Survive and Thrive during NaNoWriMo (part 5)

2009 NaNoWriMo participant You can’t say, I won’t write today because that excuse will extend into several days, then several months, then… you are not a writer anymore, just someone who dreams about being a writer.
~Dorothy C. Fontana

NaNoWriMo is about writing. Period. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. There really isn’t time for it to be about much other than writing, is there? And yet…

NaNoWriMo is also about connecting with other writers. It’s about meeting them face to face in your neighborhood, or virtually on the forums and chat spaces. It’s about helping other writers by answering their questions about surgery or firearms or legalese or quantum mechanics or how to make the best pound cake or (insert your specialty here). It’s about helping a newbie figure out how to keep going, how to make (or make up) that word count, fill that plot hole, or balance life during NaNo. It’s about sharing the wonderful resource you’ve found or created. It’s about designing a cool mockup cover for your book so that it feels like you’re doing something real, here. It’s about–

It’s about so much more than fifty thousand words in thirty days. And yet, those words, that story–your story–is the core of what you’re doing this month.

In among all those other things, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that. But really, that’s what all my previous posts in this series have been leading up to. How best to rearrange your life for one month so that you can write.

It’s awfully easy to let the precious time that you’ve carved out for writing be frittered away on other things–even (maybe especially) things completely related to NaNoWriMo. You don’t even feel guilty about them because they are related to NaNoWriMo. Sometimes you don’t even notice that half your days’ writing time is gone and all you’ve done so far is answered questions on the forums.

I recommend making a few basic rules for yourself during November, and try to stick to them as closely as possible.

  • Do the writing first. Don’t visit the forums, check your NaNo mail, or do anything else with your alloted writing time until you’ve done the actual writing. The only possible exception to this rule is if you are absolutely stuck on your story until you have an answer to a question you’ve posted in the forums. Maybe in that case you can check for your answer first, but this is a rare exception.
  • Participate wisely Use meetups, chat spaces, and forums as ways to inspire you and keep you writing, instead of ways to procrastinate. Take part in word wars if you find the going slow. Skip a meetup if you would really be better off staying home and writing.
  • Ask for help If you are really having a hard time making your word count, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your ML or someone who has participated before, look for advice on the forums, try some new approaches.
  • Make time for fun Once you have your words for the day, have as much fun as you want. Part of the magic of NaNoWriMo is the strong sense of community and the creative discourse you’ll find with other participants. Make the writing a priority, yes, but allow yourself to enjoy the other aspects of the experience too. You’ll come away richer for it at the end of the month.
  • Don’t give in to stress You’re asking a lot of yourself (and maybe of those around you), but don’t lose sight of the fact that this is supposed to be a fun exercise. If things aren’t working for you or the rest of your life brings unexpected challenges, give yourself permission to back out gracefully. Not everyone makes it the first time, or even a subsequent time. A little bit of stress is good, but it’s not worth making yourself crazy over this endeavour.

I think that’s enough rules for one month, but the first one bears repeating. Do the writing first. It’s the hard part, and the siren call of the other fun stuff can be hard to resist. But all the rest of it will be even more fun if you’re getting those words. Updating your word count on your profile page and watching your progress bar fill up–well, that’s the most fun of all.

A Very Different NaNoWriMo So Far
Survive and Thrive during NaNoWriMo (part 4)
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