I’m not a fan of NaNoWriMo.
Yes, I’m fully aware of the intention behind it, but you know what they say about good intentions. When it comes to practical application, NaNoWriMo sets writers up to fail.
NaNoWriMo is not compatible with real life.
The one time I tried NaNoWriMo, I met my husband instead. Didn’t even come close to finishing.
Fact is, you can’t neglect significant others and children for an entire month without ramifications. People are going to get mad at you.
Not to mention, November kicks off the start of the holiday season, so if you’re planning on celebrating Thanksgiving or putting up Christmas decorations, it’s going to create a conflict. Conflict = stress = writer’s block.
And if you catch the coronavirus and are down sick for a week? Forget it. You can’t catch up.
You’re going to burn out.
People talk about this one a lot. They start off on fire and easily meet the daily word requirements, then completely lose all steam three weeks in and struggle to write a single sentence.
Do you take a week off, eat donuts and cruise around the neighborhood looking for Christmas lights to give yourself a break and recharge? No. Because then you’ll miss the deadline and fail.
50,000 words over four weeks is too much of a sprint for most people to handle. Remember, using your brain also drains your physical energy, and you’re trying to do the mental equivalent of running a 4-minute mile.
It’s better to pace yourself.
It can attach negative feelings to your novel.
Say you did your absolute best, but at the end of the month you only managed 30,000 words.
Do you plow ahead and take another five months to finish, or do you become upset at your failure and quit writing altogether until the next November rolls around?
What if you lose interest in your novel because you associate it with feelings of pressure and stress?
Do you stuff those 30,000 words away in some folder hidden on your laptop and never think about them again?
Then what was the point?
Set up good writing habits that will see you through the long term.
It took me seven months to hit 50,000 words in Alice and the Warden. That includes taking two months off to have a baby, and plenty of days where I didn’t get around to writing. I’m satisfied with my progress, and I still have a life. I’m also very glad that I took the time to let the story grow and evolve, instead of rushing towards the end. The joy is in the journey.
Think about your story all the time.
It doesn’t matter if you’re driving to pick up burgers, folding laundry, or sitting in the dentist chair; think about your story. You know those moments when you feel restless and tend to go for instagram as a distraction? Don’t. Fidget uncomfortably, chew your fingernails, and think about your story.
Thinking about your story keeps it fresh in your mind, and motivates you to keep writing as new ideas and scenes come to you. Even if you’re lost about where to go next, keep thinking about what you’ve already written and figure out how to improve it. It will keep you open to inspiration.
Also, if you don’t like the idea enough to think about it daily for an entire year, make it more exciting.
Take care of your body.
Exercise, eat good food, spend time outside, and sleep. Our brains are connected to our bodies, and oftentimes writers block is your body’s way of crying out for better care. Instead of agonizing over an empty page, get up and do something. Even something as small as knitting can help get those juices flowing again. Or take a nap.
Remember, progress is progress.
If all you write on a given day is a single sentence, congratulate yourself. A sentence is progress, and progress is good. Don’t measure yourself in numerical terms of word count versus days passed, but instead on how you feel and experience the journey. Have fun, and keep moving forward.
A little trick that I like to use is, when I know how I want a scene to play out but I can’t get the words to flow, I deliberately write it in the stupidest way I can think of. It takes the pressure off, and gives me something that I can work with to edit and rewrite. It’s also good for a laugh.
Go ahead and participate in NaNoWriMo if you want to. There are authors who finish and publish their NaNoWriMo novels, so it is possible. However, I strongly recommend that you begin with a willingness to fail, and the assumption that you’ll continue writing through December, January, February, etc. Writing should ultimately be about self-expression and creativity, and it’s better to take the time to really enjoy yourself than it is to rigidly speed through to completion.