Failing NaNoWriMo three times might be a cue to stop but it only allowed me to become a better writer and realize what works for me.
The first time I tried NaNoWriMo I just got back into writing and didn’t take it as a serious future. Then I took classes, read books, and am now dedicated to a book I’ve been working on since the end of 2015. However the other two fails I’ll get more into later.
These are tips I learned works best for me but probably not everyone.
Just Keep Writing
My least favorite, best piece of advice I learned over the years that turned into a daily mantra. Most writers hear it and here I am saying it again because it’s the most important advice I could get.
You start on a good pace, everything is going well, and then the negative thoughts hit you: this isn’t good, no-one will read it, no-one will like it, this is actual shit and the worst piece of writing to ever be put down, and the urge to throw your computer/notebook out the window gets bigger. What can you do? Just keep writing.
Five chapters in and you want to re-read what you just wrote and before you know it you’re going back and changing something up. Then you realize you got nowhere but oh well you can do it tomorrow, but then tomorrow turns into a week and eventually a month. Ignore that urge to go back and just keep writing.
Once you push through/go around/jump over/move that roadblock the writing will flow.
This ruined NaNoWriMo for me last year. I hated the first chapter and kept re-writing for days on end. “No wait this character should say this. And this is how this should turn out. And I forgot to mention this.” There’s a lot of ideas coming out and sometimes you forget.
Tip: On a separate page, in a journal, or beneath what you just wrote make a note of what you want to add/the mistake you made. Just getting that frustration out on paper can be enough to help you move on despite that annoyance in the back of your mind nagging at you until you go back and change it.
Pretty obvious but it affects us all. Instead of writing you find yourself watching one video on Youtube and it somehow turns into animals doing weird things and you have no idea how you even got there.
Tip: There are programs you can download so you can’t go on the internet for a certain amount of time. Or just disconnect your Wi-Fi. Or hand-write. I’ve been there but this may be the easiest distraction we can control.
However there are outside distractions we can’t always control. For me, my cat likes to knock things down when I write…always at this time. Then I have a dog who may need to go to the bathroom when I’m in the middle of an intense scene. I have to make a call, purchase something, etc.
Tip: Get done what you need to do early. Take your dog out, play with your cat until they get tired, clean whatever needs cleaned.
In 2015 (like I said) I started taking classes and I came up with an idea I got really into right before NaNoWriMo. I went in with a positive attitude and wrote 30,000 words in under two weeks. Then I just stopped. I burned myself out. Writer’s block took over.
Some people like to write a lot at once and that’s okay. Whatever works for you. For me I tried and it didn’t work.
Tip: Give yourself a word count for each day. I realize some people are busy with work, kids, pets, etc. and there are days you’ll write more than others and some you don’t write at all, but don’t wear yourself out.
Noises (Or Not)
Over the years I experimented with music but ultimately found what works best for me is soundtrack music. No words. Just the instruments setting the tone. Maybe you like nature sounds or none at all but this can also help with outside noise distractions like people talking/road work.
Tip: There are plenty of Youtube playlists with motivational, adrenaline pumping, or sad music to get you in the mood. My favorite is Pandora Journey. However it’s whatever works best for you.
Talk to Others
“Others” can refer to a supportive friend, a supportive dog, or your own supportive self. Sometimes we just need to talk it out. Even when things are going well getting that extra motivation can push us even further.
If you have no one to talk to there are forums, tags, sites that want to help. The #NaNoWriMo has plenty of people who are ready to help when things get tough or #writing in general.
Tip: Speaking the problems may help them, even if you get no advice from whomever you’re telling them to. It gets frustrating and bottling it up will result in not even wanting to write.
Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month or writing in general I hope you’re doing it because you enjoy it (and I get some write just to make a living) or try to make it enjoyable. You may wonder why I even bother after constantly failing.
Despite some of the bad stuff I’ve written there’s still the good. Those good parts are a reminder that I am a fairly good writer, and I hope you can see the good in the bad as well.
A final tip: take care of yourself. One year I neglected my blog, working out, cleaning, etc. just to make time to write. Do something to move around after sitting for hours on end. I don’t want to be a preachy, “you should workout” person, but it does help me when I’m frustrated. Don’t eat too much junk. Remember to keep water with you. And go to the bathroom when you need to.
Good luck on your writing journey, whatever that may be, and remember to just keep writing.