This post originally appeared as a NaNoWriMo 2015 Pep Talk sent to participants in the NH Region. I will be sharing my NaNoWriMo 2015 Pep Talks and Pep Talks by Guest Wrimos on this blog throughout November. – Yvette
To the folks with the cushion: Nice job. Keep going. We’ll see you at the finish line. Remember us when you are best-selling and famous.
As for the rest of you, take heart. NaNoWriMo won’t be over for weeks, yet, and, while you are behind and tasting dust now, you have plenty of time to catch up to the alpha dogs.
Try to figure out what’s holding you back. If it’s time — you just can’t find the space in your schedule to sit down until 1,667 words come out — get up a half hour earlier, or try breaking up your writing time into small chunks. Use your smartphone for something useful (a timer), and do your writing in fifteen-minute sprints a few times a day. Time’s up? Stop writing until the next sprint. You’ll be surprised how much you can produce this way.
If it is a matter of willpower, get some, or trick yourself into having some. Try gaming your writing through the Magic Spreadsheet or Write or Die. Make a weekly lunch date with a writing pal, and commit to swapping (and reading) the pages you’ve pounded out. Whoever shows up empty handed pays the tab. Reward yourself with a store-bought latte and a muffin for every six thousand words.
The Internet is a major time suck. (If you are reading this, get off the Internet and write!) Try unplugging your router before you start writing or use a program, such as Q10, that blocks out your screen while you work. Better yet, rent an off-the-grid cabin for the month. If you can’t do that, try writing by hand or use a typewriter. Put your smartphone in the refrigerator or something. You need to commune with the people forming in your head, not the ones sharing poorly researched political memes on Facebook.
If you are behind because you don’t know what to write about, it’s time to stop making excuses. If your own creativity is stalling out, there is a host of books, sites, gadgets, and apps to get you going. Rory’s Story Cubes are a good, low-tech option, or take your main character and give him or her a simple Tarot reading. Even if you don’t believe in the mystical side of such things, using a Tarot deck as a random “future” generator may get the ideas flowing again.
Maybe you’re just a procrastinator. A lot of procrastinators self-sabotage themselves out of fear. They get so intimidated by a project that they put it off and put it off until they are out of time and know they’ll only be able to turn out half-baked work. There’s little risk of failure that way, because they never went all in. If that’s you, quit it. The pressure is off. Your NaNoNovel is a first draft; it’s supposed to suck. No one, except maybe that small, judgey voice in your head, is expecting brilliance right out of the box. Give yourself permission to be terrible and start writing. You got this.
If you need a little writing break, New Hampshire residents are in luck. This week, as proclaimed by the governor, is the Granite State’s Writers’ Week. In honor of that, the New Hampshire Writers’ Project, a statewide nonprofit for writers and writing, is running “A Writer’s Journey” series of programs at venues all over the state. It starts off 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, at White Birch Books in North Conway. There, authors will give micro-talks titled “The One Thing You Need to Do Before you Start Writing.” The next night, 6-8 at the Plymouth-Pease Library, writers will tell you “The One Thing You Need to Finish the First Draft of Your Book.” The schedule runs through the week and ends with a potluck social, 1-4 p.m., at the Writers’ Project’s office on the Southern New Hampshire University Campus in Manchester. Come on down and say hello. NHWP membership is not necessary for participation, but if you make it to each station on the trail, you can join for free.
Best of luck to everyone. Now, I need to get back to my own writing.
R.W.W. Greene is the chair of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He teaches college and high-school English and writes short stories and middle-length novels in a poorly insulated room in Manchester. Greene collects typewriters and keeps a website at www.rwwgreene.com. You can find him on Twitter @rwwgreene.