How To Survive NaNoWriMo '16

nanowrimo National Novel Writing Month
national novel writing month nanowrimo
Yesterday, while people were dressing up as witches, vampires and zombies for Halloween, I spent the evening grabbing pens, sharpies and notebooks together in an attempt at making sense of the demons in my head. Nerves, plot holes, bunnies, character descriptions, flashes of scenes that beg for attention, random dialogue lines... They are the worst kind of demons. They are the ones you need to conquer if you ever want to call yourself a winner.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The program that convinces hundreds of thousands of lunatics all over the world that it is possible to write a novel in a month. The challenge is to write 50 000 words in 30 days. Piece of cake, right? No, honestly. It's one of my favourite things in the world. Mental breakdowns, crying, word counts that will eat you alive, constant self-doubt, back aches, CHOCOLATE you can't eat because it is not okay to eat chocolate all day, the irresistible temptation of procrastination, the guilt after procrastinating, rebellious characters and sweet, SWEET, SWEET VICTORY!  It's doable. I've done it. Three times. SEE, PROOF. If I can do it, basically anyone who is capable of voicing thoughts can do it. 

For four years now, november 1st has been marked with a large red circle on my calendar. Months in advance I would see this date creeping nearer. November can not come and go unnoticed. Not for me. I spent the last week taking care of tons of stuff I won't have the time for this month. That means watching every tv episode currently available, finishing the book I'm reading, cleaning my room, getting those long-overdue work assignments done, writing another chapter on my hp fanfic and most importantly breathe.

NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing MonthYes, sometimes I need to remind myself to breathe. I'm always excited for NaNoWriMo to start, but this year I was incredibly nervous. Anxious even. Why? I couldn't tell you if my life depended on it. I'm not more or less prepared than I was in previous editions. I had a 'WHAT AM I THINKING, I AM SHIT AT WRITING' episode, but then again I have those every other week. Still, as the countdown to midnight began and I opened a blank document, I got the feeling that somehow this year will be different. I can't shake it. But maybe it's a good thing (let me go with this for a minute), maybe it's my mind telling me that this year it's going to create a true masterpiece! I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS.   I'm so dead.

SO, LET'S MEET MY NOVEL! *squeal* It's not a new project. It's part three of the novel I started two years ago and that's growing a lot longer than I originally intended. But this year I'm hell-bent on finishing it! LOOK AT ME BEING ALL CONFIDENT, I SHOULD ENJOY THIS WHILE IT LASTS. 

What does it take to keep yourself from being owned? What is worth sacrificing to keep control over your own body? The answer is everything. Nothing is worth more. That’s what Sam keeps reminding herself of when she wakes up in one of Donald Dixon’s high-tech breeding facilities. Except she has tempted fate for far too long and now she is here, about to be forced into a program she’d sworn never to participate in. But no price is too high to keep the others alive. She will not sell their safety. The government places her inside a new community where they want her to adapt to her new life and despite her better judgement she gets sucked into the routine. But when the inevitable happens, when she gets to the point of no return, all she wants to do is throw herself off the nearest tower. She might still do it. Maybe these circumstances ask for drastic measures.

You know, the one thing no one ever tells you is that the hardest damn part of writing a novel is writing the synopsis. I always end up staring ages at that box of blank space on the NaNo website. 

We can all joke about how NaNoWriMo takes over your life, gives you mental breakdowns and will turn you into a cave person. But there is truth in it. You can't do NaNo halfheartedly. You have to go all in. Don't make the decision to participate lightly. You have to be willing to spend hours upon hours behind your computer, to temporarily forsake your social life, to smash your head against your keyboard in frustration, to both wake and go to sleep with your characters and to see plot twists at every turn you make. There are so many things you like doing that you won't be able to do this month. Only when you are willing to sacrifice certain parts of your life will you be able to pull this off. Write every day. A book is build word by word by word. There is no such thing as 'writers block', not for amateurs like us. There is only discipline and determination. Inspiration will come when you write, when you're actively exploring. When you skip a day, it will be twice as hard the day after. Create a routine, develop a 'flow' and who knows, maybe one day your novel will make it into a bookstore.

