Thrive During NaNoWriMo. Success with Step 6: What have you learned about cooking up words?

Construction site with wooden ladder leading out of hole dug for foundation of an apartment building.
Does your writing feel like you’re caged into a construction site? Get handy with a ladder to climb in and out. © Laurel Decher, 2016.

This is the sixth post in a short series on preparing for (and thriving during) National Novel Writing Month. The first post collects story ingredients here , the second finds the core of your story here , the third cuts the story up into manageable portion sizes here, the fourth clarifies the story soup here, and the fifth looks ahead to life after NaNoWriMo. Happy Writing!

In the U.S., Thanksgiving is approaching and that means:

  1. Lots of free time to write.
  2. Lots of other responsibilities.

Either way, a major holiday’s a valuable chance to find out how you work as a writer. In the midst of the flurry, take a moment to jot down what you learn. NaNoWriMo lets you prioritize writing and teaches you to fit it in around your life. A major holiday is a chance to figure out how to write and still have a life.

If the thought of writing in the midst of the frivolities gives you a headache, set your novel aside. Try this instead:

  • Fill yourself up with the conversations and atmosphere and gestures of the people you are with. What do people look like when they are happy or sad or tired or frustrated? You’ll have all kinds of opportunities for little details to bring your writing to life.
  • Study your life: What are you learning about yourself? What makes you happy, sad, tired, frustrated, thankful? What have you always thought was true?
  • Invite stories: What was your favorite Thanksgiving ever? Why? How did you meet? What’s your favorite memory of elementary school? The craft of writing teaches you to recognize a hidden story. Use your craft to deepen your relationships with the people near you.
  • Read a book that makes you happy. Relax your weary brain. You’ll be amazed at what pops up the next time you write.

If you spot a short window of writing opportunity, seize it. By now, you’re probably good at making yourself write no matter how you feel. If so, try this:

  • Go with the rhythm. You’ve been coming up with words regularly, so you know writing feels much more like chopping vegetables or raking leaves than floating on clouds while the muse feeds you grapes. It’s repetitive work. Notice how you feel about writing without giving your feelings weight.
  • Don’t force the words. Settle into them without judgement. Writers call this “turning off the internal editor.” But you can also think of it as having a neutral, encouraging sort of editor who is waiting for your words to appear. Without critique.
  • Try different muscles. Writing is mental work, but it’s also physical. Whether you type or dictate or scribble in notebooks, you have to go through the motions to get the words. Changing how you get words can help.

What’s NaNoWriMo showing you so far? Are you surprised about when you write most?

You may already think of yourself as a morning person or a night owl or an afternoon warrior. But your peak thinking time may be different than your peak imagining time. Or you may be full of brilliant ideas at night, but words show up more consistently in the morning.

In her book, 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, Rachel Aaron writes about the time/energy/knowledge triangle as the key to writing lots of words. She writes about her own surprise that her best time of day for writing was not when she expected it to be.

(Post NaNoWriMo note: It’s a smart book that doesn’t take long to read. Good points about revision too.)

If you haven’t noticed a pattern, try jotting down time, place, mood before you launch into your words.

If you have, I’d love to hear about your writing style. Are you surprised by what you found out?

_______________

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Laurel Decher

LAUREL DECHER writes stories about all things Italian, vegetable, or musical. Beloved pets of the past include "Stretchy the Leech" and a guinea pig that unexpectedly produced twins. She's famous for a nonexistent sense of direction, but carries maps because people always ask her for directions. When she's not lost, she can be found on Twitter and on her blog, This Is An Overseas Post, where she writes about life with her family in Germany. She's still a Vermonter and an epidemiologist at heart. PSA: Eat more kale! :) Her short fiction for adults, UNFORESEEN TIMES, originally appeared in _Windhover_. Photo: © Jane Joo Park, 2017.

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