The Key to Succeeding at NaNoWriMo

Happy NaNo, WriMos! How’s everyone doing so far?

Happy times in Renee-land: I’m changing projects already. WHOOPS.

When I looked back at my NaNo progress over the years for the #NaNoThatWriMo challenge on Instagram, revisiting the days of yore (this is my eighth year of November NaNo!) I realized that ever since 2012, I haven’t completely stuck with one project for NaNo. I either start multiples and discard one or two; I start with one and move onto a second; I write fast and then spend the rest of the month redrafting; or I switch completely.

Oh, how younger me would wail at this.

In 2010 and 2011, I really felt the pressure of doing NaNo the right way. I was as much a NaNoWriMo, new-project-50k-finish-liner as you could possibly be. Thank GOODNESS it was a much smaller operation back then because in my pompousness legalism I could have really hurt some feelings, like I hurt myself.

I used to bite my nails off if I fell behind. I used to lose sleep trying feverishly to make a story work. I considered myself a no-good failure if I couldn’t get this RIGHT.

It all came to a head in 2012 when a friend told me to just stop beating myself up and write the story I wanted to write.

Sometimes her voice comes back to me, like now, when I’m two-and-a-tenth chapters deep on a story I’m just not feeling. When I consider that I might be “letting myself down” or “breaking the rules” if I switch gears.

You know what the key to winning NaNoWriMo is, guys?

It’s letting go.

It’s accepting that 1,667 words in a day will not always happen.

It’s accepting that you might write slower or faster than your peers and you’ll probably get funny looks in the forums EITHER WAY.

It’s accepting you might have negative progress on weekdays and spend your weekends playing catchup.

It’s accepting that you might become a rebel at some point:

You might switch projects,

discard one or two of the many you’re juggling,

decide to do a screenplay or novella instead,

decide you need to focus on self-care and family,

drop your goal to 20 or 30k,

edit instead of drafting.

It’s accepting that you built a ton of hype for yourself and your friends around a project that’s not working out and you’re going to switch back to something you do feel passionate about.

And ultimately, it’s accepting that NaNoWriMo is a tool, not a standard.

Guys. YOU ARE OKAY.

You are okay if you’re a NaNo purist and you’re okay if you’re a rebel and you’re okay if you switch from one to the other and back again. You’re okay if you waffle and deliberate and work on one project or two or ten or suddenly realize the deadline isn’t for you and decide to drop out altogether.

The structure should exist to serve the writer, not the writer to serve the structure.

Do what you have to do: rebel. Or keep the 50k in 30 Days torch alive. This month is about you and your project and whatever needs to happen for you to enjoy the process.

I’m saying this to all of you. I’m saying this to me.

Guys, we are a-okay.

Let’s just go have FUN.

Me, I’m going back to the project that hijacked my 2012 NaNo and changed me forever as a writer. These boys just never shut up.

See you all with a report on their shenanigans this Thursday!

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