This is the easiest part of the month: the starting gate. You’re ready, right? Got an solid plot outlined… or at least a few ideas in your head? Making the most out of this month doesn’t mean you need to have all your ducks in a row- in fact… sometimes it’s better not to. There is a fine middle ground between plotter and pantser where you will find a zen-like center. Don’t stress. This month isn’t about reaching your goal… it’s about fine tuning that great idea and giving it the push it needs. It’s great to be excited! Use that energy and be super pumped… just remember, you need energy for the next thirty days… and in those thirty days, you probably have to deal with your entire family for a weekend.
There is a point in the first two weeks where you might be harboring and nurturing your great idea like baby Groot in his pot, yet the word counts aren’t really meeting your expectations. You might even already be experimenting the dreaded writer’s block. Everything’s shiny, Captain- not to fret… (sorry mixing my fandoms a lot for this one). To avoid or at least lighten this phase prepare yourself:
1. Music- it’s so very important. Maybe not while you’re writing… but certainly during those times when you’re struggling. Think about your characters and their theme songs, or create a soundtrack. For my current novel, and all published novels, I have a play list on Spotify. It’s really a writer’s dream. I pay the 14 bucks a month to not hear ads AND it’s got an app so you can listen to it anywhere. Seriously- I approve of everything Spotify. Make sure you put Heat of the Moment by Asia on that list… amiright?
2. Reading- take a break from your day and read something you enjoy. A new book, an old book or even a magazine article. Whatever you truly enjoy. I will break out my old Fear Street collection and just read a few of those (in an hour). The are super cheesy and tend to spark inspiration just based on their nostalgic awesomeness.
3. Ask a Friend- there’s no doubt you have a BFF who listens to your writing woes. This could be your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend… whomever you trust with your ideas and also inspires you. Let them know what you’re up to- explain NaNoWriMo (I’m sure you already have) and ask them if they’re willing to be your wing man. It’s amazing how much can get worked out when you just voice your plot problems to others. They don’t have to be writers… they just need to listen.
I know that you get to a point where you’re entering your word counts on the NaNoWriMo website and you’re looking at that damn graph on your stats page. It’s not looking great… so you start to worry. Cut it out. No doubt, progress is progress. It doesn’t matter if your word count is 100 or 1,000 the point is you wrote something. If you didn’t write something to progress your novel’s word count- maybe you worked out some ideas about the plot, the characters or you found a great soup recipe on Pinterest… whatever it is… you progressed your day.
Now, if you’ve gone a couple weeks and you’ve only written a few thousand words then, yes, worry a little… I won’t sugar coat it. If your heart is set on finishing NaNoWriMo then you need to start pushing yourself here. Goals are made to be met, and you can set realistic ones for yourself. Personally, I can write a chapter a day if I’m feeling it. My chapters tend to be in the 2500 word range. This is a reasonable goal that pushes yourself. What’s the average word count per day to finish on time? 1667? That’s about 12k words a week. Then you know if you manage to hit 2500 two days out of the week you can lighten your load for whatever days are more stressful. Trust me, 800 word buffers are magic when it comes to week two and three.
Here’s where shit can and will go wrong and your days can seem repetitive as hell. Relax… it’s fine. No one likes a stage four anything… that much is certain. It’s where you’re losing steam, and you want to give up. Don’t. I suggest at this stage you stop thinking about word count and just write. It’s hard to block that weird area of your brain out that just wants to count your words like Rainman… but try. If you’re less worried about your larger goal, and more worried about your character’s lives because you’re turning oddly psychotic at this point- you’re golden. Now you’re ready to listen to Write Drunk by yours truly.
So suddenly, week three is here and you’re just like:
Yup. I get it. Around this final stretch is when you need to take breaks… or surround yourself by others at write-ins. Something needs to recharge your mental well being. Grab some wine, or coffee (don’t lace it with too much rum) and listen to a mellow and/or happy playlist: my favorite is Your Favorite Coffeehouse and Mood Booster.
You might notice how much of a music fan girl I am. I truly think it’s like that magic sugar you need for your writing caffeine. Don’t forget to dance.
As an alternative to music, try baking. No really. There’s nothing like picking some complex recipe that you’re positive you can make. It’ll definitely look like that picture on Pinterest, right? Then four hours later, your kitchen (and probably your face) is covered with powdered sugar, dry egg white and frosting that doesn’t even taste right. There may or may not be a burning smell emanating form the oven and you might be crying.. not that I speak from personal experience or anything, but there’s nothing quite like epic failing on billionaire cookie bars to remind you what a great writer you are… here, look at all the stuff I can’t make!
I used to think… what kind of sadistic prick picked November to be National Novel Writing Month? Because right when I’m either feeling good about my count or feeling doomed to fail, Thanksgiving comes around. Not only do I have a large family- I have a highly broken up family that all wishes I could come visit. So I can potentially have like eight dinners in four different cities… clearly, I stopped doing this because it’s nuts and hating yourself and everyone around you is what Christmas is for.
Uh, anyway… this end stretch is where you start telling yourself that everything is fine… when it might not be fine. You have to take into account that your time is or might be taken up by outside factors… the last few days are really important for your well being. Because… well… at this point you know whether or not you’re going to win. If you are… fabulous. If you aren’t… don’t trick yourself into quitting. Tell your family about your novel, make it a conversation… tell them about your challenges and triumphs thus far. I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear it! If not- get new family members.
Congratulations, it’s now the end of November… and you feel like Sam Winchester when it was finally Wednesday… (FYI if you haven’t seen Season 3, Episode 11, you’re missing out). Oh wait… November hasn’t even started yet. It’s coming though… just like winter. And you will get through it. For better or worse.
I don’t need to tell you how many resources there are for your writing adventures… so many that it can get overwhelming. Don’t overwhelm yourself. At the end of the day, it’s about your and your novel. This is a month to bond with that novel… go through some major shit with that novel. And when the month is up, you’ll have made progress. That’s what NaNoWriMo is about: progress. It’s about pushing yourself to get something done. Whether that’s 10k words or 100k words (which would be nuts, don’t be that guy), you have move forward with your dream. Feels good… at the starting gate, at the finish line, and all the repetitive days in between.
What are some of your November writing goals? Feel free to add me as a buddy H E R E.