Geez louise, you guys.
I won’t lie, y’all. NaNoWriMo is a mud run for writers. It’s trying to take everything you’ve learned over the span of your entire lifetime as a writer and trying to make it all apply in this mad dash of 50K words.
The first week has been good. I’ve fallen behind a little this weekend, but I’m not too worried, truth be told. I’m not at that point where I am desperately counting words, like they are vital nutrient-rich calories while I am Bear-Grylls-ing my way through alien terrain.
There are a few things that have kept me going: Chuck Wendig and his book 30 Days in the Word Mines. Chocolate. Pandora. Field trips to places I hadn’t been before. Visual art.
I’ve also learned a few lessons: turn off word count when you’re trying to get productive. Don’t try and watch anything while you’re writing. Don’t stop believing. Hold onto that feeling.
It may be a Journey lyric, but it applies.
As I type these words, it is 10:53PM on Halloween. I have eaten my body weight in candy and assorted snacks. I have showered, I have drunk water, I have adjusted one of the few clocks in the house that will not magically flip back an hour on its own (I had this conversation with a friend tonight, how the phenomenon of “changing your clocks” just doesn’t apply to most people anymore, since cell phones and computers have now taken over the world. Who actually has to set clocks anymore?)
I am both ready and not ready for this.
I am so excited and so scared. A lot of people don’t get it, because once I answer the question, “Do you win a prize?” with a firm no, people go all funny-eyed. Even better are the ones that go, “Wait, you write?” And then I go listen to Nine Inch Nails and sob into a pillow for an hour.
There are a few things I have ready that I think are going to prove very helpful this month.
- A script: If someone asks me “Hey, how’s that thing going?” I have a few responses in the old mouth cannon: if I’m on schedule, I’ll go, “It’s good. Smooth sailing.” If I’m ahead, I’ll go, “Everything is coming up Katie! Thanks for asking!” If I’m behind, I’ll go, “Plugging along. Can’t stop now.” If I feel like the world is falling apart, I’ll go, “OMG, do you want to see that new Frankenstein movie with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe as much as I do?”
- A magic hat: This concept came from No Plot? No Problem! (Revised, Updated, and Expanded) by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. In one of the prep chapters, Baty talks about having something to get you into the mindset to write. This year, I have a Pikachu hat that I got in my Loot Crate about a month or so ago. It is absolutely the most ridiculous thing, but since I am wont to acquire hats with ears, it’s pretty par for the course. Wearing them inside while doing other things, however, is a totally different thing.
- Accountability: I’ve posted on many forms of social media that I am doing this. In fact, I’m reiterating it right now to you, my friends. And that means that on 11/2 I can’t be all, “Okay, well, this was a nice thought, but…”
- An Instant Pot: okay, my husband was actually the one who spear-headed this purchase a few months back. I was like, “Isn’t it just a crock pot? We have a crock pot.” An Instant Pot is a Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute/Browner, Yogurt Maker, Steamer and Warmer. Put food in, hit button, cooked food comes out within minutes. Magic device.
- A schedule: Outside of my word counts (I’m aiming at 2K a day at first to make up for the time around Thanksgiving) I have a pretty straightforward schedule for other things I want to do, including exercising and art. I’m doing this because I know that if I don’t allow myself flexibility and time to do things other than write, I’ll burnt out hard and fast.
How about you? How are you getting ready for this? What are the tools in your utility belt? Tell me about them!
A friend told me today that he is thinking about doing NaNoWriMo. He asked if I had any advice. I would like to share this advice with you too, dear reader, dear writer.
Don’t do it for any reason other than to write and have fun doing it. Don’t do it for anyone else or because you feel like you ‘have’ to. It has to be the marriage of challenge and joy.
Prepare, but don’t prepare too much. The devil is in the details, and analysis paralysis will be your enemy. Think over the next week the type of book you want to write, the type of characters you want to give birth to. If you can create a book jacket summary of the overall arc, cool. If not, also cool.
Small chunks of writing will work better than marathon writing. Squeeze it into your schedule. If you don’t already love to write for five hours, you aren’t going to start now.
Don’t give up. Don’t get to the 20th and go, “I only have x words, there’s no way I’m going to get to 50k, I’m done.” Fight to the end. See what happens. Miracles have happened in mere hours.
Just by wanting to do it, you are ahead of the millions of people who say “someday I’ll…” Celebrate that, but just not too much.
If you want to share your creature as it awakens, do it. But tell people to hand over the roses and leave the thorns until 12/1. Because you will want to edit. Every writer does. You will hear yourself say, “Oh wait, this should be this” or “that should have not happened.” Leave the casualties and save yourself.
You can do it. I believe in you.