Welcome to the fourth post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.
- November 1 – Choosing Your Topic and Starting Your Novel
- November 3 – Taking Advantage of Your Weekends
- November 6 – What if I Need to Take a Break?
- November 8 – NaNoWriMo Has Turned Me Into a Hermit
- November 10 – Telling Your Story
- November 13 – Progress Over Perfection
- November 15 – Halfway Done! Now What?
- November 17 – Continuity Issues in a First Draft
- November 20 – Handling Writer’s Block
- November 22 – What to do About Holidays
- November 24 – I Hate My Story
- November 27 – I’m Not Going to Make It. Have I Failed?
- November 29 – Ending Your Story
- November 30 – You Did It! Now What?
If you’re working on a novel for NaNoWriMo, there’s an experience you’ve likely had several times as a reader that you may well be living through as a writer for the first time. The way this experience presents itself is different person to person, however it usually begins with you finding a character that you really like in your story. From there, you start wondering what that character will do next, questioning what you would do in their situation, or developing strong opinions about the actions that character takes as they make them. Pretty soon, you’re yelling at the character, trying your hardest to will them verbally so that they don’t go into the scary room that’s totally full of of someone that’ll try to kill them.
By this point, you’ve likely become emotionally invested in your story — or at the very least, you care a ton about a character or two in your novel. Awesome! I completely understand where you’re coming from. In my work in progress, there’s a character named Abby whose story I’ve become quite fond of. It’s to the point where I very much want things to end a certain way for her, even though I know that for the story I’m writing to make sense Abby shouldn’t get (much of) what she most desires1At least not in this book. In a sequel, maybe? Abby has a lot of things she sees as moral gray areas, so in order for her to get some of what she wants in one part of her life, it’s likely that she’ll need to sacrifice what she wants in another part of her life. I swear I’m going to write more of this story soon.. So I promise I’m right there with you.
That said, your non-writer friends might not be right there with you. Some of your friends might be avid readers and can empathize with you to a certain extent. But if you try talking about this experience to someone who has never written and who doesn’t read much, there’s a good chance they’ll look at you like you’re crazy.
Additionally, if you’ve gotten really invested in writing your story, there’s a decent chance it’s been all you’ve done in your free time. Eight days into NaNoWriMo means that your goal word count is 13,333 words, but you might be at 20,000 or more words already. The only people you’ve seen in days are co-workers, those who live with you, and your pets. Even then, they haven’t seen much of you.
Again, I understand where you’re coming from and can empathize with you. In 2011, I had written 36,404 words through eight days. I crossed the 50,000 word threshold on day 15 and finished my book on day 21. And though I had some circumstances2Read: Being unemployed. that allowed me to churn out a couple of giant word count days to help me get to that point, I also became incredibly interested in my story. All I wanted to do was to write and to tell this story that I couldn’t get out of my head. During those first eight days, the only living beings I interacted with her my wife3Then long-distance girlfriend. and my friend Erin via text, my cat, and cashiers at Wal-Mart.
On day 9, I got a text from my college roommate — who I’ve talked to nearly daily for thirteen years now — asking if I was still alive. My grandma and dad called (several times actually) to make sure I was coming down for Thanksgiving, however I hadn’t responded to their voicemails. Aside from corresponding with a couple of potential employers via email, all I cared about was writing this story.
I talked a bit on Tuesday about how it’s important to take breaks for your own mental health, as well as for sake of maintaining the relationships that you have. Instead of reiterating that point in today’s post, I’m going to focus for a moment on the fact that when I was asked what I had been doing for days on end, I usually responded with ‘writing’. And that response led to several people wondering why, or even how, I could invest so much time into writing.
One of the most important things I learned during my first NaNoWriMo attempt was that the month goes by much smoother if you have someone else you’re writing with — or at a bare minimum, someone else you can talk to your story about. NaNoWriMo’s site does have the Writing Buddies feature you can use to connect with people on their Dashboard. Additionally, /r/nanowrimo appears to be a good community full of people who are supportive towards those participating in the project. In my mind, it doesn’t matter where you find your person that you can talk to your story about from4My friend Erin was my person to talk at during all three of my NaNoWriMo projects. We actually found each other on a blogging forum and didn’t even realize we lived (at the time) within 10 miles of each other.. Finding someone you can use as a sounding board for your story is an amazing help. If nothing else, it’ll let you have normal conversations with your non-writing friends.
Keep in touch with the outside world during NaNoWriMo. The family and friends can certainly help keep you sane, or even facilitate a small break from writing if you need it. Plus, you never know when a random talk with someone will serve as inspiration for a scene or a character in your book. That said, there’s no problem with taking a few days and just writing. Even if people don’t understand why you’d do that to yourself, it’s okay to care a ton about your story. Find strangers on the internet and share your excitement with them. Or, if worse comes to worse, tell your characters themselves about your excitement. There’s some psychology behind how that can help you think through complex problems. Who says talking to yourself can’t be beneficial.
Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.