Should You Participate in NaNoWriMo? | #5

In this week’s episode of the Inside the Writer's Soul podcast, we’ll be talking about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and whether you may want to take part in it. I’ll share my story about writing a novel in a month and why I can’t do it anymore, and I'll share 5 tips if you do decide to participate.

In this episode:

  • What is #NaNoWriMo?
  • Reasons you may (or may not) want to participate in #NaNo, plus 5 tips if you do
  • The story shared in this episode: How I used to participate and why I don’t anymore.

“For me, NaNoWriMo is just not realistic. I know myself, I know my schedule, I understand the time that I have in November between work and family commitments and I know I won’t finish writing a complete book. Being realistic is accepting that I can't finish the book in a month, and I am absolutely, completely 100% okay with that.”

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You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and more. Find links to all the apps here. If you like listening to the audio on video, you can also watch via my YouTube channel, or just read the transcript for the episode, too (you'll find it at the bottom of the page). You can also support the podcast (and me!) on Patreon

After you listen, join our podcast community on Facebook or comment below and let me know: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? Why or why not? 

As with many of my podcast episodes, I have a FREE resource to help you. Download a this undated monthly calendar to track your words and time spent writing. You'll get two versions - an undated month with a Sunday start and an undated month with a Monday start.

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[00:00:00] In this week's episode, we'll be talking about National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo and whether you may want to take part. I'll share my story about writing a novel in a month and why I can't do it anymore, and I'll give you five tips if you're considering it.

[00:00:15] You may write alone, but you are not alone. Inside the Writer's Soul focuses on how personal experiences can inform your writing and help you speak from the soul to really connect with readers and other authors as well. Your writer's soul doesn't need to take the writing and publishing journey alone. Join me, your host M. Khan, and let's move forward together.

[00:00:45] Hello and welcome! Today we're talking about NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. So NaNoWriMo is run by an official organization and they're actually a 501c3 nonprofit, and the point of National Novel Writing Month is to encourage people to write an entire novel in a month, and I'll have a link to their official Web site in my show notes along with the link to my profile as well in case you're interested.

[00:01:12] So the main goal of NaNoWriMo is to encourage writers, motivate them, and to build a community to help people achieve those goals. October, the month that this podcast goes live, is known as Prep-tober because people who are participating in NaNoWriMo are preparing for it because it takes place in November every year. Now, there are other times of the year when you might see something called Camp NaNo other Nano-related events, but November is usually the big month. Novels can of course be different lengths, but the word count they typically go for is 50,000 words in a month based on what I've read and seen.

[00:01:57] Now that I've given you a little bit of background to what NaNoWriMo is, I'll now go into different reasons why you may or may not want to participate. And if you're thinking about it, I'll give you five tips to help you through it and share why I don't participate anymore.

[00:02:14] So there are many reasons why you might want to participate in NaNoWriMo. I mentioned a few of them at the start of the podcast, which includes the community of other authors who are all doing the same thing with you and also the motivation and the structure. There are a lot of other authors who participate in this month, so you'll find a lot of author-tubers who have a presence in a community on YouTube, for example, who will be participating. You'll also find a lot of different communities on other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as well. People will often try to get several authors together to do things like word sprints or just to work on novels or other author-related things together.

[00:02:57] So if this is something you're considering doing, here are five tips to keep in mind. Tip number one is time. Being able to write an entire book in a month will require time and concessions for other things you may be doing in November. If you don't know how many words you typically write in, say, an hour, then that's something you may want to figure out in these last few days of October before November starts, so you can hit the ground running. If you're looking for help to write a little bit faster, I'm going to recommend my free writing challenge "How to Write Faster in 14 Days" where I teach you the tips and tricks I use to help me write three to four books per year. And you could get that for free just by signing up for my newsletter, the link is in the show notes.

[00:03:44] Now in relation to time, you may even need to re-evaluate your schedule and let go of certain things. Maybe going out with friends, for example, to spend time reaching your writing goals. If you want to succeed, you need to concede parts of your life that could get in the way of that. This doesn't mean avoiding friends. It just means putting your focus towards one thing for the whole month and sticking to that focus. Now, you don't need to finish an entire book in the month, though that is the goal that a lot of authors set for themselves. You can just choose to write part of a book in a month so you could decide to write, you know, 20,000 words or 30,000 words instead of the full 50,000 word novel. You could even choose to write maybe a series of short stories or just a novella or two.

[00:04:32] This leads me into tip number two, which is to be realistic about the goals that you're setting. I'm going to talk a lot about goal setting and setting the right goal for you in a future podcast coming up. But really think about what you want to get out of NaNoWriMo. What goal are you really shooting for? Is it actually realistic to achieve or are you just looking for a sense of community, for example, while you continue to write at your own pace? Do you really want to actually finish that 50,000 word novel you've been working on? Do you just want to finish a novella or a short story? What exactly do you want to get out of the month? If you're a plotter, for example, then maybe you don't pick a project you haven't plotted out by now with just a few days left in the month.

