how to not let nanowrimo crush you like the fragile being you are

by - 10/24/2017




NaNoWriMo is almost upon us.

You don't need me to tell you that. If NaNo is a thing you do you've been looking forward to/dreading/counting down the days 'till it since the LAST NaNo, when you limped into December with a little less sanity and a little more swelling in your fingers and wrists. It's not for everyone, but November is for sure one of my favorite months. There aren't many writing things I love more than a solid 30 days of motivation, community wailing, and first-drafting something that excites me.

The constant caffeination is also a plus.

NaNo, unfortunately, also has a reputation for taking your emotions and mental willpower and smushing them into the dirt in those 30 days. Most of us stumble out of it exhausted, whether we're triumphant or not. It's a wicked combination of navigating a first draft, the pressure and expectation to win, and cramming all of that into a short amount of time, and this combination usually kills you a little bit. So, you know, fun and games, can't wait to get to it this month!
this is you. don't let this be you another year.

Me being the kind of person I am...NaNo is one of the few things in this world I think I'm capable of navigating, since it combines my need for some kind of pressing deadline with my love of smashing out words without worrying about how good they are. I lose what little sanity I have left, too, but I've come up with some tricks to get me through my (usually expanded and upped) word count during the month of November.

I am a benevolent person, so I am going to impart those tricks on you today in a handy little GUIDE. I call it: 

How to Keep the Snapping Teeth of NaNoWriMo from Devouring Your Petty Human Mind Whole and Spitting You Back Out Again in December With Some Words You Absolutely Hate: 2017 Edition



#1. do. not. over. plot.

I've said it before. I'll say it again. NaNo is NOT the time to extensively plot your story beforehand. 

"But I'm a plotter! I need this!" 

You do you, I don't control your life. But in my experience, the pressure to figure out every aspect of your story before the month starts so it'll be "easier" on you when you start writing is a powerful one, and it will destroy you. NaNo is about rough drafts. It's about quantity, not quality. It's a challenge. When you over-plot and work out every little detail of every little plot point, you have the pressure to stick to that outline, and when you're working with a fluid first draft and a short period of time, it's going to do nothing but drive you insane trying to stick to the plan. NaNo first drafts are always a blast for me because while I have a basic concept, and I usually know the ending, there's a big gap between the beginning and the end that I get to mold and play with as I go. Later, I can come back and edit things, but now isn't the time or the place to give myself pressure. (Especially in a first draft.) 

Give yourself permission to not know what's going on, to have some wiggle room, to go wild, to improvise. 


#2. caffeine. 

This is self-explanatory. Stock up.


#3. be more disciplined about writing times. 

I'm the biggest crammer I know. If I have an assignment, guess when it's getting done? Probably the night before I'm supposed to turn it in, because that's how I roll. 

That is not going to work here. Or if it does, it's inevitably going to drive you crazy. (I've been here. So many times.) 

Discipline in writing is important all the time, but doubly so here, especially if you're not used to this kind of word count in a month or if you're busy. You're not going to be able to write 2k every night at midnight after a busy day, and if you are, you're going to hate every second of it. During this month, it's crucial to prioritize and plan out when you're going to write. Work and school are a thing -- plan for it! Write before work. Over a lunch break. In little bits and breaks throughout the day. You might have to sacrifice some stuff, but it's a lot better than waiting until the last minute, and it helps you develop good habits with finding time to write in general. If you want time and your schedule is busy... you have to make time. 
do not be a meme.

#4. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY DON'T OVERSHARE SNIPPETS I AM BEGGING YOU -- a note to self

You're excited about your novel! It's going great! You're in that first-draft rush where you're enjoying yourself and ignoring the flaws and having fun with it! Fantastic! 

Do not spew that all over the internet and everyone you know. 

This is mostly a note to me. I'm proud of the things I write and the stories I'm working on, usually, and I want to show them off. I want to post snippets on Twitter and send a billion to all my friends. i want people to see how awesome my novel is. This is probably the worst writing thing I do and I'm working on cutting it out, because come NaNo time, it's going to suck, for the simple reason that I'm not exactly in a rational state of mind. 

You are going to want to share snippets of your story online during NaNo. You are going to want to share every bit you're proud of. You are going to want to show it off. 

You are going to look back later, when you're not in a caffeine-fueled haze of writing euphoria, and realize that half of these snippets are incoherent and unedited. 

Save yourself some regrets.


#5. tell everyone you know that you're doing NaNo!

