Tag Archives: writing buddies

The Unique Panic of NaNoWriMo

I always panic a little every Halloween. Not for the typical reasons of haunted houses, spooky costumes, or ghoulish frights. I am panicking because it is Nano Eve, the night before the crazy month-long novel-writing marathon kicks off. I am panicking because the challenge seems insurmountable. It seems that way every year.

This year my particular panic is related to time. Or perhaps that’s misleading – it’s really more of a question of energy. I am still recovering from a bout of bronchitis which zapped almost all of October for me. Being sick stole all the time and energy I had reserved for actually outlining my novel and putting together character sketches. Instead of creating, I spent most of the month sleeping. In addition, I started a part-time job that I’m still quite new at and I will be starting a full-time job within a week. So while time (or lack thereof) is definitely a valid factor, I have always been pretty good at squirreling away little pockets of time to get my writing done. But after what could be 60 hour work weeks, I’m afraid I won’t have much of a brain left to do the mentally taxing work of plotting, characterization, and ya know, putting words together in coherent sentences.

My First Nano

I still count my first Nanowrimo as my best – partly because the whole experience felt so new and liberating. It was a whole different attitude toward writing than I had previously held. I used to slave away quietly by myself, agonizing over word choices and plot points. Back then I was more prolific than I am now – maybe the world hadn’t beaten the spirit out of me yet. Writing was a very serious business to me, to be undertaken seriously and to have serious feelings about. I was introduced to Nanowrimo in college by my good friend Megan. She knew that I loved to write, yet I’d been experiencing a block for a long time. She encouraged me to try it. I protested that it was impossible. She said, “Just try it.”

It was the Nanowrimo of legends, I’m telling you:  I came up with a premise the night before, and I flew totally by the seat of my pants. I think it was the first time I had ever tried “pantsing” – the Nanowrimo term that refers to just making up the story as you go along with no outline to guide you. I can see why some people are die-hard pantsers – it’s pretty thrilling if you can pull it off. Somehow, by November 30, I had dragged myself through 50,000 words. I guess in some way, I am still chasing that thrill because I keep returning to Nanowrimo year after year, hoping to recapture some of that magic.

How I’m Going to Get Through This Month

I don’t think I could do this crazy month-long ride without the support of the writing community. Nanowrimo is, after all, the unifying force that brought our local group together all those years ago. I keep coming back to Nano because it’s so inspiring. I love to hear other author’s war stories, to see them emerge triumphant on the other side clutching all the words they cranked out. I love hearing that Nano has helped them to write more words than all the other months. I love being able to complain about parts of the noveling process with people who have been through the same emotional slog. If you have never been part of a writing group, it is a hard feeling to describe. It feels validating.

During my first Nano, the door to the online writing community really opened up to me. I had been reading some author blogs quite regularly, but it always felt like a rather small pool and the mode was experts (published authors) teaching the beginner (me). But Nano was different. There are forums and group chats. You could find a writing buddy halfway across the world – some nocturnal wrimos like being able to chat with someone in a different time zone. And everyone was in the same boat for the most part – we’re all just trying to write as much as we can in a short amount of time and not get discouraged along the way. I love that there is a different forum for each stage on the Nanowrimo website. Whether you are racing along with the Overachievers (we have a couple of those) or lamenting the first 10k (you know I have been there), there is always someone right alongside of you.

Of course our local in-person write-ins are always a fun time. There is something about having an excuse to get out of my house that really motivates me to get work done. It’s hard for me to write at home these days – too many distractions – so I look forward to our many write-ins at different libraries and local restaurants. Hearing the tippity-tap of everyone’s fingers flying across the keys also gives me a competitive streak – I feel like I am not doing enough if my fingers are not tippity-tapping too. All the official write-ins are on the calendar, but members can always propose unofficial meet-ups any time during the month and see if anybody is up to join.

I love how inclusive Nanowrimo is. There is no punishment if you don’t win. No one strips you of the title of “author” or flogs you for not meeting your word count. You can write about whatever you want. There’s no pressure to publish at the end. I feel that Peowrimos is especially inclusive, because we are just happy if you wrote more words this month – whether it’s fiction, poetry, whatever! The word count doesn’t actually matter. It’s the fact that you put forth the effort to do something that’s important to you.

With all that said, the only way I’m gonna get through Nano this year is to commit. To dig deep, grit my teeth, and discipline myself to write. Nanowrimo is like a crucible in that way – there’s no time to wallow in self-doubt when you have a deadline to hit. I have always been pretty motivated by deadlines, even if they are just self-imposed and made up. So I hereby announce with the publication of this blog post, I am going to try my hardest to win this year.

