Writers began their NaNo journey yesterday; a month-long endeavor to reach 50,000 words and a completed novel. Some are rebels, opting to finish a current manuscript or tackle a different project like blogging, while others set out to write their ‘once upon a time’ and ‘the end’ on a single story.
This year marks the third year I’ve participated in the November challenge, and while I’ve set out to bring home the big win at the end of the month, I’m also doing something a little different this year.
While this is only day two of the challenge, and I’m sure everyone’s hopes are high and eyes are bright still, there will come a time when most of us would really like to throw our NaNo novel out the window… or burn our laptops… or kill every character and start over. It’s inevitable.
My challenge (to myself, and now to all of you) is to find some other things to celebrate. Sure, winning NaNo is a great accomplishment, but with everything going on in the world right now, I think it’s also important to find other writing things to celebrate. So here are some positive reminders to help keep you going through the month.
YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK
I’m sorry, but that needs to be in all caps.
Let me repeat it. YOU ARE WRITING A BOOK.
That’s an incredible thing. There are so many writers out there who dream of writing a book but never take the plunge. There are even a smaller number who start and never finish, or give up after a few chapters. Even fewer finish the book, no matter how many words.
Look at you, though. You’ve dedicated yourself to the month. You’ve declared your participant status in the greatest month of the year; where the writing community cheers alongside you and gives you the encouragement to keep going, even when it gets tough.
How amazing is it going to feel when you reach November 30 and have a completed draft? Trust me, that feeling is incredible. It makes up for all the hiccups that you encounter during the month. Shoot for that feeling.
Building a writing habit
To be on track to the finish line, each writer has to complete a minimum of 1,667 words a day for thirty days. That’s really not as overwhelming a number as 50,000 total. It’s a good habit to break your writing goals into manageable chunks per day.
But sometimes 1,667 can be overwhelming too. Some people can do that in an hour. Others, like myself, need a bit longer. Instead of feeling crushed when you don’t get that number in a day, focus on the fact that you wrote, period. You sat down and kept a writing habit. You dedicated yourself to writing a few words and getting that much closer to the end of your book.
Then, on days where you have a bit more time, shoot for 2,000 words. Shoot for a 5,000 word day. Focus on building a writing habit first, then up your word count.
You’re not competing against others; you’re racing with them
Sure, you might actually strike up a challenge to see who can ‘win’ first. But for the majority of us, this isn’t about a competition with others. The writing community joins together in support, and they want you to be along for the ride.
One day, you’re going to look around you and see that a group of people are 10,000 words ahead of you. That doesn’t matter. Keep pace with yourself. Work to stay on top of your word counts, even if other people are ‘passing’ you.
Remember, everyone has different life circumstances allowing them to write at their own pace. Maybe they have no obligations. Maybe they have a million things to do. It doesn’t matter what they are doing, it matters what you are doing.
If you really have to compete against someone (as a former athlete, sometimes I like a little challenge), compete against yourself. One year I wrote my 50K in 10 days. One year I wrote 85K in 14. Last year I wrote 8K+ words on the last day to barely get the win before midnight. Just try to beat your own expectations when you can.
You’re growing as a person
Whether this is your first novel or your 20th, each book is an opportunity to grow as a writer and as a person. I’ve loved every book I’ve written during NaNo, and because of this month I discovered what I really wanted to do with my life. NaNo holds a special place in my heart, and without it I would be in a much different place in my life.
I’m so thankful for the things NaNoWriMo has taught me — from writing skills to community to creativity, I’ve found a new part of myself with each year I’ve participated. I’m excited to see what this month holds for me.
Make sure you have fun
I get it. 50,000 words in a month is a challenge. It’s not easy by any means. You’re creating something out of nothing. It’s beautiful and messy and all over the place, but it’s yours. It’s a chance to have fun and just enjoy the process again.
This year, I’m reminding myself of the joys of writing. Each NaNo, I’ve written some installment of my Soul Series, which became my debut series as an author. Now that I publish books and novelettes often, and for my career, I’ve spent the last several months writing things directly for my publishing audience.
That’s why I’m going back to my Soul roots and writing a fourth book for myself. It’s just a story I want to tell, and even though I’m sharing it with the world (live), I’m telling it for myself. I’m reliving the story that got me started in writing. This is my story to myself.
At the end of the day, this challenge is supposed to be fun. It’s a chance to throw crazy twists and fun things into a story. It doesn’t have to be publish-ready by the end of the month (in fact, it really shouldn’t be). It’s about the community and the enjoyment of watching a book go from the blank page to ‘the end’. Write something you love.
If you’re participating in NaNo this year, let me know how it’s going for you! Newbie or veteran, I’m so excited to be joining you in the fun. Feel free to add me as a buddy on the NaNo site.
As I mentioned above, I’m sharing my NaNo novel rough draft as I write it! You can read it for free on Wattpad. Leave a comment and vote for my story to tell me what you think!
Laura Winter is the author of the Soul Series and Warrior Series in addition to several short stories and standalones. You can find all her relevant links here.