Well Done You Made It
Getting to the end of Nano is an achievement in itself. Even if you didn’t hit the 50k and ‘win’, just writing more than you have done in the past is a massive step forward for any one who wants to be a writer. Doing it for one month shows your inner doubter that you CAN write most days. They can’t argue against it because you’ve done it and you can do it again.
So what now for your nano novel?
Well, some people like to put theirs away, forget about it for a month or two. Or longer.
Others want to keep at it and finish the thing. Keep that momentum going
My approach was to stop, put it away and come back to it in January, with a clear head and fresh eyes. I felt like I’d written a pile of rubbish, and yes, some of it was pretty bad. But in with the bad and downright ‘what was I thinking’ rubbish, there were glimmers of where my story might go, what my character might actually be like. There were also some new ideas that I liked and others that i immediately binned. But that is why I did NaNo – to clear out the crap and get some fresh ideas.
Returning in January meant that I could see past the words and into the story. I could start to build on it, removing the crap and adding to the better stuff. My original NaNo novel is now on its second version and it’s totally different to what i started back then. My hope is that in the future I can get the initial stages better and faster, and not have to take so long over it.
I didn’t do NaNo last year, and I didn’t join it this year either. The three years I did it were enough to show me that I CAN write when i want to and I CAN get past the mind moneys and gremlins. I know that I can write daily, that I DO have more ideas and most importantly, stories do CHANGE and shift as you go.
I have learned that even though it has taken me a few years, by sticking with it, (and even by going off to work on other ideas such as other novels and publishing short stories, before coming back to the first novel), I have formed a better story. I have grown as a writer, I have published non fiction and short stories. Will that first idea ever get published? Well, I intend to publish it, whether ‘traditionally’ or independently, it doesn’t matter.
I started the book 3 years ago, without that first Nano i wouldn’t have got past the first attempt because I needed to push past the barriers, both within the story and in my own head about whether I could finish a novel or not. And that is what Nano does, it shows you that you can write. And if you already know you can write, then it shows you can write more, or better, or different. It is a great way to try a new idea, chuck it all out and see if you actually like it.
I haven’t done NaNo this year or last year, but that’s not saying I’d never do it again, or a version of it at least. Because…why not!
Just imagine, sometime in the future, someone is reading YOUR book. The one you started for NaNoWriMo 2017.
For now, wear you t shirt, post your banners on social media, you are a winner!
You are a writer!
You Made it to Week 3!
Week three of Nano, and you are almost at the end. Whoop! This third week, sees you over that mid way hump, and still going, so that is great. It can also be the time, especially if you are behind, that you question why you are doing this.
Or perhaps friends and family are tiring of you constantly talking about it or missing events, going home early, and generally being a bit of a party pooper. Their comments and questions put doubts in your way.
To help you deal with this, I’ve made you a Top 10 Benefits of NanoWriMo. You can get it below.
If you are behind on the word count this is not the time to panic. You can still make the goal 50000 words. It might mean you have to increase the words per day, or perhaps plan a great big last push. Or you can always reduce the goal word count in the name of quality, being realistic and your own sanity.
If you are on schedule or even ahead, well done you, but don’t slack off, not just yet.
It’s natural to have doubts, questions and downright ‘what the hell am I doing’ moments. As I said in the first of these blogs, this is like a marathon or other tough running event or challenge. Other people won’t get it, and your own mind monkeys will show up through out the process. Just ask any marathon runner how they feel around mile 20-22.
So, it is worth you keeping a note of your own reasons, the ones that made you decide to do this in the first place.
Write them out, print them in a pretty picture on an image creator such as Stencil and keep them nearby for those times when your resolution starts to quiver.
To help you I’ve made you a downloadable image of top 10 benefits of doing Nanowrimo. Click on the image to open it and save it to your computer.
The main thing is to remember why you are doing this.
And also this is week 3, don’t give up now, only a week or so to go, and you can say you finished the challenge.
Remember, you’ll have a rough novel to show for it, how great is that?
At this stage it’s not about quality, or even the quantity (although 50000 words is a good chunk to work with), no, it is about you sitting down and writing for a month, whether that turns into an actual novel or whether it cleared one story out your head to make way for a new, better one.
So, don’t give up this close to the end, keep writing, keep reminding yourself of your own why and the benefits of doing it.
Now go write!
This is Nano month so I’ve been looking at the experience of doing this challenge. Last week’s blog looked at how to survive the month. This week I’m looking at the experience in general- the highs and lows.
