It’s that time of year. Halloween is in the past, pumpkins are out, temperatures are dropping, people are hopefully getting their pumpkin-spice-chai-lattes from somewhere other than Starbucks. And writers around the world are halfway through the event in which they challenge themselves to write an entire novel in 30 days.
For many of us, NaNoWriMo is an exciting, challenging time of year, and for good reason. Yet we often dread it too, because what if we didn’t prepare enough? What if we fail to write 1667 words per day? What if we encounter writer’s block, which is a myth but is still apparently a thing? Let me say this: Even if you haven’t prepared at all, winning NaNoWriMo iS POSSIBLE! As I write this post, I am behind on my word count (hooray for productive procrastination). The point is, failing NaNoWriMo can and does happen. It happened to me last year because even though I knew my novel (Netherworld) inside and out, I simply wasn’t committed or motivated or excited to follow through the whole month. (Which is why I’m making up this year.)
For those of you who are struggling with NaNoWriMo right now––and even for those of you are way ahead and are doing just fine (KEEP IT UP!!)––I have some tips that might give you some good ideas about how to persevere through NaNo without giving into the stress. I’ll also be sharing a little bit about my NaNo novel Fiction’s Lie just for kicks!
1. If you’re writing and you feel like you could keep going even past your daily word count goal, KEEP WRITING. I can’t stress this enough. There may be some days where you’ll sit down and enjoy a long writing session. The inspiration is flowing and that shot of espresso really motivated you. So why not keep going and write 2,000 that day instead of 1667? Why not 2,500? After all, isn’t NaNoWriMo all about pushing yourself? Push yourself harder. I wrote around 2800 one day, and I was glad I did because the next day I couldn’t write at all, and I was still on track.
2. Exercise. Not only does exercising help you feel better, but it boosts your mental energy as well. I’m not following this tip well at all, but it’s super important. Staying healthy and active during a very sedentary activity will help your word goal reach new heights. It could be as simple as a few jumping jacks or push-ups, or a 30-minute run. Whatever it is, exercise. Your body and your mind will thank you for it when it’s time to write.
3. Try new, different environments. I don’t know about you, but my mental status is constantly being influenced by my environment. It may sound weird, but an organized, aesthetically-pleasing work space is always crucial to my personal productivity. If you’re doing all of your writing at the same place every day, try somewhere else and see what happens. It could be as effortless as moving to a different room in your house, or driving to a library or coffee shop or a writer friend’s house. A change in your surroundings can work psychological wonders.
4. Give yourself time and room to breathe. Even if you’re behind on your word count goal, take a break and do something else to refresh your mind and think about something other than stressing out over your word count. Do something you enjoy, like reading, taking a hike, watching a favorite movie or TV episode. Try something new too, like making caramel apples, making a map for your novel, or simply sitting and watching ants.
My NaNo2018 Novel: Fiction’s Lie
During a family crisis, Finley stops writing his novel. Back in the fictional dimension he created, his protagonist, Zealen, becomes the villain and takes control of the story with one goal: to seek revenge against the author who gave him the traumatic past that now haunts him.
Obsessing over my story people is one of my favorite things about being a writer, so let’s do this!!!
Finley is the writer of his fantasy novel Ithraya, and the rest of the characters know him as their author. He is also a straight-As college student because as a good, studious pupil, homework and writing is almost all he does––and sometimes, it’s only one and not the other. He also finds pleasure in making coffee, going on long, thoughtful bike rides, and spending time with his family when he can.
Zealen is my dark and brooding antagonist. I know that sounds stereotypical and surfacy, but believe me, he’s not your typical villain. A brutal past, a superpower he never asked for, and revenge against the author changes him and his perspective of the future completely.
Avaliss is the town apothecary’s apprentice, learned in the ways of herbal preparation, healing, and medicine, as well as an archer trainee in the ranger force. A practical, disciplined, no-nonsense type of person, Avaliss finds it hard to keep her cool with her emotions when her best friend Zealen appears after four years as a vengeful monster and persuades her and Ival to follow him down the same destructive path.
