National Novel Writing Month is well underway, my friends! All the talking and the planning (or lack thereof) and the elevated blood pressure has been funneled into pixels on a word processor or graphite and ink on paper.
Right? You did get started, right? Let’s chat.
Are you already feeling the fatigue? Did the daunting task drive you away on day one? Hey, it’s okay. This is perfectly normal. Don’t panic. Here is what I’ve learned about NaNoWriMo after 5 years of contemplating it and/or participating in it.
When you’re “young” (read: “new” or “at the beginning”), you tend to fuel yourself with almost 100% pure passion and excitement. Kids do it all the time with that new sport or instrument they want to learn. Adults do it too. It’s similar to the love story cautionary tale. When seeking a long-lasting love, you have to be careful of the romance that burns wildly and then snuffs out when the fuel is used up. A long-lasting love is easier won and kept when there is always a constant burning. Some days it may be a roaring bonfire and other days it may be a simpering ember, but the fire stays alight and steady.
In previous years that I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo, I knocked out well over 10,000 words on day one. Why? Because I also live stream my writing on Twitch as my job, and in the past I wanted to be available to anyone at any point in the day for support on the first, very exciting day of the marathon event. Then I learned I was going about this the wrong way.
How many times have we joked about the number of new writing streamers in the first week of NaNoWriMo only to lose nearly all of them by middle of week two? How many times have you felt the urge to quit well before mid November because you “just don’t have time” or you “have to find that pesky muse”?
The problem isn’t lost inspiration. It’s lost excitement. The flame has died out or its dangerously close. You had a whirlwind romance with your novel and characters in those first few days and then learned you were drunk on the excitement and nothing looks the same way when the high passes. Don’t be ashamed or frustrated. The past is the past. Now it’s time to handle your writing the right way.
When tackling something massive and exhilarating like NaNoWriMo, be logical and understanding of your goals. Let the fire in you grow strong but keep it focused. That’s what September’s and October’s preparation should include. Not just plotting out your actual story, but how to create a game plan for keeping your excitement and structured energy throughout the entire month. Some people give themselves word count milestone rewards (sweets, tea, a new book, etc). Many people keep track of their word counts daily and blast it over social media for accountability.
I like those ideas. Again, just be careful that the zealousness doesn’t drive you to word vomit all over day one to feel like you’re ahead of the game. Learn to be okay with pausing when you hit the set goal. I’m not against striving for more, but if you’re unprepared, you already know the consequences: writer’s block. It’s not always a lack of ideas. It’s also a lack of drive.
Set yourself reasonable writing goals for the month, and don’t set these right here right now! Think about it for a while. What will inspire you to write your next (or first) book? A physical and/or emotional reward? What is a good word count for you that achieves your end goal of 50,000 words in November and doesn’t leave you strained? What holidays, vacations, or nights out with friends do you need to schedule? Every day’s word count doesn’t need to be the same, and it isn’t set in stone even when you reach that day. Have a goal, have a plan, and have a buffer so you can be flexible.
Burnout is real, but so is success. Don’t give up on something that brings you joy. Manage it maturely.
Good luck and keep writing!
(P.S. Be my NaNo buddy and join the live stream for a helping hand!)