Every time I attempt NaNoWriMo is the same. November 1st comes along, and I feel great. In the first week, I’m generally able to keep up with my word count. But then, it begins to fall apart.
About halfway through November, I realize the holidays have started. My weekends quickly become family shopping adventures. And I soon discover I have far less time than I thought I did, the kids home for parent/teacher conferences, and then—the part I always forget in the beginning—the last week in November is Thanksgiving!
Yep, Thanksgiving, the bane of my NaNo exploits. And here I am again, attempting to pick up the pieces, but I’ve hardly written anything these past few days, and now my only option for reaching 50,000 words by the end of the month would be to have back-to-back epic 10k writing days. Not impossible, but, well, it pretty much is these days for me, with hungry kids and a family to take care of.
With that in mind, let’s take a deep breath, relax our shoulders, and brainstorm a few ways to finish NaNoWriMo strong, up to and including the acceptance of failure.
Finishing NaNoWriMo Strong
If you scour the internet for advice on how best to handle NaNoWriMo, you’ll see people recommending one thing in particular, time and time again: consistency! Perseverance is the key. And establishing a schedule.
Write every day, and you’ll soon discover that 50,000 words are not as many as you think.
That said, it’s crucial not to force it. If you push yourself to put in 10,000-word days (believe me, I’ve been there), you risk burning out and losing the fun side of writing. Sure, we all know that writing isn’t always fun, but we wouldn’t be here if there weren’t some aspects of writing we find enjoyable.
And if you don’t make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month, that’s okay! It’s best not to panic. Binge-writing is not sustainable.
If anything, NaNoWriMo is great practice and can help you to establish a writing routine as part of your life on a more long-term basis. It’s good practice for the real world.
Also, don’t be discouraged if it looks like you’re not going to make the full 50k by the end of the month. Whatever work you’ve done is progress. And why not continue this routine? Maybe adjust it a little, and slow the pace to a manageable level. But why not? If you can write a little every day, even 200 words, find you’ve written well over 50,000 words in no time!
In fact, let’s pause a minute to do the math…
How To NaNoWriYear (National Novel Writing Year)
That’s right: Year. The fact of the matter is that if you were to only write 200 words a day, for 5 days every week, to keep your weekends free for 52 weeks over the course of a single year, you would end up with a manuscript of 52,000 words.
So, if NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for you, why not try NaNoWrYear. Either way, this time next year, you’ll have a completed manuscript.
Of course, the real work remains. Once you’re finished with NaNoWrMo, what do you do with all of this writing?
That is what I will be discussing in the next post.
Until then, here’s another excerpt from the novel I’ve been working on this month.
An Excerpt From My NaNoWriMo Scribbling
Riley was twenty-one years old the first time Maggie took him into the woods. He had known her for only a few months, but already he was crushingly in love with her.
Guiding him by the hand, they dashed through the trees.
She was like no other girl he’d ever encountered. She wasn’t shy, like he was. She did whatever she felt like doing. She was confident, with an air of wisdom and experience that made her attractive. She knew what she wanted, and before long, all Riley wanted was her.
She made him forget Serena utterly. His life was about to change.
She smiled, as she was always doing.
“This way! This way!” she said.
She was always surprising him, and he’d learned to go along with things, not asking too many questions.
Her narrow body dashed before him, her movements smooth and nimble.
He stumbled to keep up.
The woods were lightly foggy, and the trees all looked the same. He didn’t have a very good sense of direction, and soon he was lost. Only Maggie could bring him back.
Rather than asking where they were or what they were doing, he said, “How much further?”
“We’re here,” Maggie said, bringing them to a sudden halt.
Riley took a moment to look around.
They were in a small copse of trees, surrounded by dense foliage. The sun hung lazily above them. Thin patches of grass littered the ground, but otherwise, it was clear.
“This is where the animals come to see the sky,” Maggie said.
Riley looked up at the dull, gray sky. It was cloudy, but non-threatening.
“Dance with me,” she said, taking his hands in her own.
Together, in the middle of the copse of trees, they began to move.
Riley watched Maggie, her fluid gestures, her easy grace. He looked deeply into her eyes as he clumsily tried to follow her lead.
After a time, they sat down together in the grass.
“Chloe called me,” Maggie said.
“Yeah. She’s pregnant.”
Riley didn’t know what to say. He’d never met Maggie’s sister or anyone from her family. “Congratulations.”
“What’s funny is, I can’t see my sister having kids. I was the one who always wanted a family, not her.”
“You’ll have a family some day,” Riley said.
“Oh, yeah?” Maggie looked over at him.
Riley nodded. “I mean, when you’re ready.”
With that, they both fell silent, enjoying the peace, breathing the restorative air.
After a while, Maggie leapt to her feet. “Let’s build a stone circle. Let’s be receptive.”
Riley had no idea what she was talking about, but he said, “Okay.”
He followed her as she glided into the forest once more, the trees closing in about them.
The stones they had gathered were mostly small, but they had found enough of them to form a circle in the copse of trees.
They were standing together inside the circle. She came forward and they embraced.
“Kiss me,” she said.
He kissed her, slow at first, and then with more passion.
She pulled away and looked into his eyes.
He felt strange, at the razor’s edge of a dream.
Maggie brought her hands up to cover her eyes. She laughed. “It’s blue,” she said.
Riley looked over her shoulder and there was something just stepping into the clearing. It was tall, lanky, and shone as if made of light, blue and glaring. It was so bright it was hard to look at and he couldn’t distinguish its features.
“It says not to worry about the demons behind you,” Maggie said.
He turned and from the other side of the clearing, two dark entities were coming slowly towards him. Their eyes were black saucers, their mouths rictus grins, and their hands were as long as their arms, sharpened fingers twisting about. They were familiar to him. He had seen them before.
“Look at me,” Maggie said, and Riley turned away from the demons. “Fear empowers evil things. It gives them strength.”
Everything is crazy and weird.
Riley pulled away from Maggie. “What is this?”
It was like another layer of reality, as if the veil had been pulled away and, for a moment, there’s more. Everything is more real.
He jolts, and then it’s gone.
He is standing alone with Maggie, just the two of them.
After a few minutes, Maggie takes his hand. “Come on,” she says. “This way! This way!”
Yet, like a dream, the experience fades quickly, and Riley does not recall it for many years.