[00:05:17] If you're a pantser, maybe you don't pick a project that you won't be able to finish by the end of November or, and this is important, have realistic expectations of where you plan to be by the end of the month. Maybe your main goal is just progress on your project, not completing your project. And these are all valid goals to have. There's no one right answer to how to succeed at NaNoWriMo. There is no one right answer about which goal to set for yourself for NaNoWriMo. If this is your first time participating, really think about what you'd like to achieve and think about if that is a realistic goal to achieve.

[00:05:56] This leads me to tip number three, pick the right project. In these last few days of October, think about what you are really feeling inspired to write. Now you may have deadlines and so you may just need to work on those books or projects, and we'll talk about that in a minute. But if you have a choice about which projects to work on, pick something that will again be realistically achievable but it's something that you're actually excited to write about. Too often, if we think we have to finish something, we put too much pressure on ourselves and then it doesn't always get finished. So if you have a choice, find something that really inspires you.

[00:06:35] For example, I'm planning out a fantasy series right now. This wouldn't be a good project for NaNoWriMo because I'm not at the stage where I'm ready to start writing it. While I am a pantser, before I start a new series, I always do some planning about how many books I may want to write in the series, about some of the characters and some of the arcs I want to see taking place across each book and across the whole series. Now, I've written several series before, so I know this is essential before I start pansting the first novel. So starting to write book one wouldn't be a good NaNo project for this year. Now decide which project you really want to work on, what writing you really want to finish up. Once we get into December, a lot of people are celebrating holidays, which can make it difficult to write. So if you could finish up one project or make progress on one project in November, what could it be?

[00:07:29] Tip number four is to manage your creative energy. Now, sometimes when you're under a deadline and you just need to finish something up, you can find that the pressure might be too much or you find that you push yourself really hard one day and then you can't write at all the next day. So really think about how you're managing your creative and your physical energy. In next week's episode, I'm gonna be talking about how we can spend and manage our creativity so stay tuned for that. But for now, just think about the different ways that you can conserve your creative energy for that writing time that you'll need every single day during NaNoWriMo.

[00:08:06] Tip number five is alternate uses for NaNoWriMo. I believe in progress over perfection. If you can't finish a novel in the month like me, or you're not feeling up to writing for another reason, use a month to make progress on something else. Maybe you want to do some serious planning. Maybe you want to make progress on other aspects of your author life, like finishing your website or planning out your marketing for the upcoming months. This isn't strictly what NaNoWriMo is for, but it's similar to what I'll be using NaNo for to work on a variety of author-related projects. Now, if you're like me, you may already know that you're not able to finish a novel in an entire month. Now I have written a novel in a month before, though I wasn't participating officially through the NaNo website, but I did this many years ago when I first started writing. I used quick draft techniques to help me write, and so when I was writing every single day I could finish an entire book in a month, which for me was about a 50,000 word novel. I have spoken on the podcast before about different physical issues that I've had from pushing myself to write every day and how that was physically unhealthy for me, and in next week's episode, I'll talk a little bit about how that was creatively unhealthy for me as well.

[00:09:27] But for now, if you don't feel like you can finish a book in a month, just know that you are not alone. But just because you can't finish a book in a month doesn't mean you can't finish a book in a year. So maybe your NaNo is the entire year or maybe a few months like me. Or maybe it's half a year. There is no wrong way to write a book. These days, with my day job schedule and how I manage my self-care and my time, I don't usually write on weekdays anymore. So for me, it would be really difficult to finish a novel in an entire month unless I was really pushing myself every weekend.

[00:10:03] For me, NaNoWriMo is just not realistic. I know myself. I know my schedule. I understand the time that I have in November between work and family commitments, and I know I won't finish writing a complete book in that time. Being realistic is accepting that I can't finish the book in a month and I am absolutely, completely 100 percent okay with that. If this is something you struggle with accepting, please go back and check out podcast episode number two, "Why you don't need to write every day to be an author". Now, even though I won't be participating in NaNoWriMo the traditional way, I will still be writing and working on different author projects. I'll actually be hosting some live sessions in November, either through something like Facebook or YouTube lives or something similar where we can all chat and get together, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you're interested in joining those. Now, even though I won't be finishing a novel in a month, you can still find me through the NaNoWriMo website. I'll have a link to my profile in the show notes.

[00:11:06] Now I want to hear from you. Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? Why or why not? Head to the blog now and leave a comment. As with many of my podcast episodes, I have a free download for you: an undated monthly calendar to help you track your word count and your time spent writing. Head to my blog to download it now. The link's in the show notes. And please take a moment to rate this podcast and leave a review. Thank you so much.

[00:11:35] Thank you for listening to this episode. Check out the show notes for links to my blog and our community where you can get involved in the discussion and support others. While you're there, don't forget to sign up for my newsletter to get to free and powerful tools to help you. One: access to my growing library of free resources for authors; and Two: you'll also get access to my exclusive writing challenge "How to Write Faster in 14 Days" where I share all my tips and techniques that helped me finish over 20 works in five years. Check out the show notes for all the links and thanks again for being part of this community.

M. Khan

M. Khan has authored over 20 novels/novellas/short stories under a pen name, and is now working on a fantasy series under her own name. She teaches others how to plan holistically to get all the things done, and provides guidance and coaching to fellow authors.
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