This year is the twelfth in the history of National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo and more than 175,000 writers across the planet are expected to participate. Winners get out of it with a 50000-word manuscript and an after taste of victory. But how to overcome feelings of desperation, frustration and keep on working until the end?
1. First things first: no matter how goal oriented you are, remember you are responsible for eating well, sleeping well and saving a bit of time for exercising your body. It is more like running a marathon than a sprint, so don’t use all your reserves of energy in the first days only to burn out early and get out of the track.
2. Don’t compare your work with others. You will end up judging yourself too harshly, or losing your voice and tone’s originality. The goal is to finish a draft that has a narrative arc. The speed of the process offers you unique advantages such as momentum, focus and absorption in your character’s fictional universe. Later you can fine tune and edit all you want.
3. Form a support group, but don’t get too hang up on it. Sharing excerpts and chapters and critiquing can be extremely useful. The peer pressure and having to show up with something palpable works as mini deadlines within the mother ship deadline (the end of November!). But as you listen to other’s opinions, archive those in the back of your mind and continue working away. You can come back to it in December and see if they are useful or not.
4. Don’t let naysayers put you down. One thing that I’ve learned from having my writing critiqued is: you can’t please everyone. While some people would highlight paragraphs and comment on how pleased they were with those particular sentences, other would cross them out and write, “get rid of these”. Just make sure you stay in the zone and the story will write itself, and your characters will make decisions that you had no idea they were planning to.
5. Go easy on the caffeine: coffee is a writer’s best friend, right? Not so fast. Watch your intake as you might overdo it. And then have a hard time falling asleep and having the priceless rest you need to perform well. Make sure you don’t have any coffee, tea or chocolate after 3:00 PM. And take a break every once in a while, making one or two days of the week “caffeine free days”. Maybe you won’t get so much done, but maybe you’ll sleep better and dream with that grand finale you’ve been searching for.