NaNoWriMo (NaNo) is not just a writing challenge, it’s also a writing community that spans across oceans and time. It’s my favourite time of the year, but just like with any community, there are the ups and downs that come with it.
I’m a bit of an overachiever when it comes to NaNoWriMo, and I always strive for more than the 50,000 word count. This year will be my 12th year doing the program and it’s been amazing to see that every year, without fail, there’s a pattern. Each week of NaNo has a unique spin to it and no matter whether you’re an overachiever or you are aiming to hit 50,000 word count, if you’re prepared for what is to come, you can better adjust your ideal.
When you start NaNo it’s a bit like training for a marathon. While the aim is to write a 50,000 novel in 30 days, it shouldn’t be the goal. At the end of the month, you’ll have words that are a part of something bigger that are no way polished or finished. I think it’s important to know this and keep it in mind while we break down the weeks.
Each week has its own feel, and its own ability to teach you something valuable about your writing process and what to expect. You should take it seriously, but not too seriously. NaNoWriMo may say that it’s all about writing a novel in a month, but it’s a first draft for a project that will be bigger than you realise.
Welcome to Week 1! This is the week where you’re living your best life. You’re staying up late to make sure that you can get your words out. You’re warring with your fellow Nanoers in your state, town or province and you’re getting the words in. It’s also the week where you’re finding every bit of time to get your words in. You’re NaNoing from your car (which is parked...of course), under the table at work, on your phone discreetly in class or in the bathroom while hiding from the kids. This is the week that sets you up for greatness. It’s the first 11,669 words that are easy as pie.
Until they’re not.
Enter in Week 2.
This is most commonly known as the Week 2 Blues. This week your words are harder, almost like you’re trying to grow a flower in the middle of winter when it’s still too cold for the seeds to be sown. For me, I always find that this is the week where I doubt my ability to write. Or that what I’m writing is even good or that I have even chosen the right story to work with. It’s also the week where I have to consciously remind myself that editing is a bad idea. And that switching story ideas would be a very bad thing to do because I don’t really hate my story as much as I think I do. This is the week where the bare minimum of 1667 words a day is a real struggle. It’s staring at the page and yelling at your characters to do something so that you can get the story moving. Or maybe your muse is completely silent and you’re looking at the page wondering why the dreaded WB (writer’s block) is rearing its ugly head. It’s the week where you look at why you even started this journey? Is it really worth it?
Spoiler: It is worth it. 110% it’s worth it.
These thoughts will pass. Don’t give them too much thought. Write them down and burn them if you have to, but Week 2 Blues are there to keep you safe. Your brain wants you to stay small and once you get past the next 11,669words,s it gets easier. I promise.
Exit Week 2 and bring on Week 3. Writing through the slump brings back your momentum; this week you’re amped up, ready to write new words and watch as your story takes shape. The excitement creeps back in and the story is moving, this time faster and while you’ve done the bare minimum last week, this week you’re excited and ready to take on more. You’re adding a few extra words to your daily tally. And you’re back to finding those spare moments to write a few of those extra words. This is my favourite part of NaNo because all the worries and doubts you felt last week are a thing of the past. You’re back in the zone, which brings us to last week.
This is the week that brings it all to a crescendo, the end is in sight. It’s the validating week. This is where you can look back and see how far you have come. You’ve done it. You’ve written a draft in four weeks. Whether it’s 50,000 words, 100,000 or 20,000 words, you’ve done it. You’ve allowed yourself to write with abandon. They may be good or they may be terrible, but this is the week to celebrate.
NaNoWriMo is a wild ride. It’s also a really personal one. While these ups and downs make sense in a lineal way, they can happen at any time. If you’re an overachiever, the Week 2 slump can happen days in. Or even in week 3, before you pick yourself up and start back excited for more. It’s important to treat it as your own personal practice that gives you the ability to work smarter, not harder.
It’s not a race, it’s about learning your own ebbs and flows of what it’s like to write full time. Even if it’s for only a month.
Meet Mandi Kontos
Mandi is a writer, writing practice coach and dreamer empowering the writerly insides of those who choose to step up to the challenge that is just beyond their keyboards.
She is breaking internal editors, sabotages and procrastinators to bring writing into the lives of everyday women and men. Mandi aims to help them feel at home inside their haven created by a thriving writing practice that empowers and motivates writers to get more out of their stories and lives.