Writing itself is an individual activity. No one else can write your words for you. No one else can decide what your characters do or say. But sometimes, the writing process does involve other people. In the case of National Novel Writing Month, there’s a community aspect to the competition. You’re not competing against anyone else – you’re there to write, to “meet” new people and have fun. Here’s how to, and not to, use this community to have a totally awesome NaNo experience this year. (ONE! MORE! WEEK!)
DO establish an equal support system.
When you join NaNoWriMo, you also join a home region – an online community full of writers who actually live near you. Though NaNo itself is a virtual event, the leaders of your region – your MLs – will encourage you to meet up with one another and interact with each other in the regional forums. The purpose of grouping participants into smaller communities has a lot to do with support. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is hard. At some point you will probably need a little boost. It’s likely someone else in your region will be able to encourage you when you’re struggling. You can do the same for someone else who’s having a rough writing stretch.
DON’T expect someone else to support you if you don’t return the favor. Being part of a writing community is about encouraging one another to keep writing, and in some cases (though not so much with NaNo), write better. It’s not about finding someone who is going to nag you 24/7 to write – unless you plan on doing the same for them. It’s not all about you.
DO join a word sprint.
Otherwise known as, join up with one other person or a group of people, set a time limit and see how many words you can all write in that amount of time. The pressure is on, which means you’re much less likely to fall prey to distractions. You can treat it as a competition or just compare numbers when time’s up – it’s really up to you. You can do this on your own, but it’s much more fun with a group.
DON’T wear yourself out. Sprinting is fun – and productive, in terms of getting your word count up – but it’s exhausting. The last thing you want to do is completely burn out by the second week because you’re going at it a little too hard (yes, it happens). If you’re going to sprint, do it sparingly – when you really need a word count boost or you can’t get your fingers to type words, not necessarily when you’re bored or your introvert self needs some social time.
DO have fun!
I take my writing very seriously, but November is my favorite month because it’s not work. Writing a novel, and interacting with other people doing the exact same thing, is an absolute blast. You don’t have to worry about all the small mechanics of your novel. Nothing has to be perfect. Just hop on and enjoy the ride.
DON’T forget about the reason we’re all here – to write. I love joking around and answering silly questions as much as anyone, but not when it’s starting to take away from my writing time. I’m an ML, so I also have to divide my time between personal writing and forum moderating, planning events, etc. – but if you find yourself distracted by people in your region, it’s OK to take a step back and focus on your novel. No one expects you to hang out on the forums 24/7. Have fun – but not too much fun. At least until you’ve hit your daily word count goal. Then, by all means, go crazy. (You’re already doing that, seeing as you’re about to write a novel in a month, but …)
Your NaNo community is valuable – but always remember that it’s not about finding someone else that will be there for you. It’s about joining an entire bunch of word-loving literary maniacs in the race toward 50,000 words. If you see someone struggling, help them along. Have fun. Be nice and join in the conversation. Just don’t forget to actually get some writing done along the way. That is, after all, the whole reason thousands of people are tossing and turning nightly waiting for next week to HURRY UP AND GET HERE ALREADY. Or is that just me?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.