Gentlefolk, start your (word processing) engines!
I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once again this year! If you don’t know what that means, let me quote their website:
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.
On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
There are rules, but for years I participated as a Rebel, until a few years ago when they dropped the one rule that kept making me a rebel.
- Write one 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
Start from scratch.
- Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction.
- Be the sole author of your novel.
- Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
That second bullet is the rule that they changed. Most years I use NaNoWriMo as a motivation to work on some stalled or otherwise unfinished projects rather than starting from scratch, which is why I was always over in the Rebel category. NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun, and I find that having a few friends participating and mutually cheering each other on (and in a couple of cases to try to race against, word-count wise) helps me get a lot of work done.
NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. But I’ve seen people who didn’t think they’d like it come out happy that they’d given it a go.
Usually about this point in this post I would veer into some advice about the virtues of getting a draft down and not worrying about quality. And probably will write something about that in the next few days, but a friend shared an interesting post that goes in a slightly different direction that I think many people might find valuable. I should note a couple of things. The Story Nurse gives out customized writing advice, and this particular letter writer talks about struggling with thoughts of suicide and other types of anxiety, and how trying to force themselves to power through stalled writing projects makes that worse. So, consider yourself warned.
Having more than one friend who has found that a lot of their frustrations with writing and similar projects were actually symptoms of untreated mental health issues, I can appreciate how the sorts of advice people like me often give out (“just put one word after the other, whatever it takes”) is not only not helpful, but can actually cause harm. I like the way that the Story Nurse breaks out some things to try that are completely different that just trying to force more words out. I am particularly enamored with this suggestion:
Set the goal of creating works that are explicitly for practice, rather than going directly to big projects that you care passionately about. The less emotionally attached you are to the work you’re doing, the less energy you’re feeding into that self-doubt dynamic.
She also suggests keeping a compliment file. That’s a place where you save kind things people say about your work or just about you.
Anyway, take a look at that column. I think several of her suggestions for this letter writer are good things to try. And check out the Story Hospital website for earlier columns.
And if you’re planning to participate in NaNoWriMo, and would like a writing buddy, you can add me: FontFolly. Let’s tell some stories!