NaNo is close. Closer for some than others. For me, it’s 36 hours and 24 minutes. Or so. I can’t count past four so I really shouldn’t be trusted. I’m also not one of those people who starts at midnight. I’m in bed at midnight most nights. Still awake, yes, but tucked into my bed and close to sleep.
A woman in my region who is trying NaNo for the first time asked me if I had any advice for a new participant and, of course, I did. So I figured I’d share some here. What’s your advice to new participants?
What to do Before Starting NaNoWriMo (yes, there’s still time)
- Tell Everyone. Literally everyone. Post it on your social media platform of choice, tell co-workers and friends. Tell your partner. Tell your neighbors and your carpool and your best friend and that friend with whom you keep exchanging “Oh we totally have to make plans!” messages. Why? So many reasons. The first of which is guilt (others would call this accountability). Telling people you are planning on writing a novel this month will garner a few different reactions (I’ll talk about one of them at the end) but no matter what, the people you tell will inevitably ask you how it’s going during the month and that will keep you motivated because the absolute worst thing you can do is say, “Oh, that… I gave up.” The second reason is that this is a great segue into #2.
- Learn to say “No”. This is an important lesson to learn as an adult but there is no better time to practice than during NaNoWriMo. So many people love to talk about how “busy” they are or how they “don’t have time” to do the things they wish they could. Guess what? We are all given the same amount of time in a day. The key is that some of us have learned to say “no”. There is no award for the person who says “yes” the most. And for those of us who say “no” we have things to show for it: like a skill or hobby or memory. For me I have participated in several fiction contests because I realized that I really don’t need to go to trivia on Thursday nights. I don’t enjoy it all that much and it’s a great time to dedicate to writing. During NaNo I warn people that I might not be as available. And because I’m up front people don’t seem to mind.
- Commit to a time. In the years I’ve won, I wrote first thing in the morning. So that is clearly a time that works for me. I think that’s for a few minutes. First, I’m very creative in the morning. Second, I do it before I allow a single distraction. I don’t check my work email, I don’t look at my phone. I don’t even walk the dogs first — which is ALWAYS the first thing I do. I make a cup of something hot and write my 1,667. THEN I start my day. I’m lucky because I don’t have kids or a job that requires me to start at a certain time (anymore). A time doesn’t have to be one spell, like it is for me… it can be ten minutes every hour. It can be lunch or instead of going on social media. It can be before bed. It can be in the middle of the night if you are so inclined. But carve out time and commit to it.
- Get or make a blank calendar and marker/stickers/whatev. There is nothing more satisfying than marking the day’s writing as complete. Believe me. This year I just made a little grid in my novel’s notebook and plan on using some sticky rhinestone type things I have leftover from last year’s holiday cards. It’s nothing sexy and it was free. Isn’t it gorgey?
Tips for During November
- Just write. Don’t edit. My first NaNoNovel sits in a binder that I have kept with me since writing it but am embarrassed to read. It is REALLY BAD but it’s a 50,000-ish word novel that could be turned into something and maybe, someday, will. I think my characters spent quite a bit of time, toward the end, driving and singing. Song lyrics can be great fillers when you’re feeling totally unmotivated but know that you need to hit the goal. I allowed it toward the end. The key is to just write. Your second draft will be easier when you have a first draft done. No first draft has ever been published*.
- Celebrate! Every damn day should include a celebration of what you have accomplished that day. Whether you wrote 1,667 or 16 but carved out time to catch up the next day (don’t go into it with this strategy; it never works… but the unplanned fall behind/catch up can happen once or twice in a successful NaNo). Have a piece of chocolate, sit with your dog for 5 minutes, take a 20 minute nap, listen to your favorite song and have a dance party. Do SOMETHING to commemorate each time you write that novel.
- Be social. Not in the usual way, but with other NaNo participants. GO TO WRITE INS. My first was so hard. I was terrified (I have ridiculous stranger danger). But, I met someone there the first time who is now one of my closest friends and the person I trust most with my writing. You don’t have to make a new friend. You don’t have to talk much. But you’d be amazed how much you will accomplish if you go to write ins.
- Be social virtually. Twitter is a GREAT place for NaNo. @NaNoWordSprints is my saving grace and when they go down I’ve been known to pick up and run sprints (you can follow me at @WriterNancy). The #amwriting hashtag is a great community and there are all sorts of fun NaNo goings on. Seriously — just check it out. Especially if you need an extra push/can’t get to a write-in/have to do some catch up.
Let me Take you to Lunch
Not really. But I am regularly overheard saying, “I need to take him to lunch.” This is my way of saying that someone needs a good sitting down and to be told how it is. It means I’m going to bestow some seriously good life lesson. Usually it has to do with relationships. My best piece of NaNo advice (see #1 of the pre-November tips) also has to do with relationships.
You will either fear telling someone what you are doing because you’re worried about their reaction or you will tell someone and get a reaction that falls in line with something like…
- You have time for that?
- That’s stupid.
- I wish I had time to do something like that but I’m so busy.
Any response that is passive-aggressive or judgemental (a comment that seems nice but highlights how they have much more important things to do, puts down your efforts) is essentially a huge neon sign pronouncing, “THIS PERSON IS NOT WORTH YOUR TIME.” I’m sorry, but it’s true. Not everyone has to be interested in what you’re doing or be your cheerleader. But anyone who is passive-aggressive or judgy shouldn’t be someone you spend your precious time on.
If someone reacts that way make a note of it and let’s chat once we hit 50k, okay? Because you deserve better.
The world needs your story. And your story needs you to tell it. Don’t listen to the haters, keep your excitement and write the heck out of that novel whether you’re starting after Halloween or in the morning. My blogging will be NaNoCentric in November but I do plan on checking in as one of my rewards. Expect more re-blogs, links, pictures, memes. And let’s just make peace with the fact that I’m not going to be doing weekly wine posts. I have one in the making but you know what? I’m not a wine blogger so it’s okay if those are more spread out. Says me.
*Not a checked fact but a pretty good guess.