November is upon us and for many that means the madness that is NaNoWriMo. I participated (and won) NaNo for a good five year run. And since last year I hung up my NaNo hat–permanently. But here are some common pitfalls and how I suggest you overcome, for those who are participating!

  1. It is so stressful!
  2. It helped me learn what methods work best for me.
  3. The socialization aspect of it seldom worked out.
  4. I am an over-achiever.

Now those are pretty straightforward, I think. But let’s get in there.

The struggle: One thousand sixty hundred sixty-seven words every day, for thirty days, can be tough. Life happens. You fall behind. Get demotivated. Whatever.
Serena says: Make an experience bar if you’re the visual type so you can see it fill up at each thousand or five thousand mark. Reward yourself at the 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% goals! Don’t beat yourself up if you need to take a day or two off. Not having exactly fifty thousand words doesn’t mean anything–you still wrote. Go you!

The struggle: A number as arbitrary as NaNo’s daily goal just doesn’t do it for me. But reached it daily I did for five years. I learned a lot each time.
Serena says: Try making a timed writing space every day, other day, M/W/F, whatever fits into your schedule; set a thirty minute timer (or more or less) and just go. Pick a number you like, I typically aim for at least one thousand a day. If it’s a day I know I won’t hit that I’ll do a timed writing session, or writing burst. Sometimes it’s shit and needs mega revisions, but it’s there to be revised.

And sometimes the novel format just doesn’t work for me. There were years I wrote novellas, short stories, revised a copy of my novel by starting over from zero words; rewriting and editing characters, scenes, flow, dialogue as I went through the manuscript.

The struggle: I really wanted to meet nearby writers; especially being in Japan I wanted some friends I could do stuff with, you know? Now it wasn’t a complete bust! I met the wonderful Jessica via NaNo forums. Alas, every other attempt ended up in no-shows, one time awkward silences, or (ugh) the person who knew I was handicapped taking me on a 3k walk through Kyoto to a cafe with stairs I couldn’t go up. I cried a lot when I got home: from pain and frustration.
Serena says: If you are the adventurous and extrovert type, go for it! You can meet some great writing allies! If you are the quieter type, check out the forums or try to recruit a friend to write with you, or keep you on track.

The struggle: I will fight to reach that daily goal; don’t care if I have influenza, a depressive episode, or am grieving the loss of a friend (all events I have written though, miserably). I was raised in a way that ‘failure is not an option’ and ‘if you can’t do it, you’re worthless’ were driven into my persona. Hahaha, abusive childhoods, oh you~ This is a very bad way to write, or do anything. It is not healthy.
Serena says
: Didn’t hit the goal of the day? So frigging what! Caught [insert illness here]? For Hadessake, rest! Life threw you a giant doo-doo? Deal with that–NaNo is not life; it is not on the list of things worthy of sacrificing your well-being for. It just isn’t. Sleep, eat, breathe, live.

So, really, that’s all I have to say on the whole NaNo experience. If the madness works for you–great! If it doesn’t, you aren’t a terrible writer, you just have methods you need to find that do work for you. And hey, win or not, just keep writing until The End.


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