Editor’s note: We are encouraging Deputy Editor Aimee Jodoin’s literary ambitions while using her as a guinea pig. We ordered her to write for her food and participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo, but do it on her own time outside the office just like everybody else. We are just mean like that. Aimee will write weekly updates.
We are six days into National Novel Writing Month, and like many participants, I am already behind. By the end of today, I am supposed to be at 10,000 words, minimum. I’m currently at 7,611. But I plan to catch up. I plan to forge ahead.
There are hundreds of reasons why writers can fall behind on their word count goals in NaNoWriMo: family, friends, work, emergencies, cat videos, the weather, you name it. You never know when something could crop up and invade your precious writing time. In the first five days of NaNoWriMo, I encountered several potentially stymieing obstacles that slowed me down, but I found ways to get around them.
The Day Job
Most NaNo participants like me who work forty hours a week must find time before or after work to write, likely using the weekends to catch up. Luckily, my coworkers here at Foreword Reviews are all encouraging and understand my undertaking, but my attention is still on my job from nine to five every day, not on writing. Adding an additional two or so hours to your day to write, depending on how fast you can type, is quite possible, though, if you’re determined enough.
Since I am not a morning person, I have found that the best writing time for me on work days is after dinner. I settle onto my couch (I’m home-desk-less) around six o’clock with my laptop perched on my legs and begin typing away until I hit the daily word count or burn out, whichever comes first. At the office, I’m focused on Foreword; on my couch, I’m focused on my manuscript. If you have time constraints during NaNoWriMo (aside from the obvious one-month deadline), compartmentalization is key.
The Social Life
Family is one of the most often cited reasons for slowed writing attempts in NaNo. I do not have any children, so this has not been much of a problem for me. But, because I am young and hip (okay, maybe just young), I do attempt to maintain a social life.
November started off with a bang with the aftermath of a Friday-falling Halloween: pumpkin guts and candy wrappers strewn about the house, friends crashed out on the floor, and a hangover I knew would limit my writing mojo. But I digress (and exaggerate; I’m not that fun).
With a passion for writing comes a necessity to make sacrifices. November for me means no socializing during the week after work, outings on the weekends only after I hit my word count. Of course, there are events that were planned ahead of time, but I have decided that if I have not achieved or surpassed my goal for the day, then I may have to give up some fun excursions.
Writing a novel, though, especially during NaNoWriMo, is supposed to be fun. It can be frustrating sometimes, sure, but if you can get into the mindset that you’re meant to be enjoying this fantastic endeavor, then missing out on one party shouldn’t get you down. Write first, socialize later. If you know you won’t have computer access for a full day, try as best as you can to get ahead rather than catch up later. Your future self will thank you.
And do remember that the dreaded time-suck Thanksgiving is impending.
On the third day of November, I was bedridden with a nasty flu and only jotted about 200 words. While I would have killed for a full (healthy) day at home lazing on the couch just writing, I was practically incapacitated and accomplished little. Getting sick is something you can’t control, and it’s a good reminder that the unexpected can put you back a day or two. The next day, you’ll have to write twice as much, but don’t get angry, and definitely don’t give up. The end of the month will see something more beautiful than a simple 50,000-word draft.
This is the biggest obstacle in the writing path and one that every writer, no matter their level of experience, struggles with daily. Will I finish? What if my writing isn’t good enough? What if no one wants to read my book? What if everyone hates it? I am really meant to be a writer, after all?
The beauty of NaNo is that you have the permission—no, you are required to shove all those questions out of your mind and just write for the fun of it. Which, of course, is a million times easier said than done. NaNo advisors repeat the “write without thought; edit later” mantra, but for most edit-as-you-go writers like me, that doesn’t seem to do a whole lot of good. But there is something that can help you dissolve the fear.
The purpose of NaNo is to write for fun, to help you get on a writing schedule, and to actually finish something, no matter its quality. The only way to eradicate the fear of a bad draft is to remember that fear is all in your head (since you don’t have a draft of any quality yet!) and to believe in your story. You have a wonderful story that you need to tell, don’t you? NaNoWriMo has given you the opportunity to forget about consequences and give your story a go. Love your story, believe that is worthy of being scribed, and you will easily start getting into the flow of writing it. By the end of the month, you won’t want to tell your story anymore—because you will have already told it.
… To yourself, anyway, since it is only a draft.
Aimee Jodoin is deputy editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @aimeebeajo.