Join the Club
The first time you do NaNoWriMo it can feel daunting, exciting, scary, and a little bit like you are joining some strange club with this month of writing as a sort of initiation ritual/test. if you make it to the end, and get the winner t shirt, you are in!
The thing with any challenge is that the first time you do it, you simply can’t know what it is going to be like for you. Other people can tell you their experiences and where they faltered or fell, or perhaps, where they flew and amazed themselves. But that doesn’t mean you will do the same, or at least not at the same times as they did. You will have your own highs and lows.
People who have done it before might be cynical, based on their own failure to finish. Or they will be overly enthusiastic because they wrote more than 50000 words. What they don’t tell you is that their writing will never see the light of day because it was 50000 shades of sh*te. This is the ‘bad’ of Nanowrimo, that it can feed people’s self doubt, ‘if I can’t do Nano, am I really a writer?’ (yes you are), or that so much of what is written is just plain bad, and it doesn’t ever become a novel, or even a short story.
You can get to the end with 50000 words or more on your computer, all safely backed up and ready to be played with. This years winner t-shirt proudly worn and you might feel great. Yes! You did it! Or you might look at the document and wonder whether it was all worth it? It doesn’t seem very…..well, good? This is when you swear you’ll never do that again, what a stressful waste of time. But chances are you will because if you didn’t hit the 50000 this time, then you will want to next time, and if you did hit it, then you will want to do it again, or a version of it at least. It is a bit like a drug – just one more, just a little bit.
Then, if you do it again, your past experience will influence your approach. You may prepare better. This time you will have that second back up device. You might even decide to do your own nano, (whisper it but people sometimes set their own word goals), you might go lower or higher. Some people decide to go off and be alone for part of the month, really taking it seriously. Others decide they want to finish what they started the previous year having not looked at it ever since. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.
Coming to it for a second or even a third time will be a different experience to that first, exciting time. If this is your first Nano and you are struggling, don’t worry, you can do this again. In fact you could do it any month of the year. Maybe November isn’t such a good pick for you, maybe January works better? Get together with some writer friends and have your own nano event. Set your own rules, your own rewards.
The good of nano, is that it shows you that you can write more than you thought. It introduces you to new thinking about yourself and your writing. It may have made you some new writer friends. You might even end up with the beginnings of a novel, or finish one you’d already started. Maybe you have come up with a whole new idea, a whole new genre even!
The 1667 Words
Whatever you do in November, you will end up with words. Probably more words than you have ever written in a month before (unless you have done Nano before obviously). So even if you didn’t hit the 50k goal, you have still achieved more words, and also proved to yourself that you can do this. You can write more than you ever thought you could.
One thing is for sure, it will have changed you as a person and as a writer.
You can put on that t shirt, post the winner badge on your blog and know that you ‘won’ NaNoWriMo and you are a writer.
Now go write!
Over the last few blogs I’ve been writing about routines and habits, which should hopefully help with your approach to this month and Nanowrimo if you’re doing it.
For those that don’t know, Nanowrimo is a writing challenge for the month of November. The challenge is to write 50000 words.
Yup, you read that right – 50k words in one month.
For some people that sounds easy, and for others it sounds like an impossible mountain. Both are right, and both are wrong.
And believe me, because I have done Nano several times, during the month of Nano, you will feel all the emotions that are possible to feel around the idea of writing 50 thousand words.
All the emotions. (you know, like in the film Inside Out, except MORE emotions)
This is something that gets missed in all the ‘prepare for nano’ advice which usually revolves around plots, pens, computers, copious supplies of coffee and chocolate etc. Which is all true, but they fail to mention the highs and lows, the fury, the tears, the laughter, the joy at an easy day, followed by the doom laden angst whenyou can barely get 5 words on the screen. My pre-Nano advice was – make sure you have chocolate, coffee, paper, pens, your computer is functioning and not likely to run out of battery/blow up (it happens!) in the middle. Which wouldn’t matter to you anyway because you have a hard drive to back up to. DON”T YOU?
Please for the love of all the cute puppies and kittens – Don’t forget to back up! All you need is a USB stick.
But also – warn your loved ones, your friends and co workers to expect emotions from you. Anger, grumpiness, laughter, joy, singing, crying, despair….possibly all within one day, or even one hour.
So if you are doing Nano this year you are already one week in.
How are you doing?
Feeling good? On track?
