This is my annual post to help those participating in NaNoWriMo and who — this part is critical — truly want to finish. To me, the win is the accomplishment. When I say that, I less mean the ending number and more what you learn about yourself and your craft.
My extremes span my 1st NaNo when I planned neither my life, nor the novel and struggled. A lot. Still, I finished with 65K and learned from my mistakes. Last year, I drafted Book6 in Riparia’s series, Aramon Daughters.
Everyone believes they fully comprehend the NaNo realities. Some do. Many don’t. So, then, let’s look at issues and some fixes.
30 days. That means writing 1,667 words per day on average. The first few days may tempt you to believe it isn’t that hard. Week2 introduces the relentless requirement. Fall short? The average goes up. Miss a day? It climbs more. It isn’t just words you have to manage, it’s also life’s demands and coming up with a story (if you haven’t planned).
NaNo provides charts and graphs for your progress, but doesn’t know about your life. That part is up to you.
Take charge. Base your needed daily average on the number of days you CAN write. Not, maybe. Not, you hope so. Even better, if possible, try to be a day ahead to cover the unexpected. Sound excessive? If you miss writing on the 3rd you have all month to catch up. Miss on the 25th and you have less than a week. I dislike math, but this is simple math if you think ahead.
Keep in mind, the calendar is both your enemy (it’s limited) and your friend (you can plan). For instance, in the US there’s the Thanksgiving holiday late in the month. That can mean planning, cleaning, cooking, and entertaining. People might stay for days. Children are off from school. There’s post holiday exhaustion.
Yet, from a writing perspective, it’s common for people to fail to allow for it. I still remember the participant who was in a panic because she forgot she’d be gone for a week. Yup, planning.
Novel aside, what’s your plan? Do you have a space at home? What about noise? What about interruptions? Are you someone who must work elsewhere? What’s your plan for accessing that location? What are your limitations and alternatives? Depending on your hemisphere, you might face cold or heat extremes.
A huge time suck are meals. Do you prepare your own? I do. They’re time consuming, especially if I want to eat healthy. No matter your eating habits, you need to have a plan. My approach is to freeze meals in late October. They don’t carry me all month, but they ease the burden. They also keep me from living on pizza, though pizza is always an option.
If you have family, a roommate(s), or anyone else in your life who could impact your efforts you need — you guessed it! — a plan. They need to understand what you’re doing and what you need. Others can drain your time, but they can also help you. If you’re a I have to do everything for everyone person you’re in for a long month.
This begins with what you’re willing to sacrifice? I don’t mean skipping holidays or making your kids eat food scraps. I mean, can you moderate aspects of your life? I’ve seen people abandon NaNo to binge watch a program that’d still be there next month. Programs are also available for sampling each day. Moderation is part of the self-discipline side of NaNo. That’s part of learning to be a writer.
Lastly, there’s you. Your body is the primary tool you need for creating a novel. Treat it well. For me, there’s meditation, walking, yoga. My desk even adapts for standing and I have a comfortable chair. A healthy diet is important to survive the month. You don’t want to become sick (in 2016 my HP was triggered … it wasn’t fun).
What’s all this come down to?
Taking my advice and adapting it to YOUR life. It’s about awareness and thinking ahead. Yes, it’s also about determination.
This post is me urging you to make the experience as easy on yourself as humanly possible. —so you can write a novel. More important, so you can enjoy the writing and learn about your writing self.
I love to write, to create stories that didn’t exist until I sat at my keyboard. I now have a host of stories and spend most of my time editing, but it all began on October 31st 2014 at 11:30pm when I thought, You know, I’m going to give that a try.
I did, and I thank myself every day.