This year, I was going to have an outline. I was going to arrange my plot ahead of time, actually finish the Scrivener tutorial so I could use it for once, and I was going to go into NaNoWriMo with a solid game plan.
As anyone who has read my blog can probably guess, that is not what actually happened.
I have heard of some people having already produced a NaNoWriMo word count of 20,000 or higher, and I’m trying not to spiral into a vortex of self-pity. There is a remote possibility that I might just been the teensiest bit competitive, but I can neither confirm nor deny it. Depends who’s asking.
I have so much on my plate right now that if I stop to really think about it, I wind up in the fetal position weeping to the accompaniment of terrible 1980s power ballads. I have 50,000 words to write, a charity piece to complete, and two manuscripts to edit… not to mention those paltry house/children/husband/personal hygiene issues that occasionally require my attention as well. Add in things like a hurricane, my teenager’s report card (don’t ask), a smashed kneecap, a new internet provider, and the virus from hell that is bouncing around my household, and things may feel just slightly completely out of control and hopeless.
Don’t worry for me, though. This is my third year participating in NaNoWriMo, so I’m a little calmer than I might otherwise be right now. That’s not to say I’m actually calm – just less completely batshit insane.
What have I done today to combat stress? I gave myself permission to watch a couple episodes of Sherlock. I pfutzed with Instagram. I iced my knee while working on one of my editing jobs. And I opened the file for my NaNo novel, cast an appraising eye over it, and said, “Nope, not today.”
I want to enjoy writing this novel. Even with the pressure of the 30-day deadline – and often because of it – I have actually enjoyed writing the novels I created in prior years. When I sit down to write this year, if I’m not enjoying it, the deadline doesn’t matter. My feeling is that, with a ton of other things hanging over my head, I won’t be able to relax and have fun.
My advice to first-time WriMos is simple: relax. Yes, you want to use the pressure of the deadline to free yourself from your inner editor, but don’t put so much on yourself that you spend the entire month miserable and subsisting on Fritos and reheated diner coffee. You’re a writer, so writing should be fun for you. I still plan to hit 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th. I also plan to be sleep-deprived, slap-happy, and perhaps a wee bit mental. But those are all things I enjoy (in moderation). NaNo is the one time of the year when you are really aware of the breadth and scope of the writing community around the world, and it gives you a wonderful sense of camaraderie and belonging that we isolated and often awkward novelists are not used to experiencing.
So relax. Have fun. Write down every lunatic idea that pops into your head. And if you cherish your sanity at all, don’t worry about other people’s word counts. The only person you’re competing with is yourself.