This is the worst conversation to have with people who aren't writers, because they're going to ask you to explain it repeatedly for the rest of your life and then still forget about the entire concept. If you don't want to deal with that aspect, spew your involvement on the internet, instead, amongst friends. Tell everyone that you're doing this thing. Tell them your goals. Tell them ALL OF IT. 

They will ask you about it later. They will know you're doing it. They will know what the end goal is.

This is a little cruel to yourself, granted. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so if you have to keep yourself motivated through the power of not wanting to tell people that you gave up/didn't make it, SO BE IT. Make the stakes a little higher for yourself. 


#6. lose all of your shame. 

Yes. Your words suck. (Another note to self.) 

Yes, you should go back and edit them. (Later.) 

Yes, you're not even writing the story right now, you're rambling about how much you hate this story and using those rambles to count towards your word goal. 

DO NOT EDIT ANY OF IT 

KEEP GOING 

WRITE EVERY DAY'S WORD COUNT IN A DIFFERENT DOCUMENT IF YOU HAVE TO SO YOU AREN'T LOOKING AT WHAT YOU JUST DID 

There is no time for editing in this game. There is no time for shame. If half of your words are rambles about not wantinng to write, use them anyway. This is survival mode, people, and you do what you have to do to make it through. 
you will become andy from parks and rec. embrace it.

#7. write something you're actually excited about!!

You're going to need something to carry you throught this hellscape of a month. You probably don't want to be trudging through the mud with a story you hate the whole time. That weird concept you've always wanted to do but never thought you could, the story that's been stuck in your brain for the past year that keeps coming back to you, a new idea you're FIRED UP AS HECK about. Pick one of those. You're going to be mad at it and sick of it sometime along the way, but you want one that you're for sure going to love, something new and fresh. (Small Aimee made the mistake of trying to write a sequel to something once and hated every second of it. This is why NaNo recommends a totally from-scratch thing.)

#8. write with other people. 

Or find other people who want to hear about your story. Or something. Don't be a hermit through Nano. Share your insanity with those around you! Twitter is a great place for this, but I would recommend gathering together some closer writer frens, too. Word sprints and story rants and screaming about difficulties are all A+ bonding activities. Don't NaNo alone. 
now go ALEXANDER HAMILTON this thing

#9. be confident. 

I love moaning about the difficulties of NaNo as much as the next person, but unfortunately, attitude and what you tell yourself matters. I've learned more than anything that if you set yourself up seeing NaNo as this grueling task you'll probably fail...you're going to fail. A little fake confidence is AMAZINg every now and then. Go into it telling yourself that you're going to win. You're probably going to have a better chance at it. 

(You could also go in complaining about it constantly. I don't rule your life.) 

#10. the important thing is to have fun and be yourself. 

:D :D :D :D #rainbowsandkittengifs

#10. this is going to be messy. 

Unless you're a superhuman, you are not going to sit down at your desk at 6am every morning and sip a latte whilst beating your word goal for the day. You're going to have late nights, you're going to freak out, you're going to keyboard smash, you're going to have plot holes. You're going to write in weird places at weird times just to cram those words in, and half the time they aren't even going to be relevant words, I'm sure. You're going to want to stop. You're going to overcaffeinate on anything you can get your hands on. You're going to hate a lot of it and love a lot of it. 

Just go with it and give yourself permission to throw words all over the place. 

HAVE FUN AND BE YOURSELF.

- Aimee

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8 Comments

  1. Great tips and gifs. I can't do Nano this year, but I might want to next year.

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  2. Yes, this entire post just yes. I'm doing NaNo for the first time this November, so I'm looking for all the advice I can get which usually just means reading your old NaNo posts lol.

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  3. These are pretty cool tips.

    I'm not really doing NaNo. I'll be writing along with you guys, yes, but I won't be signing up on the website. I just want my novel to finally be finished, gosh darn it.

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  4. I love this post! I am going to *attempt* NaNo this year, fingers crossed. I love the tip about making a writing schedule ahead of time. I'm going to go do that right now! I also think your points about quantity not quality and avoiding editing are super important. I waste tons of time over-editing instead of just word-vomiting onto the page. Thanks for this! Super helpful tips! :) <3

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  5. I'm not doing NaNo this year because college, but ill keep this in mind for whenever I get around to it, so thanks for this!

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  6. Your blog posts are my favorite because they always make me laugh really hard while simultaneously shoving a ton of fabulous advice in my head. So thanks for that. You rock.

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