Or maybe you’re already starting to feel a bit lost, little voices are whispering to you that it’s all pointless, you can’t do this, why did you ever think you could do this? Give up and go and eat cake…go on it’s all you’re good for….
Nano has this effect on people, it’s a weird, wonderful thing to do, and one that can have profound impacts on your life both personally and as a writer.
It can also be hell. Which leads me to –
People do it for the same reasons that other people run marathons, or ‘tough mudder’ type obstacle races. Non runners are either in awe or completely baffled as to why anyone would do that.
We writers get the same responses. Either ‘Well done’, or ‘Why?’
So, firstly, don’t try to explain to the people that say ‘why’, just ignore them for the month of November, in fact try not to see them during this period. Surround yourself with positive vibes, people that will help you, even if they think you’re a bit nuts to try this, they will support you in some way.
There a a ton of reasons why you might be doing NaNo – It is a challenge; you might want to finally get a decent amount of words down; you might just be curious about this thing you keep hearing about; or you might enjoy pain.
I don’t know your reasons. MY reasons for doing it were to get the words out my head and to see if I could actually write over 1500 words every day. I had always set myself goals of 500 words a day in the past and not really stuck to it, so it was a case of go bigger or go home.
Since we are a week in, you will already be seeing results. You might be feeling pretty good if you’ve stuck to the words count. You’ve got this, its actually easy!
But, be prepared for the next 2 weeks, when the slump can happen. Life starts to get in the way. One week was easy to reschedule, avoid or ignore things. But week 2 and week 3 things get harder. This is the challenge, not the words per day. Of course you can sit and write 1600 words a day. If you give yourself the time and space to do it.
Also, and this is key – DO NOT THINK ABOUT QUALITY.
Nano is NOT about writing the best ever novel, or even a good novel. It is about the idea of a novel, the roughest of rough drafts. I thought of it as draft 0. Not even first draft. Just a story that was in my head and getting it out of my head and on to the screen. So that it could then be worked in to a first draft.
If you approach it with that attitude then you won’t stop to question what you are writing, because it doesn’t matter if you are writing a book about a jilted lover and it morphs into a zombie story you didn’t even know you wanted to write. ONE of those ideas will be your novel, or maybe a zombie chick lit will be the result. Who knows. That is the key if Nano, it is an adventure into the unknown. You may plan and plot your idea but that may not be the one you write and that is fine.
Top 10 Tips for Surviving NaNo –
1. Don’t expect to write a good novel. Just be happy if there are glimmers within the pile of slush.
2. Do use it to tell yourself the story, don’t worry about quality or plot making sense. That’s for the next draft.
3. Do write more than if you are having a good day and give yourself space for the bad days.
4. Do Celebrate milestones. Chocolate, booze, cake, green smoothie….whatever feels like a reward to you.
5. Don’t sweat falling behind. You can catch up. The online tracker at ‘Write track’ shows you how many words you still need to do per day (it does the sum for you so youdon’t need to tax your frazzled writer brain)
6. Do attend the meet ups in person or online to meet other Nano folk and get some support. There are groups all over the world. See them on the Nano website
7. Do plan your time. Set aside writing time in your day. How fast can you type? Do you need 30 minutes to write 1600 words or hours? If you want to get faster, Chris Fox’s book on 5000 words per hour has useful strategies .Divide up your time if that is easier for you. So you could write 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes at lunchtime, 20 minutes in the evening. You may have to forgo lunch with friends, tv programmes and so on. But that is what catch up tv and binge watching in December will be for!
8. Do avoid the naysayers and let people know this is important to you, and you need support.
9. Do BACKUP! Invest in a second backup, something like this one
10. Breathe! Since I am all about wellbeing for creativity, I can’t forget the self care. Make sure you take some time away from the desk, to breathe, to stretch to jump about, whatever. It helps the creative flow, honest!
*Some of the links in this are affiliate links, which means I get a few pence if you buy through them. I only recommend things I use myself and they are only suggestions, other products are available.
Next week, more Nano chat and what my own experience taught me.
In the previous two blogs I have looked at the two approaches to forming a regular creative routine.
There is the daily habit method which involves establishing a routine. The aim being that we do the same things, use the same music and eat the same food. The idea is that having this routine gets our creative juices flowing on demand. So we can turn up and create when we say we will.
The other method is the ‘non-routine’ routine. For this one we don’t have a set time or place for our creativity. Instead we develop the ability to fit spurts of creativity in, wherever and whenever we get the chance.
