Nanowrimo 2012: Unsolicited Advice

Forgive me for reposting, but the timing seems relevant. I wrote this last year at the end of 2011’s NaNoWriMo, and I thought I’d share it here since this has become my de facto writing journal.

I’m going to have a tiny sappy moment here. Janie and I talked about doing NaNo for a few years, through college and post-college, but it wasn’t until we were 25 that we managed to sit down and do it, carving out hours of time with liquor and cigarettes, and our laptops in our laps. My mother and best friend and all-time favorite person in the world had died over the summer and i needed something—anything—to get out of my own head for awhile. NaNo gave me something constructive to focus on. With a support group of friends also making the attempt, a concrete goal, and a rigorous pace, I found the motivation to just fucking do it.

Aside from the immense satisfaction of finally doing something related to my degree field, NaNo rekindled a love for writing that I had as a teenager and lost somewhere along the way through high school essays and college creative writing classes. Writing became less about turning out just anything to get the job done and more about challenging myself. 2011 has been my third year both participating in and ‘winning,’ and at risk of sounding wildly cliche, it has changed my life.

I don’t know if any of what I’ve written will ever see the light of day. I don’t know if anyone other than my friends will ever read my work. None of that really matters because I feel proud of myself just because I’m writing again. So thank you, NaNoWriMo staff, supporters and participants. Thanks to my friends and my supportive boyfriend, and thanks to my mother, because I’m sure she’s somewhere still believing in me.

If you’ve been following along, you know I submitted 2011’s NaNo manuscript to Harper Voyager’s recent open submission call, and that means I’ve taken steps toward someone else seeing my writing. This is a terrifying and brilliant prospect for me; as the title of this blog might have indicated–tongue in cheek though it is–writing does feel a bit self-indulgent to me. I enjoy it so much I suppose I can’t fathom how anyone else could possibly care about it. Then again, I’ve been told I have a habit of being overly self-effacing, so I’ll decline to analyze the value of my own work.

The point I want to make is that every couple days I’ll read a handful of posts on WordPress or Persephone Magazine or elsewhere on the internet and what I see is a lot of people fretting. There’s so much anxiety, people wondering about their ability to reach the 50,000 word mark (daunting!) in the allotted 30 days. As this is my 4th year doing NaNoWriMo (and hopefully 4th year ‘winning’) I want to say DO IT DO IT DO IT.

Seriously. You have nothing to lose but time, and you will learn so much about yourself. Whether you hit the 50k mark or not, NaNo means giving yourself permission to carve time out of your other obligations and spend it on something that obviously interests you. Put a meal in the crock pot or order takeout, let your home get untidy, and prep your favorite writing implements. If you can get friends to suffer with you, fantastic. If you can’t, there are thousands of compatriots on the internet.


  • Caffeine. Tea, coffee, soda, those silly energy drinks; whatever your poison!
  • Liquor: While sometimes useful for liberating your mind of the voices telling you you can’t do something, booze can also make you fall asleep on your face instead of writing. Utilize with care.
  • Write or Die. This is pretty much the best website ever when it comes to NaNoWriMo. You set your word goal and time limit, hit start, and write in a little box. If you’re not writing enough the screen changes color. If you’re really not writing enough, obnoxious noises start! You can only stop the timer once, so it really forces you to focus. I think my personal best was 3000 words in 90 minutes, and it was a nightmare!
  • Back up your work. Save it to a flash drive or just plain email it to yourself every couple days. Ideally you’ll never need your backup, but it will give you peace of mind to know you’ve got it under control.
  • Don’t waste all your time on the internet. It’s the bane of productivity. Especially facebook.
  • Make music playlists or thematic movie selections in advance. Put something on that will keep you in the mood of your story but won’t be distracting. I like familiar favorite shows like Firefly and Spartacus, or inspiring moody music like Murder By Death or Nick Cave.
  • Build a buffer. If you can give yourself a day or two of buffer you might be able to still have relationships after November!
  • Don’t Panic. If it’s good enough for intergalactic travel, it’s good enough for me.
  • Don’t give up. So what if you’re on day 25 and only have 15,000 words? Keep going. It’s still 15,000 more words than you’d have bothered to write otherwise.
  • Have a snack. Have a couple snacks. Crunchy ones.

I love you all! We’ll be toiling together.

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