Wednesday, November 1

#WW: Surviving #NANO ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

It's November first, and all across the globe, typewriters, computers, tablets, notebooks-and-pens are whirring and scratching and clack-a-lacking to life as published and aspiring authors try to write a novel (50,000 words) in a single month. The theory is if you can create a daily writing habit in November - when life (and preps for the upcoming holiday season) is most certainly going to get in the way, you can create that habit during the other 11 months of year.

This is the part where I let you know that I don't NANO, at least not officially. I think it's an amazing experience, but for me, it just doesn't work. But, Kristina, you work well with deadlines? Yes, I actually do. But, Kristina, are you saying you don't have a daily writing habit? Nope, not saying that at all. But, Kristina, the title of this blog is SURVIVING NANO, if you don't do it WTF are you writing about? Come a little closer and I'll explain.

First, no, I don't NANO. Yes, I've written a 50,000 work book in a month. During the holidays, even. So why don't I NANO now? Because I think NANO isn't setting (most) writers up to create an actual working-writer life. I think, in theory, NANO could, but the rules for NANO are that you write X number of words each day for every day of November. And then you stop. There is nothing to push you forward into December or the New Year or anything else. It's a month-long challenge, and yes, some people do keep on writing with the habit they've formed, but many don't, and for many reasons.
Reasons like:

  • They didn't finish NANO and so they feel badly about themselves. 
  • They finished NANO but now they're burned out and their family is no longer speaking to them. 
  • They finish NANO and on reading through what they've written they've decided it sucks hairy balls and they are not writers. 
  • They didn't like the experience. 
  • They loved the experience, but they excelled at it, and so they feel there is nothing left to prove. 

The reasons people start and stop NANO are endless, and if you're starting, I applaud you - truly, I do. But I want you to remember, whether you finish with a 50,000 word total or a 50 word total that NANO isn't the beginning or the end of a writer career...and if you get to November 15 and see you won't hit your goal, it isn't the end of the world.

Here are 5 ways you can set yourself up to survive (and thrive, even) through NANO:

1. Don't set a daily wordcount goal. Seriously. I know, the overall goal of NANO is to write 50,000 words. The problem is, especially if you're just beginning, that writing 1,666 words in a day isn't necessarily feasible. (Why 1,666 words/day? Because 50,000/30=1666.6666, I'm rounding down a smidge). And, if one day you don't get those 1,666 in, the next day you have double that...and if you miss your goal a few more times, that goal number keeps getting larger until you know it isn't attainable and quit. So, don't set a daily wordcount goal, it's setting yourself up for failure.

2. Set a daily time goal. But time is the same as words? Not so. Start with a daily time of 30 minutes - we all have 30 minutes lying around somewhere - and use that time just for your book. Start out with research into a plot problem, sketch out a rough outline of where you think the character arcs are going to go. Use those 30 minutes to really get to know your book, your characters, your themes (tropes, if you will). Do this for 3-5 days, THEN start the writing. Again, without a daily wordcount goal - write for 30 minutes. If you have more to say, go for 45. Note: If you can set aside more than 30 minutes at first, go for it; set your beginning goal somewhere between attainable-yet-slightly-uncomfortable. That way you're working toward something...and as you go through the month, stretch out the time even more.

3. Give yourself a break. November is a crazy month - you have Thanksgiving preps, school programs, holiday shopping, family events, office, you're adding writing to the mix. You're going to get to a point during the month when you just need a break. Take it. Take a 20 minute nap, take an afternoon to walk through the botanical gardens or a local museum. Recharge your batteries. Take a break from the holiday preps AND the writing. Your mind (and your body) will thank you.

4. Stop the break. Don't let a 'break' become an 'end'. When your brain needs a break, definitely take it, but the next day, get back to your writing schedule. Are you still researching and character sketching? Okay, but maybe it's time to add in some actual words. Try writing an opening scene...or, if you've written through the first act of your book, how can you up the emotional stakes for your characters? Really stretch your writing muscles right now - trust me, you can DO IT!

5. NANO's over - are you? Be honest with yourself about NANO. Do you like this writing, researching, character developing thing? Great! Definitely keep going. If working on your book for 30-45 minutes is now 'easy', stretch that time out to a full hour, or even more. Keep working on your story, send your book to a trusted friend or critique partner. Think about next steps to getting it published. But, if NANO has made you realize you don't like this writing, researching, character developing thing? That's okay. Don't beat yourself up about it. Be honest with yourself about what you want. Do you need more time to create a happy life schedule, so that writing doesn't overwhelm everything? Or, have you realized that writing is a dream that simply isn't for you - that's okay, too. Maybe you're meant for something else - there are other jobs in publishing than writing, you know. Maybe you're meant to be a developmental editor, a professional reader, or  maybe your life is just too busy right now. All of those things are okay. Because, writing is hard. It's even harder once you're published...and there is NOTHING at all wrong with realizing now that there are other things more important to you.

Okay, readers, do you have advice for the NANOers out there? Share in the comments! ~Kristina


  1. Great suggestions for ALL writers ALL months of the year, Kristi!

  2. What a great post. Like Ava said, for ALL months of the year. I'm passing this on to the librarian here who's running the NANO at the library.

  3. I'm with Ava and Liz--great suggestions for every month of the year. I agree with everything you said--I don't do NANO either, but I appreciate your tips and will apply them as I write to a deadline for the first time ever. ;-)

    1. I saw your news on FB yesterday - so excited for your new venture!!!

  4. Good, solid advice, Kristina. I confess I've never done NANO either. When I first became aware of NANO, I didn't sign up because at that time, November was my busiest month at the day job. Since then, I don't feel the need to make November special because basically I'm doing this all year long. Though I have to confess I've been watching fellow writers get all excited about NANO and buddying up for the month to inspire each other and I feel a bit left out. Perhaps in a future year I might take the plunge, but I definitely would keep your suggestions in mind.

    1. The buddy system is definitely a great feature, Jana!

  5. I am not Nanoing this year. I think I've finally decided I will never win and am going to go without the stress. LOL. Good tips all.