Are you committing to Nano?

A lot of writers don’t like Nano because they feel constricted, pressured, or rushed. I see it as more of convenient shorthand – a quick way to say, “I’m making my writing a priority this month with a bunch of buddies.” It’s a quick way to let other writers know that you’re a little crazy, you may need a lot of support, and that you are choosing your writing first over all the other things you could be doing this month.

If you want to be my online buddy, you can find me on the NaNoWriMo.org website as natfee.

And if you’re wondering whether I’m going to use this blog post toward my word count:  you bet I am.

To Camp or Not to Camp: NaNo is the Answer

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I knocked over one of those ever present piles of ‘to read’ books that decorate my house. The one that caught my attention was a beautiful little Jane Austen 5 year journal. It seemed that even before I knew I was a writer my family and friends must have thought I was because there are several, mostly empty versions scattered about my house. But this journal was special, a graduation present from a former English class friend; it celebrated my lifelong dream of finishing college. The fact that it took me nearly 40 years to reach that goal made it all the more precious.

The book flipped open to January 12th, 2014 and the short note read, “Went to my first writers’ workshop. Interesting people. Next meeting Feb.9th.” I was hooked. My friend Natalie accompanied me and we met some great people and learned so much. For a couple months I took notes, learned, and talked with writers who had taken the next step in story writing, rather than story thinking.

When March rolled around, the talk began to center on Camp, which of course many of us newbies thinks actually concerns marshmallows, sleeping bags, and mosquitoes. I had heard the term NaNoWriMo thrown about – National Novel Writing Month – but knew the process of spewing out 50,000 words in one month was not daunting as much as impossible. The longest thing I had written so far was a term paper on Eowyn from Lord of the Rings, and it was something under 4,000 words.

The idea of Camp, I was told, was to set your own limit and write what you wanted. The amount could be as low as 10,000 with the sky as the limit. I balked and my co-writers persisted. “It’s fun!” “You can do it!” “You could win!” Win? The competitive side of me reared its ugly head. To think I could win at anything was the final draw.

I signed up nervously, setting my goal at 10,000 words and got to know the website. The best thing for me was the graphs. Not only did it show me how I was doing for the month, but it let me know exactly how many words I needed to finish per day to stay on target and finish by the end of the month. The idea that I only needed to write 323 words per day was doable. The first week went fine. I was averaging around 350 a day and some days a bit more. I made it through the honeymoon stage, but then, as it must, life interfered and I missed a day. With a real effort I brought the numbers back up and surged on.

Sailing along at just over 400, I was so excited. But then my ideas stalled. What was I doing? What ever had made me think I could do this? I wasn’t a real writer. I would never win at this rate. I was doomed to be a ‘wannabe’ for the rest of my life. Reality TV would become my life. (My mind actually works like that sometimes). I drove my family crazy. How could I back out gracefully?

Finally I talked with the other writers, many who had had their own doubts at one time. They encouraged me to stop self-editing and let the words flow unheeded. Editing is for later. Enjoy the creative process. Later you can delete and add and punctuate. It made all of the difference. The competition was back on and I was ready. Each day I worked to increase my word count and as I did my story was running onto the page and making me laugh (lucky for me, it was a comedy). I was so far ahead that a single missed day did not end the race. I could see the finish line and the end of my story careening to a spectacular climax! Actually, it was more like an ‘aha’ moment, as I tend to write comedic mysteries, but I was very pleased. So pleased, I forgot about winning, forgot about whether it was good enough, forgot to think what others would think and just enjoyed. And in so doing I won.

Epilogue – Because, don’t all good stories have one? I finished my first story at around 12,000 words and went on to sign up for my second camp in July. Pledging 15,000, I finished at 20,000. When November rolled around I was ready for the challenge. I finished one day early with a grand total of 51,000 words. I had won again. After much editing and fixing, and the help of my friend Natalie, I compiled my stories and released my first book, Murder in the Library, a cozy mystery collection of three short stories, all because of my first attempt at Camp. My advice? Do it. Make it happen. Open up and let your words out. Enjoy. And even if your word count doesn’t meet your expectations, you still will have won.

peowrimos regional partnership

Hello, writer-types!

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and we’re happy to announce a partnership with two other NaNo-regions, Fredericton, New Brunswick and Seoul, South Korea!! We’ve got some fun stuff in store–virtual write-ins, word wars, and frenemy match-ups.

Want to sign up for a frenemy aka writing buddy from either Korea or Canada? Great! We have the link for you right here.

Stay tuned for more great NaNoWriMo events. 🙂