NaNoWriMo – Week 2 Pep Talk

National Novel Writing Month logoIt’s November 8th, which means we’re entering the dreaded Week 2 of National Novel Writing Month.

For those new to this 50k-words-in-30-days endeavor, Week 2 is when your initial enthusiasm starts to flag in the face of Week 1 word exhaustion. It’s when you start to think about what you’ve written and your inner editor rises up to whisper criticisms that suck your motivation dry. (Unfortunately, it’s also when nasty little articles like this pop up. Whatevs. Haters gonna hate. Ignore them.) Week 2 is when you start to wonder if this undertaking is worth it, and if you can really do this thing that you’ve set out to do.

Yes, and yes. It is worth it, and you can really do it. 

So maybe life has started to interfere. Maybe you got off to a great start, writing between 2k and 5k every day of Week 1, but now you’ve got extra homework, some late nights at work, or out of town visitors. What do you do?

Just keep writing. Say it with me. Just. Keep. Writing. Do you have to knock your daily word count goal down to 1000 instead of 1667? Do it. And if even that feels like too much, bring it down to 667. Or 200. But write something. Stay in the habit.

I just had a very full weekend, and I didn’t have my laptop with me for most of it. So I opened the Notes app on my iPhone and wrote a few hundred words on Friday and Saturday, while riding the train between appointments. I ended up being able to make it to the Manhattan write-in on Sunday with one hour of battery life on my laptop. Between that and last night’s write-in, I’m only a couple of days behind. And that’s fine. Because I know that one year I wrote 23,000 words on November 30th, and if I can do that I can certainly make up 3k this week.

But maybe your schedule isn’t the problem. Maybe you have all the time in the world, but your characters won’t do what you want them to, your plot has stalled, and you’ve decided you hate what you wrote in Week 1.

Take your hands off the keyboard. Breathe deep. Breathe again.

This is called the creative process. The chances of the first words you put down being the best are pretty slim. If you’re feeling blocked: skip a scene or twelve, write a snippet that helps you get to know a new character who just popped up, or go to a write-in. Your fellow writers are a great way of helping you through the frustration and getting the ideas flowing again.

And it is TOTALLY OKAY to start a new idea a quarter of the way through. Even Chris Baty says so. DO NOT THROW OUT YOUR PREVIOUS WORD COUNT. Isn’t it possible that something you wrote in the previous story – some idea, turn of phrase, character name – will be useful in the next? Even if all it did was get you in the habit of writing every day, it was useful.

I did it one year. 8k in, I wrote, “And then he shut off the TV.” And I started a new story. By throwing out your previous idea, you’re letting your inner editor – really your inner critic – win. And that’s not what this exercise is about. 

NaNoWriMo is about letting your creativity flow, in whatever manner it might be. If it means exploring one idea and one set of characters and finding out what you don’t like and don’t want to write about, so be it. It still counts. It still matters. (And if you’re still questioning this, here’s another reason: I’m an ML and I say it’s okay.)

Just don’t get discouraged. It’s easy to feel disillusioned, and uninspired in Week 2. Hang in there. Just keep writing. You can do it. And even if you only write 1k in all of Week 2, and still stay with it, you’re doing great. Amazing even. Because guess what? By Week 3, the act of writing every day has become a habit. Discipline has kicked discouragement’s ass. And in Week 4? That’s when the magic happens. You’ve gotta stick around for that, at the very least.

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