I didn’t win NaNoWriMo last year. I got a few chapters in before I decided the story needed to simmer a little in my brain to really get going. Instead, I spent November revising past works and preparing to graduate with my MFA. All in all, I’d say it was a productive month — and the story I let simmer is just about ready for the actual drawing board! 🙂
But that doesn’t mean I ignored NaNoWriMo altogether. The best part about this event is that there are few rules. There’s no pressure to “win.” If your novel requires more time for you to get it right, that’s no problem. Just showing up during November gets you the encouragement and community you need to explore the stories in your head — however far you get.
One of the great things NaNo brings to the writing world is its author pep talks. Every week during November, beloved authors from across the genres offer words of wisdom to anyone who is struggling with the writing process. If you’re signed up for NaNoWriMo, you get these in your email.
You’re bogged down with work, real life, and that annoying neighbor who likes to chat loudly on her cell phone while she walks her dog back and forth in front of your house. For the past several days, you’ve tried and failed to force yourself to write. You’ve wondered whether you’re the only writer who goes through this. The characters in your head are threatening to revolt, and you’re considering giving up and just focusing on keeping the dish washer from making that irritating thumping noise mid-cycle.
But before you dump your flashdrive of faltering fiction into the toilet, you check your email. And there’s a note from Piers Anthony, Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, Tamora Pierce, Philip Pullman, Tom Robbins, Lemony Snicket, or any of the other NaNoWriMo pep talkers, telling you to take a deep breath, calm down, and finish your novel. They remind you of the times when they’ve been through the same frustrations or worse. They ask you to give your unruly characters one more chance before you flush them down the toilet, because this time the characters just might listen to you. Then you read a list of the pep talk author’s awesome publications (as if you didn’t already know them and own most of them already), and you think…
Oh, fine. The dishwasher can wait for an hour. Let me give this another try.
And after a month of pep talks from different authors, you’re actually getting somewhere. Or maybe you’re even there. All you needed was a push!
NaNoWriMo encourages writers. And all throughout the year, as we continue to write and revise our work, we talk with the friends we’ve made during November, and we re-read the pep talks that have helped us stay on track.
Now the Office of Letters and Light is asking us for suggestions! Whose words of wisdom would you like to read while you’re struggling with your novel? The wishlist is long and keeps growing. What authors are missing?
Okay — back to writing for me. How many days until November, again? 🙂