One of the things you read most when researching NaNoWriMo is that it's okay to dive in blind. To not have a plot or characters ready. To pants. I don't believe in it. Sure, a lot of these people will reach their 50k word goal by the end of november. But writing words is easy. I could write 50k words in one day if I put my mind to it. The challenge is in creating a story within those 50 000 words. Preferably one that makes sense. You cannot create a story with a logical build just like that. It needs thought and consideration. So think about what you are working towards and who/what you'll need to reach it. There is no need to plan everything out in minute detail, but you at least need a bit of an outline. Trust me, there will still be plenty of opportunity to go with your gut.

It's tempting, I know it is. Whenever you're losing your flow, the urge to go back and see what you've written so far grows stronger. Don't do it. Resist. Ignore your inner editor. One month, then you can be besties again. Trust me, it's better this way. Here's why. Reading back is tricky. Sometimes you will be amazed at what you've written. You'll feel proud and ready to take on the world. More often you'll look in disgust at the words on your sheet. Is this supposed to be a novel? A toddler would do a better job at writing a book. What was I thinking? Ugh, I suck. Why did I ever think I was talented enough to pull this off? I'm never going to achieve anything. Was this metaphor supposed to be clever? Jeez, instant bestseller - I might as well quit. I promise, these last thoughts will be the ones that stick. I went down this road. Self-doubt is the demon of every decent writer and while you're giving yourself hell, the motivation to go on sinks deep. So don't do it. Edit your first draft when you've completed it. When you know that even though there are terrible parts, there are also very good ones.

No one likes know-it-alls. No one likes people who are always trying too hard. But over-achieving in nano is actually a good thing. Try getting ahead of your required word count. Creating a bit of a buffer will spare you a lot of stress. If you can only stay a small 3000 words ahead, your nano experience will become entirely different. There is nothing wrong with writing just 1667 words every day, but there will come a day when you can't make it. When life interferes and there is no way of completing your daily goal. Imagine having a little extra to fall back on when that happens. It certainly beats the alternative. Being behind on your word count is a terrible feeling that comes with a lot of stress the next day when you have to make up for it.

NaNoWriMo will be hard and it will be very demanding, but try to enjoy the experience. You're writing a book! Maybe not a good one yet, but you are putting your thoughts on paper and creating stories. And at the end of the month you will feel proud of what you've achieved in only four weeks time. It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to say: "I did it. I wrote a f-ing book."

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  1. I agree with you on so, so, so many levels.

    Except for the planning. While I don't think it's bad and it is most likely a very good thing when you are capable of doing this, I'm just not a planner. The second I start doing this, is the second I fall apart and end up in tears. It's then when I start second guessing myself. "Everyone has planned their story and I know NOTHING. It's like Jon Snow all over again! He knows nothing either! And see where he ended up! I AM A BAD WRITER. I'm such a fool for thinking otherwise. Might as well kill me now." (and on and on the drama goes)

    True story. I do admire those who can plan but I feel very pressured when I do it myself. I can't. It makes me feel too restricted and stressful to get to the points and sometimes never getting I decided to stop doing it. For me, it works a lot better. I won't go into much more detail as I am actually writing a blog post on this topic :')

    I always find it interesting to see how many differences there are between people when it comes to writing though! :-)

    1. Oops, okay, so maybe planning isn't always a good idea? I don't know. I need it. I can't write when I'm too restricted to a certain plot but I also can't write when I've not thought things through. I often spend hours just lying on my bed, playing things out in my head. Random scenes and dialogues that I want to work into my project. That said, I hardly ever write them down before actually writing those parts. I store them in my brain until further notice I guess.


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