if you read this blog more often then you know that I am participating in Nanowrimo this month (which is why the reviews have been a little bit more slow than usual). My college friend and writing coach Kelly Meulenberg asked me to write an piece about my past Nano experience and what I would say to people participating now.
Writing this guest article reminds me a lot of my Nano experience - staring at a blank screen, thinking of something witty to start off with. Because if the start is not perfect, it will all fall to pieces, right?
And just like with Nano, I have to get over myself and just start writing. Because I don’t prepare for anything, most of all writing.
I participated in 2012 and signed up the day before. “A novel? Cool, I want to do that.” No plan, no real ideas, just me and my computer. The first day I sat down and just started to write and low and behold, 30 days later I had a novel. (One that was deep down a bag in the closet somewhere, but that I’m actually editing right now and hopefully I’ll get it to some publishers next year!)
And this year, I started on the 4th of November. Missed the deadline, but again thought “A novel? Cool, I want to do that”. I guess a year off made me forget the struggles that go into writing so many words a day.
What saves me during Nano is a schedule. I was still an undergraduate student during my first time, so my schedule revolved around classes. Regardless of whether you work or study or just write full-time, set aside a few hours every day to write. My hours were from 8pm until 10pm (I’m a quick writer). After dinner and before I got tired or would do social activities, I would have to write for 2 hours. Even if I hit my word count at 9 - I would have to continue until 10. Because, as you all might know by now, having the buffer of being over your daily word count is a gift send from God during this month. I’m doing the same this time, and so far so good. I almost caught up with the word count (by the time you read this, hopefully I’ll be ahead of the word count)
This schedule also meant that sometimes I wouldn’t hit my word count in those two hours. Somedays you’ll wake up and just be creatively empty. You want to scratch the whole story. Start over. Just stop Nano. You can’t do this. But you can. I would go outside and take a walk, completely distancing myself from my computer. Or I would go to my roommates and tell them where I was stuck and ask them to fix it. Towards the end I even did the cliché thing : I killed a character. I was so stuck that I had to kill one of them. Was it a good plot element? No. Will it survive editing? No. But it did keep me writing and made me hit that word count, which is all that matters this month. You can take stuff out or replace stuff for years to come. But this month: Just write.
Also, don’t be scared to take a day off if you really can’t focus. You’ll have to pay for it later, but sometimes you just can’t write - and that’s okay.
The biggest problem for my during Nano is my constant fear of not being original enough as a writer. I write young adult and not the science fiction type. This means that my first story was a cliché teenage love story and that this year I’m writing about the self-discovery of a young girl. These are not groundbreaking topics and often times while writing I want to scratch the whole thing. I keep thinking “this has been done before and by a way better writer”, but it doesn’t matter. I just have to keep on writing and I’ll see what happens. For me, Nano isn’t about creating a perfect novel, it’s about expressing myself and letting characters that float around my head for years finally get out on the page.
The biggest tip I can give anyone is to really ignore your inner doubts. You’ll have days where you’ll feel like an awful writer and that’s ok. We all do, but what makes you a winner is if you keep writing. And I’ve never been more happy than on that last day in 2012 when I send in my 50,000 word story. It was perfection and you can do it - just write.