Don’t Let NaNoWriMo Mess With Your Mojo

Call me a romantic, but I believe everyone has a novel just waiting to bust out of them. What keeps most of us from creating well-written stories is that

we don’t practice enough,
we don’t know our own voice,
and we aren’t willing to tell the truth.

But that’s another post for another day.

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I love the idea of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated). Just thinking about thousands of people across the country disciplining themselves to write a novel in a month, wrestling with plots, forging new characters, dreaming about their conflicts…it’s like Rivendell on steroids.

But then I start to see Tweets creep across my Twitter feed that sound like this:

Only 2500 words down so far. Should be at 6000 by now. :( #PullingMyHairOut

Falling further and further behind. At this rate I’ll be writing all week next week. #nanowrimo

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If you started NaNoWriMo with high expectations but find yourself gradually falling behind your daily word goal, don’t get discouraged! In fact, now might be a great time for a reality check. Consider this:

1) I’ve written four nonfiction books and one novel – none of those first drafts were completed in a month. Or two months. What seems to work best for me is to pick a realistic daily word count and then stick with it. For me, 1000 words a day is a solid goal. For you, it might be more or it might be less. Figure out what it is and go with it.

2) When choosing your daily word count goal, pick a number that allows you time to catch up if you fall behind. For me 1000 words a day works because if I miss a day, I can make it up in one or two evenings, or a Saturday morning.If you’re maxing out each and every day, then miss a day, you’ll never be able to catch up.

3) Celebrate the milestones. Maybe it’s every 10,000 words or every five chapters. Nothing encourages progress more than celebrating it! A glass of wine, nights out on the town, or a celebratory Tweet can all do the trick.

4) Figure out what spawns creativity within you, and allow some time for that. I love to read great books on writing – they fill my brain with ideas and give me new concepts to think about, techniques to try. Maybe you like to run, or count marbles, or skip stones, or rake leaves. Whatever it is, do it.

5) Most of all, don’t get discouraged if your novel isn’t completed by the end of the month. Reassess your goals, learn what your realistic daily word count is, and then recreate a plan that will get your novel written.

Very few people have the time, the mental capacity or the writing wherewithal to write a novel in a month. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not one of them. And make sure you finish your novel.

Because I want to read it.

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Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? How’s it going for you?

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Similar posts include:

A Net For Catching Days
Pay Yourself First
Five Writing Lessons I’ve Learned in the First Half of Writing a Novel

10 Replies to “Don’t Let NaNoWriMo Mess With Your Mojo”

  1. I have another one to add: remember that this is an exercise for FUN. Of course we all think we’re writing the next Grapes of Wrath but really, a little perspective goes a long way.

    And another: I hate the word “should.” Hate it. It’s filled with guilt and I can tell you more about it another time. How about “today I wil…” and shoot for that.

    Finally, I agree with your beginning belief, Shawn. Just as I believe we all have a half marathon, full marathon, or Tough Mudder we are going to kick in the teeth. Can’t wait to hear about your weekend romp. Great post, as always.

  2. Not NaNo’ing here, but I have been working on a memoir alongside of my daughter (who is, btw, at her word goal right now and is looking forward to surging ahead over the long weekend). I originally thought that I would try to keep up with the 50K in a month goal, but it was clear on day 2 that wasn’t going to happen. So instead, I’m trying to get between 800-1000 words a day on it. And I try to remember to cheer if I get more done and not beat myself up if I don’t quite make the goal.

    The hardest thing for me in this, as compared to blog writing, is not going back and constantly changing things. After years of writing stuff that I want people to read RIGHT NOW, it’s harder to say, “I can go back and reorder and fix this later. Right now just get the words out.” The whole idea of rewriting a big piece is very new to me, and THAT is where I tend to bog down.

    1. Such a great point, Alise. I think not going back while writing a large manuscript is one of the best ways to complete it.

      1. Jen, this is also why I was never, ever going to write 50k in a month. Because I have to write like 100k in a month, just most of it in posts and comments and tweets. ;-D

      2. I know, Alise! If Shawn wouldn’t keep writing good stuff that demands I share all my knowledge and wisdom, I could keep it short. So, you see, I have someone on whom to afix the blame. Looking at you, Smucker.

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