Tips for the Non-NaNos

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It’s November and all over the world, writers are blistering their fingers in an attempt to run a writing marathon–50,000 words in one month. Do you NaNo? Not everyone does. Let’s face it, some of us writers don’t have the time, patience, or resources. If you don’t NaNo, this post is for you.

Let go of the NaNo Guilt

I don’t NaNo. In truth, I’m not allowed. My husband said he’d leave me if I ever decided to do NaNo. He knows that I’m obsessive when it comes to writing projects and that, once I get started, I lose touch with reality. We’re talking no bathing, sleeping, food shopping, or forming words beyond grunts while I’m fully underway. I became a writing zombie not once, but twice when I had to bring in two different novels under tight deadlines. It was not pretty. 

Maybe you’ve decided to forgo NaNo for any number of reasons. For instance, you, like me, will end up a slovenly blubbering mess. Or, maybe you don’t have the time beyond your day job, kids, and extended family (Hello? November has Thanksgiving in it! Who planned this NaNo? Masochists?) Whatever the reason is, don’t beat yourself up over it. But, if the guilt is still there, growling at you like an ugly, yet annoying monster, let’s unpack it.

What’s holding you back?

Are you thinking about writing a novel? Maybe it’s for the first time or the twelfth, but perhaps you’re like a dog circling the bed, unable to lay down and get to it. Writing a novel takes a lot of time, and yes, you could bash it out in thirty days. Or, you could take your time. Either way, you need to get to it. Figure out your roadblocks and get over them. 

Not Enough Time?

That happens. Right now, I’m struggling with this–how I did I write before when I was working and raising a young child? What I’ve discovered is that passion sparks drive and motivation. As of yet, I have not found the passion needed to undertake a heavy project. Ideas circle in my brain, but none have hit home. 

An Idea?

So, maybe I do have an idea. I’ve been letting it back-burner and that’s a good thing. Ideas take time to germinate. If you re-plant ideas too soon, they might die. However, if you give them enough time to grow into something valid, then they might prosper on the page. 

Ideas also need love. Love comes from you and from friends and family. When you’re ready to talk about your idea, do so with someone who will share your excitement. I have wonderful writer friends who love to hear about new ideas and can offer advice and new viewpoints.

Once you get that spark, start taking lots of notes. I mean it. You think you’ll remember everything and you won’t. Next, let’s make a checklist to get you underway. 

DIY NaNo 

Remember, you’re not tied to November. Novel writing can happen at any time in your life. However, if you’re not prepared to take on this intense endeavor, you’re more likely to fail. Follow these steps to give yourself a running start.

  • Step 1: Have an outline – An outline will anchor your writing and give you a road map for your long journey. Our own Mindy Hood made a fantastic post about outlining and she has three different ways of doing it. Read it here
  • Step 2: Do some research – I ADORE research. It really brings authenticity to your writing and can be useful for every genre. Learn more about researching here and here
  • Step 3: Make the time – This is the trickiest step. Check out this post. It has wonderful tips for time management. In addition, I would suggest the following: carve out a weekend just to write. Go away and write. Gather writer friends and get together to meet and write for one evening a week. Get up early and write. Write before you go to bed. 

You can do this. I can do this. We can do this. With or without those crazy NaNos. 

Write on, writers.

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About Author

Heather Rigney is a fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher based in Rhode Island. Author of The Merrow Trilogy--a dark, historical fantasy novel that deals with homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine and Stone Crowns Magazine. By day she teaches art at an all-girls Quaker school and at night she tries to be creative while avoiding too many sweets. You can read more about Ms. Rigney on her website: www.heatherrigney.com

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