9355090806_80b6faabc7_cIt’s almost that time of year again.

As of this post, Halloween is one week away and a scant twenty-four hours later November descends upon us.

And the madness begins.

“So it begins,” some of you murmur, nodding your heads. You refer to the frantic, cinnamon-infused, fifty-five day explosion known as the Holidays. However, I speak of the much briefer (though no less frantic) span of days known as NaNoWriMo. In English, that translates to National Novel Writing Month. Non-writers call it November.

You may be vaguely aware of NaNoWriMo. You’ve seen your writer friends post about it on Twitter, tumblr, and Facebook. You heard them crying about it last. But for those of you going, “Margaret, I have no idea what you’re talking about”, I will explain:

On November 1st  many ambitious writers commit to writing a 50,000 novel by November 30th. How long is a 50,000 word novel, you ask. Think The Great Gatsby. NaNoWriMo challenges a writer to slam down 1,667 words every day for a month. Do you remember college? And term papers? That’s about how long each day’s work needs to be, or you end up playing catch-up. Some writers find that easy, others don’t. Either way, it’s stressful and more than a few writers spend November ripping their hair out. That’s totally normal (and hyperbolic, if your writer starts ripping their hair out, please intervene).

Now that we’re all on the same page, here are some ways that you—the ever supportive non-writer—can help:

  1. Understand– Writing over a thousand words a day (or several thousand every few days if that’s how your writer works) takes a lot of time. If you know someone who is attempting NaNoWriMo, they will be writing at every opportunity. Writing cuts away from the time your writer has for food, sleep, work, friends, family, personal hygeine, and any other diversions that life offers. Be aware of that. Please understand when they’re more forgetful or messier or less emotionally stable than usual. Know that it’s only for 30 days. Appreciate every moment they give you for the sacrifice it is.
  2. Help them focus– It’s the little things that eat away at writing time. After all, the laundry still needs to be done and you don’t stop loving your kids just because you’re writing a novel. The writer’s brain is easily distracted by all the things we SHOULD be doing, the things that NEED doing. Right now. If you live with a writer, even the smallest gestures help. Like doing the dishes or the laundry or giving them an hour without the kids or making sure they don’t have to worry about dinner on Thursdays.
  3. Encourage them– Writing can often feel like a waste of time—especially for your writer. It feels awkward to call it a job when you’re not getting paid, but you can’t get published (and make money) if you have no book. Remind your writer that it’s not a waste. Cheer them on. Whether or not a NaNo novel gets published isn’t the point. The point is finished the dumb thing.
  4. Treat it seriously– If your writer commits to NaNoWriMo this November, please don’t trivialize that. Under any circumstances, writing to fifty thousand words is a huge undertaking…and a HUGE achievement. Setting out to write that many words in just thirty days straddles completely crazy and definitely daunting. Writers have it hard enough finding time to write, please don’t make it harder by scoffing or dismissing our writing as a hobby. Respect the time your brave writer sets aside for NaNo. Respect their efforts. And do what you can to help them stick to that goal.
  5. Bribe them– If you’re so inclined and in the position to reward your writer for reaching fifty thousand words, go for it. Give them that extra incentive to push towards the goal. You don’t need to be extravagant (although, if you anyone wants to reward me with a trip to see Aladdin on Broadway, I won’t say no). It could be simple: a movie night with their favorite movie, taking them to dinner or ice cream, or promising to buy that book they’ve been ogling on Amazon for weeks.

Writers participate in NaNoWriMo for many reasons. Some writers use it to jump into their newest (or their first) novel. Other writers participate for the comradery. Or a change of pace. Every writer will give you a different answer. Every writer is different, but I’ll stress again, effort is the important thing about NaNo. If that idea stays in your writer’s head, it never gets published. By encouraging your writer (this holds true all year long), you are helping them get one step closer to a finished first draft and a finished first draft is one step closer to a published novel (though it might not be that particular novel).

Question of the week:

How do you encourage your writer? (Writers: How do your family/friends encourage you?)

Disclaimer: This is in no way aimed at anyone in my immediate circle. You are all wonderfully supportive of my writing. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I’m blessed to have each and every one of you supporting me.


Image: diary writing by Fredrik Rubensson, CC BY-SA 2.0

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