National Novel Writing Month is over. It was a rough year, perhaps my roughest year, given that I’m now writing for work and for play and I just started a new teaching job, but I did manage to pull off the 50,000 words in thirty days and though the story isn’t quite complete, I’m admittedly pleased with how far I’ve come.
National Novel Writing Month is a great tool for authors looking to complete or make serious headway on a project, but November is a challenging month without the added pressure, and there are many reasons it may not be feasible to participate or participate in full.
That’s okay! There are many concrete reasons why NaNo is such an effective resource and you don’t need to wait all year to use them in your own writing. If you’re on the journey toward your next story, play, poem, article or novel–or you’re simply looking for the right headspace to start a new project, check out some of the most fundamental reasons for why NaNo works and how you can do it all year long.
Let’s be completely honest–I haven’t written my own stories since summer. We moved in July and I was focused on finding work and simply keeping up with my current projects. I was editing, marketing, and working and starting a new novel simply didn’t factor into that. It wasn’t intentional–it literally just fell by the wayside. That’s why NaNo is so effective. You have daily, weekly and a monthly goal that you’re trying to reach. In order to do so, you need to hit smaller goals and stay organized and stick to a routine.
So hit smaller goals, stay organized and work to a routine. 50K in a month is a lot, but you can add more structure to your writing at any time. That may mean writing a certain number of hours or minutes a day or it may mean hitting a word count goal by the end of the week. Whatever your structure may be, find that routine and stick to it.
NaNo is great in that you get the little cartoon trophies and you can share goals and successes with friends and commiserate when things don’t go well and the whole thing. The accountability of a program helping you meet those word goals is incomparable. I knew that no matter how much I wrote at the end of the day, I would log my numbers and I would celebrate. It drove me to write more and stick to my structured routine (except for Thanksgiving, but I caught up because I had been so rigid before.)
Accountability is tough–but find a way to make it work for you–critique partners, writing groups or even just posting your numbers online can help give you that extra push.
Which brings me to my next point. Find your support system. It’s awesome to be part of NaNo because it’s such a far-reaching undertaking. I have writing friends from high school summer programs that I haven’t spoken to in years, but we can communicate over the madness of this endeavor. I’m part of two writing chapters, one from when I was living back in the New York City region and one for my home here in Nashville and we had loops, Facebook groups, and spreadsheets to support and engage us throughout the month. My Nashville group has prizes!
The point is, find your support the rest of the year too. Sign up for those chapters or even make online writing friends. They’ll push to you meet your goals, edit your projects and keep writing all the time.
At the end of the day, NaNo is about hitting 50,000 words by whatever means necessary. Some people set smaller goals. My friend set a goal of 100,000 for the month–and hit it! The point is, it can be super overwhelming to say “finish the book” because that’s such a big and amorphous idea. But when you set those big goals and then break them down into smaller goals, you provide a footpath to follow from one place to the next until you reach the big finale. Your goals don’t have to 50,000 or 100,000 or anything like that. They’re yours, which means you get the honor of setting the right ones for you. But, just like NaNo, set your goals and try to hit them by whatever means necessary.
There are myriad ways to reach your writing goals. National Novel Writing Month is a fantastic tool for some people and may be challenging or overwhelming for others. Don’t worry about it. Instead, take some of the lessons NaNo can teach us and consider applying them to your every day, every week and every month writing–whether that’s November or not. You may be surprised by just how useful they really are.