Ival used to be a witty, fun-loving third wheel of the trio with a bad habit of cracking sarcastic jokes at the wrong times. But when his little sister is killed years later, all of his motives become fueled by the anger against the murderer. He is well trained in combat and is known by Zealen and Avaliss for spending too much time at knife-throwing target practice. He is also a magic User with Energy (electricity, to be specific) that comes in handy during training and, later on, as a lead warrior in the ranger force as well.
Leo hails from fictional Earth, a 15-year-old functioning with the mind of a genius, and the creator of a time and space transport device that lands him and his friend Meg in Ithraya at the worst possible time. The reason behind the creation of the “travel warper” came from his detestation of Earth and mankind as a whole. Though not gifted with Knowledge of the future (that would be Zealen, actually), Leo knows full well that Earth is just a bunch of idiots, and that NASA is the most idiotic of them all. He has his reasons.
Meg is the girl who everyone thinks is just there along for the ride, until she starts showing strange signs of being a magic User as well. Being a fierce, opinionated extrovert, she dislikes everything from the moment of the arrival in Ithraya, and she’s not afraid to show it. Meg is a minor character, but I think she’ll become more involved in the story as I write––how, I’m not sure yet.
Darsall, and not necessarily the death of Finley’s father, is the one to blame for the havoc wreaked upon the fictional world and the chaos that the author knows nothing about. When Finley gives up writing during the period of grief, she uses her gift of Knowledge to equip his story’s protagonist with the power of the plot in order to keep the story moving forward––without a constant moving forward of the plot and writing, a story would eventually cease to exist.
Disclaimer: everything I’ve written so far for NaNo is pretty junky––it’s a NaNo draft, after all––but here’s a little something from one of the nine chapters of Fiction’s Lie I wrote before November 1 rolled around. Writing in Leo’s deep POV is so much fun.
The word “Challenger” caught his attention, and his tower of thoughts tumbled. He blinked several times to cut off his connection with the visual space portal in the black board and looked up. The TV from the far corner of the classroom was now in the front and center to face thirty students, their eyes turning on like lightbulbs. CNN was live at the Kennedy Space Center.
This was the moment of the month Leo had been waiting for. NASA had delayed this for far too long. He gently set down his pencil, but flipped to another empty page. This deserved more notes than any math formula. Nay, he prepared to critique.
There was some slight murmuring in the room until the broadcaster started the countdown.
“Aaand … lift off!”
Silence killed all other noise in the room, but Leo was sure everyone else could hear his heart beating.
“Lift off!” Came the broadcaster again.
Leo knew where his apprehension came from. One day soon, he would be pioneering in a project much bigger than this one. He didn’t like that he couldn’t quite understand the feeling, but somehow, the possible success of the Challenger’s launch seemed like a foreshadowing of the success of Leo’s own project. If NASA could do it, so could he.
“Engines beginning throttling down now at ninety-four percent.”
A kid two rows down started chewing loudly at his gum. Leo grit his teeth, trying to drown out the chomping interruption. The reverent ambience was being disturbed.
And then it happened. It was too sudden. The broadcaster had fallen silent and an explosion flew across the screen. If Leo’s mind had been entertaining any other thoughts, those were now gone; he didn’t notice that the kid had stopped chewing his gum or that his heart had stopped beating for a second. Despite a few gasps, the entire class sat silent in appall. The teacher held a hand over her mouth, her eyes almost as big as her glasses. The Challenger was nothing but a fiery ball, whizzing around the blue sky in a circle, the smoke leaving trails every which way.
So there you have it. Just a little sneak peak at what the end of this month will (hopefully) result in a full-length novel ready for an intense round of edits. Fiction’s Lie has been a very long, difficult journey, but Stage 2 has been a fun adventure so far.
I’m so, so excited for the rest of NaNoWriMo and I’m so excited for those of you who are also participating! If you are, tell me: What is your novel about? For my non-NaNo friends: what current project are you working on now, and how is it going? What tips to any of you have for persevering and getting to 50K this month? I want to know all. The comment section below is a good place for answering.
Thanks for reading, good luck, and you can do this! Cheers!