Tis the season for novel writing – in a hurry, under pressure, whether you’re ready or not. Even if you love the idea of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), you may have some (very reasonable) qualms. It takes time to write a novel, and not everyone has the privilege to dedicate that many hours all at once. Maybe you worry for your mental or physical health. Maybe your muse goes on vacation whenever major pressure comes into the picture. If this is you, and you want to make the month special as a writer without going the traditional NaNo route, here are some suggestions.
The pressure of writing a novel is a lot at the best of times. While there are a lot of great things to say about NaNo, the event often turns November into something not at all resembling the best of anything (besides the sales stats for coffee and energy drink companies). So, don’t try to write a novel.
Write some short stories instead. If you have enough short ideas, you can complete a number of short stories over the course of the month (and still, technically, win NaNo). You get prose on paper. Priorities shift to your fiction. Whenever someone asks you to describe your novel, you can blithely reply that you aren’t actually writing one. It’s a win-win for those with amorous plot bunnies breeding too many new ideas for the focus a novel demands. It’s also terrific for anyone who just doesn’t like writing novels.
You don’t have to “win” to succeed here, either. Even if you don’t hit the requisite word count, you’ll still have a short story or two for your effort.
One of my favorite parts of NaNoWriMo is the network of writers – local and otherwise – who reach out to make new connections. New friends find each other. Old friends give their relationship an update. After the past year and a half, that communal aspect is even more appealing.
If you want a chunk of that without the massive pressure of churning out a novel in a month, try connecting with one or two writing buddies – here, on Twitter, through your local writing group. These need to be people you like. Preferably someone with shared interests outside of generating literature. Why? Because the point of this NaNo substitute is to write a novel for someone else. Have a few nice conversations, set a general deadline, and get going. Write something you enjoy, obviously, but write something your partner will specifically enjoy, too. Try exchanging a chapter once a week, or once a month. You get a story tailored to your tastes, and you don’t have to imagine an audience: you already have one.
To “win” NaNoWriMo, most participants write every day. And that is a big attraction for those of us who need exterior motivation to develop more-productive habits. You don’t have to write a novel to get in the habit of writing every day, though. Try to write something, anything at all, every day. Focus on a single project if you like. If you get even one sentence down, you win the day.
Have you tried NaNoWriMo? Did you “win?” What alternatives do you want to try? Share your thoughts with other writers below!