Both have their good points and both have bad. One will work for some, and the alternative will be best for other people.
So which one works for you?
To help you decide, I’ve put the pros and cons of each into an image.
Images -The Cramped Creative
Image – The Cramped Creative
You might be like me and actually work fine with both methods depending on day and general mood. Some days I can slot writing into wherever it will fit, and other days I need that morning habit. The trouble comes when neither approach seems to work.
One thing I have learned though is that if we want to be more creative, then we have to do it more often and with a consistent, regular habit.
That might mean a morning practise, or it might mean fitting in 5-30 minutes here and there.
There are no right or wrongs here, you have to find your own special method, whatever that might be. If you look at creatives through history, there are many strange little habits that have worked over the years. The real knack is finding what works for you, and doing it.
If you want help establishing some sort of creative routine or regular habit, click here to check out my course.
4 weeks to establish a habit, beat the gremlin, find the time, and even prompts to give you ideas for your daily creative moment!
Photo by Pixelsaway
Last week’s blog looked at the benefits of a creative routine, and how it worked for some well known creatives. The idea being that having a set routine helped the muse arrive, gives the creative time and space for their ‘thing’ and hence they would create more.
And for some people it really works.
The hard bit is getting the habit established, but once they have done it for a few weeks or months, they find themselves getting things made, written and produced.
But for others, well, life just doesn’t work that way.
What if you work shifts, have extended family coming and going, sickness, overtime demands at work etc etc? For so many of us life these days is not 9-5, with a set timetable for each day.
For people in that situation, developing a routine for anything is going to be hard because they simply don’t have a routine week. So, what do they do? Keep trying to find their habit, keep restarting each week or month, everytime there is a set back?
Well, yes, for some that will work. I know it has for me. Just keep on resetting, rinse and repeat, and have patches of productivity then stop, but at least I know I CAN build a habit again. Sometimes an enforced break from the habit is no bad thing, we can return refreshed to the project, but at other times it feels like starting again, and that can seem like a hard scramble back up the habit forming mountain. We don’t always want to strap on the crampons and struggle uphill, we need to find another way.
So what is the alternative?
There is another approach, a non-routine routine. A ‘give up all attempts to have a ritual around your creativity, and simply do it when you can’ method. But, as with most things in life, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.
This approach requires almost as much discipline as having a set time and place for creativity. It means you have to be able to grasp any gap in your day, whether planned or spontaneous, and in that gap, no matter how short, do something for your creativity. Obviously this is easiest for writers or others who can do things on the fly but even then, I have found that it is hard to allow myself to ‘just write’ if I have a gap in my work day. My head is elsewhere, my thinking is different. There are so many pulls to do other things – some useful and others……well the pull of a favourite social media or game on the phone can be very hard to resist for those precious few minutes.
Plus the gremlin rears up and says there is no point for just 5 minutes, you need at least an hour.
But really, do we need a set amount of time to add a few lines or ideas to something?
This is where the discipline comes in. Just as we need to develop the habit of getting up early, or sitting at our desk in the evening etc, we need to develop the habit of being spontaneous. So instead of our thoughts jumping to mindless Facebook scrolling while we wait on the train, or in our breaks etc, we would immediately grab our notebook and write, or sketch, or take photos, or just plan ideas if we can’t do our actual creative thing.
Photo @ massonforstock from Deposit Photos
So this non-routine, spontaneous approach requires its own form of discipline, an ability to quiet the gremlin, grab a pen/pencil/camera and do something when an opportunity arises. Whether you feel like it or not. Now maybe, this is where some of those famous peoples’ rituals might be helpful. Because while it is nice to have a habit, often it is what we do to set ourselves up that allows us to form the habit.
So for example if you always play certain music while you write. Make sure you have that music with you, so wherever you are you can set the ritual in flow, then it won’t matter where you are or whether it is 5 minutes or 50. Have your notebook with you, a pen/pencil, your favourite sweets that you always have when you create.
Whatever YOUR creative requirements are, carry them with you so you don’t have the excuse not to, the gremlin can’t jump up and down and yell ‘told you so, you’re not a proper creative’. Which is always off putting.
We can help ourselves be more spontaneous and moment grabbing by carrying our rituals with us. And although we might not have a set time or place to do our creativity, we can trigger the part of the brain, and thereby summon the muse, by having these rituals wherever we are.
And just like the more obvious daily routine approach, we actually build a habit to create wherever and whenever.
Whichever approach works for you, do that.
And keep doing it.