Saturday, November 20, 2010

A NaNo Pep Talk & Escape Route

So here we are with about ten days to go before NaNoWriMo is over.

For some people, it's smooth sailing from here out. For others, this is when the nail-biting begins in earnest. Too many words left, not enough days. This blog entry is directed at those of you who are biting your nails.

In my experience, there are two camps at this point.

Half of you need a kick in the ass, a pep talk, and reassurance that you can, in fact, do it. You know as well as I do that you can, but you need that boot-to-butt encouragement.

There's another half of you who need something else, and I'll get to you shortly.

To the first half:

You can do this. The numbers are intimidating at this point, and the calendar isn't helping, but you can get there. Guard your writing time with your life, work your fingers to the bone, and get those words down. Give the internal editor a chewy toy. Step on the doubt demons and grind them to chunky demonsplatter under the heel of your shoe. This is not the time to make excuses, this is the time to write. Sit your ass down, put your hands on the keyboard, and write. Do not wait for the muse. Shackle that fickle bitch to your desk, chain yourself to your keyboard, and keep writing.

You can do it. You will do it. When you do, you will be glad you did. Go forth, cross that line, and make yourself proud.


Now, the other half of you.

You're the ones who are looking at your word counters with a sinking feeling in your gut. The very thought of working on your NaNo book fills you with dread and hopelessness, and when you get to the keyboard, the sheer magnitude of the task paralyzes you.

The reasons why you're in this position are many. Maybe you've fallen behind and don't think you can catch up. Maybe life happened and kept you from writing, maybe your story wasn't as ready as you thought it was, maybe you're stuck on a plot point. Something happened, something's wrong.

Whatever the case, the mere thought of getting to 50,000 words makes you sick to your stomach. Now you're losing sleep, freaking out, and getting 10 words - never mind 10,000 - is like getting blood from a stone.

To you, my friends, I grant you permission to quit.

Yes, you read that right.

I hereby grant you shame-free permission to bow out of NaNoWriMo.

Being competitive and challenging yourself are great. That's why I do NaNo, that's why a lot of people do. But it's also supposed to be fun. It's supposed to give you a chance to break free from the internal editor and just write.

When it reaches the point that the competition becomes a hurdle in and of itself, when you find yourself panicking to the degree you can't even put your fingers on the keyboard, then it's counterproductive. It takes the fun out of the writing. It can make you resent your characters and your story, make you feel like a failure, and it simply creates stress that doesn't need to exist.

When NaNo keeps you from writing, it's time to call it a day. The writing is more important than the winner's certificate.

So, if the very idea of catching up or even continuing makes you want to eat glass, you are hereby off the hook. You gave it your best. You have words that you didn't have at the beginning of the month. Now sit back, take a breather, cut yourself a little slack...

...and once you've caught your breath, you get back in that saddle and get writing again. Forget NaNo, forget 50,000 words, just sit down and write. You are not off the hook for writing. Do whatever you need to do, but you are not quitting. Just because you don't finish the marathon doesn't mean you stop running. You put your running shoes back on and try again tomorrow.

Now go forth, loyal blog minions, and either make that final push for the finish, or sit back and regroup before you make your own final push.

And I should go do the same, because my husband wants to watch Rome tonight, and I won't leave my office til I hit my daily goal...


  1. This is excellent. I am somewhere on the line between the two, having lost about 10 days to life. It isn't reasonable to expect to get it all done over Thanksgiving weekend, but I will put in some reasonable effort and give myself the option of bowing out gracefully.

  2. This is my first NaNo. I hit the dreading the keyboard thing the first week. Eventually I figured out that I am not a seat of the pants writer, but a have it all plotted out before I start writer. You cannot imagine how gobsmacked I was. Now I am working on the write every day habit. I won't hit 50,000 words, but as far as I am concerned, I am already a winner.
    Thanks for talking me into trying NaNo and for cheering us on.

  3. I'm in the second camp. Truth be told, I've been propping up my word count with other writing, which is a) cheating and b) counter-productive.

    Time to quit, to seperate the chaff from the wheat, and to see what's salvagable out of what I have written (and there's quite a lot).