The TL;DR version of this blog post: I used to think writers who attempt NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in addition to their day jobs, schoolwork, family obligations, etc., were insane too optimistic about getting 50,000 words written in 30 days—even though there are tons of stories of people who have achieved this and quite a few writers who have gone on to publish what started as NanoWriMo projects. But I’m trying NanoWriMo this year and I’m going to document how it goes on my blog in November.
Last year, I was humming a very different tune when it came to NanoWriMo.
I used to be vociferously opposed to the entire concept of NanoWriMo.
Why? Because the way I saw it, NanoWriMo and similar programs perpetuate unrealistic standards of how much output a writer can achieve. Writers already feel inadequate on a daily basis so why someone would expose themselves to such a prolonged period of inadequacy and feel Impostor Syndrome, I didn’t get.
What changed this year? My work situation. I’m participating in NanoWriMo because for the first time in a long time, I have the time (and hopefully the energy). We’ll see how long that lasts.
How am I so sure I’m going to succeed? I’m not. This is my first year. I’ve done outlines and character sketches, but my goal isn’t to complete the whole novel in the month of November (that would be closer to 80,000 words). My goal is to write a good chunk of a novel. I know I’m not going to write 30,000 words in December in a mad rush and I’m okay with that. So, I’m hoping for a good start. My goal is not to “win” or to “beat” someone else but to treat this more as an experiment and see how far I can go.
Okay, Smarty Pants, what other steps will you take?
- I’m going off social media. I did it last year and survived.
- I’m putting up a site blocker for distracting websites.
- I’m reducing the amount of TV I watch. TV is my second-most addicting activity next to the Internet, so while I’m not banning it (I wouldn’t last very long and breaks are important), I’m reducing the amount of what I watch.
- I’m increasing my amount of exercise. My mind works better when I’ve started my day off with exercise.
- I’m also upping my writing exercise count. My goal is to “warm up my writing muscles” and keep the engine humming.
- This one might be the hardest—I’m going to switch from a night shift writing schedule to first thing in the morning.
- I plan out what to write before each writing session so I have a roadmap.
- I’ve done a fair amount of research ahead of time so I don’t get stalled or distracted during actual writing.
Most of all, I’m going to focus on writing as much as I can and not on editing, fixing or revising. It’s difficult not to revise as I go, but I’ll make every effort to focus on pounding out the words in November and having something I can work with.
Bonus: This year, Chuck Wendig has offered up a more balanced view of Nano, citing both pros and cons of doing NanoWriMo. Check it out!
What about you? Let me know if you’re participating this year and if it’s your first time or you’re a veteran who has done it for years in a row.
I’ve recently been singing the (well-deserved) praises of Chuck Wendig’s how-to book for writers, entitled The Kick-Ass Writer, which, after reading it, has now become the quintessential book on writing for writers that I will talk up and recommend.
Considering the relevance of such issues as self-published writers, hybrid authors (of which Wendig himself is a fantastic example), marketing for authors, but more than that, a return to tips on how to hone one’s craft, I consider this book to be an indispensable resource for writers both aspiring and established. We can all stand to learn a thing or two from Mr. Wendig. I’ve highlighted the three most inspiring pull-out quotes that resonated with me, which you will find below:
On Not Giving Up:
[It] takes time. Stories need to find the right home, the right audience. Stick with it. Push like you’re pooping. Quitting is for sad pandas.”
On Connecting with Your Fellow Writers:
[Social media is] a great way to connect with other penmonkeys and creative types and engage, interact, and amuse. It’s important for writers to know other writers. It’s how we get book blurbs or find out what bottle of bourbon we should try. It used to be you had to travel to conventions and conferences to do it. Now you can do it at home. Without pants.
On When You Question Your Sanity and Why We Do This Writing Thing:
You do it because you love it.
You do it because you want to be read.
You tell stories because you’re a storyteller. And because stories matter.
I couldn’t have said those things better myself. One of the best things about Wendig’s blog, is his concession to the fact that ultimately, there are many advice givers out there to guide aspiring writers, but ultimately, there is no one set formula, or one magic trick, or one narrow way of doings things. There are multiple avenues to success. And there are multiple suggestions on how to achieve it. Wendig asserts that advice is just “suggestions” and that what works for one person may not necessarily work with another, so it’s important to take these types of texts with a grain of salt.
What are some of the other “essential” how-to writing books that line your bookshelves?