Monday Musings: NaNoWriMo- You’re Doing It All Wrong

(Warning: This post may contain cantankerous, cranky, and crotchedy content. It contains my opinions, and sometimes, they are a bit crabby. Oh, and it is writing related, so if that isn’t your thing, you can move along now.)

Okay, maybe not ALL wrong, because there really isn’t a wrong way to write. Just different ways. But I see a lot of the same things every year when November rolls around and I can’t help but think that it is the attitude, not the writing that is the issue. I see a lot of people panic over the wrong things, or at least some unimportant things, as the end of October approaches, and we must think about sitting down and writing for the next thirty days. Things like no cover designed, or second-guessing their story idea, or a sudden bout of writer’s block. To me, those are all excuses and rationalizations.

NaNoWriMo is about the writing, nothing else. Of course, it is normal and okay to panic a little and wonder if it’s going to be possible. And that can happen no matter how many times you’ve participated and won. It’s a personal challenge, not a race to finish in the first three days or to hold up how far “behind” you are like some sort of badge of honor. It’s not an art contest. The prettiest cover doesn’t win. 50,000 words wins. If you have done your October prep work correctly, you should have a plan of attack for November 1, and every day after that for the next 30 days. Word goals, time set aside to write, outline or plot plan, character sketches- whatever it is that sets you up to start writing. Because that is what you are supposed to be doing now. Not worrying about when you will finish. If the word counter hits 50K on November 30, you did it. If it happens before that, good for you.

Writer’s block? If you have read my writing posts in the past, you know I don’t believe in it, any more than I believe in muses or characters who won’t do what you want. For me, most of those obstacles can be overcome by planning and following through, Decide what you need to accomplish every day to get you where you want, and then do it. Every day, no matter what. Sit down and start writing. Is it all going to be great? No. In fact, most of it will be tossed out and changed when you get to revising in the future. Will it all make sense? Doubtful, especially on those days when you hit the points that you haven’t got fully figured out. Don’t worry about it. Sit down and write to your plan, whether it’s number of words or a specific amount of time. Write. Don’t excuse, don’t complain, don’t stop until you are done with today’s goal. And then stop. Go do something else for a while. Talk to your family, take a walk, do all the other things in your life that aren’t writing. Because you can’t walk away from those during NaNoWriMo or any other time of the year.

If you plan to be a writer- that is, someone who writes stories and tries to sell them, you have to write. Every single day. Or at least most days, just like a “real job.” You can’t make the writing work if you only push to get something done one month out of the year. If you are doing this because you like the writing, but don’t ever expect to even try to publish, fine. Doing NaNo as your only exercise is fine. If you really want to publish some day, then get serious about it. Stop talking, whining, excusing, procrastinating, and get writing. Get a plan, a course of action. Not necessarily of the story, but of your working life. Make the writing part of your life, but don’t make it the only thing. You need other things- family, hobbies, pets, exercise. Because it is all of those things that make you a better writer.

Use NaNoWriMo for what it is- another tool in your kit. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, a different tool is what you need right now. Keep the focus where it belongs- on the writing. You’ll find you get more done, and enjoy it more. And, really, if you don’t enjoy it, why do it?

My NaNoWriMo Report Card: 6,540 words total to date. 13% complete, and on track. Daily goals: 2500 words 3X a week, 2000 words the rest of the week.


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