As we’re nearing the end of November’s creative challenge, it’s important to remember that a month of writing doesn’t need to mean a month of solitude. Today, writer and Austin ML Jackie Dana shares one of her secrets to NaNo success:
We tell ourselves NaNoWriMo is all about the writing. We’ll write a novel and prove we can do it,
impress our friends, or maybe give ourselves an excuse to get out of
Aunt Rhonda’s Thanksgiving “Massacree.”
But there’s a secret the NaNo veterans know: it’s not just about the writing. NaNo is people!
The Ordinary World
you were probably like most people. You might have a job, or you’re
in school. Maybe you’re raising small children. But you’re also
that quirky friend with a good imagination—a person whose compulsion
to write befuddles friends and family.
So NaNoWriMo seemed like it could be fun, but it’s a big commitment. Could you really put
your social life on hold? Would your family and friends understand why
you’re going to become a hermit for a month?
When you sign up for
NaNoWriMo—alone on a strange website filling out your personal
details—you can almost hear the devil on your shoulder urging to
forsake your social life.
But as you may have already discovered, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Once you created your
novel on the NaNoWriMo site, you might have gotten curious, and started clicking around. First, you discovered the discussion forums for all
participants, and then your regional forums…
did all these people come from? There are in-person activities and
discover that the “solitary” act of writing is more social than you
thought, your inner introvert may be scared
What do you do?
Many regions host
kickoff parties on Halloween or November 1st. Maybe you summoned up the
courage to attend, thinking you could get a few lingering questions
answered. Maybe that’s when
everything started to change. Writers—at
least the kinds who do NaNoWriMo—are a tribe.
We understand the
compulsion to write. We like going into those scary places inside our
heads and finding out what’s lurking within. We enjoy putting our
characters through torturous twists and turns, only to discover that
the evil queen is really the most interesting character, so we make
her the protagonist, and we start slaughtering all of the good guys
just because we can…
Did I mention we’re a tribe?
When you’re caught
up in the midst of NaNoWriMo you might struggle a bit. The holidays
are tough. You’ve got a week to go and you might be barely past the
halfway mark. You might become tempted to give up and
walk away from the whole endeavor. Let the novel-in-progress die a
slow, forgettable death. That’s you
talking—but you’re part of a tribe now, remember?
Turn to your new
NaNoWriMo buddies—the ones you met at the kickoff or on
Facebook—and ask for help. Maybe you need a pep talk, or someone to
sit across from you at Starbucks while you play catch-up. Or perhaps
you just need to hear from others who have been in your shoes and be
reassured that yes, it is possible to turn this turkey into a winner.
Writers don’t let
fellow writers give up.
Joining a community
of fellow writers could very well change your life.
friends with people who understand that sometimes you’d rather stay
home and write or read a book. You’ll discover that you’re not
the only person who takes notes during a movie. It will no longer
feel so weird to spend two hours researching all the different kinds
of barrels, or which kind of chain mail best resists a
broadsword—because your friends do those things too.
Your writer friends
will become your favorite people to hang out with. They’ll also be
the ones who will help you succeed over the long run. After
November’s over, those people might have tips for revising your
novel, and there’s a good chance they’ll join you for coffee to
discuss the ideas you have for your next book.
Before you started NaNoWriMo, you might not have realized how much fun it would be to meet
other people like yourself. But once December rolls around, you’ll
discover that it’s not enough to hang out with your new writer buds
once a year. You’ll want to keep the spirit of writing camaraderie
Here are a few ways
you can indulge your writer fix throughout the year:
- Become a Municipal Liaison—join the ranks of the MLs who help run local regional events.
- Join a local writing group on Meetup.com—or start your own! You can host regular write-ins, book discussions, critiques, or workshops.
- Attend writers’ conferences.
- Enter short story writing contests online.
- Join writing groups on Facebook.
- Organize writing retreats.
- Attend fan conferences and book festivals and schmooze with fellow authors (that’s right, you’re an author too!).
And if all else
fails, you’ve always got Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July to keep
you going until next November.
As you plunge
head-first into NaNoWriMo this year, don’t think of it as a solo
pursuit. Use it as an excuse to climb out of your shell and meet
fellow participants. While we might spend time getting into the heads
of adulterers, serial killers, and evil goblin kings, most of us are
actually pretty cool people. And every single one of us wants you to
Jackie Dana loves
words and the people who write them. She’s a professional blogger and
content manager, and published her first novel, By
Moonrise, in 2015 (with a sequel on the way).
Recognizing the value in a writing community, she serves as a
NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for Austin-Central Texas and organizes
It Already! Meetup for all writers. You can check out
her blog at JackieDana.com.
Top image licensed under Creative Commons Zero.