Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month! Ideally at this point, a budding novelist is finishing up the last few pages of their completed work. There might even be time to make a few edits before sharing the finalized story with friends and family.
But I’m going to be honest. This month has brought unexpected commitments, difficult time crunches, and opportunities to do things with friends and family that were hard to pass up in exchange for locking myself away to write. I got behind on where I wanted to be in order to finish, and I started looking at writing as more of something that I had to, not something that I could enjoy. So I had to remove myself for a minute, review the tips I received at the Smithsonian Associates’ “Write a Novel in a Month” program, and think about how I could change the experience to work for me.
In case any of you out there need an extra push to finish your novel or want to keep writing as part of your life after the month ends, here’s what helped me to enjoy the process again!
(image via rebloggy)
- Just write
One of my main struggles while working on this novel was constantly second-guessing myself. Almost as soon as I wrote the first few paragraphs, I realized that the whole premise of my story was awful, I had no direction, and my sentence structure left something to be desired. I couldn’t write anything without doubting my ability to use the English language.
In Kathryn Johnson’s program, she talked about writing a rough draft. That it didn’t matter if the story was pretty or polished as long as it was out on paper. I forced myself to take this to heart and just write. And I will be the first to admit that what I have is nothing close to a classic, but my story is out there on paper, which is much more of an accomplishment than I realized at first.
(image via Acre)
- Find creativity anywhere
When I attended the “Write a Novel in a Month” program back in the beginning of October, I was still finalizing my plans for the story. I was thinking about some bigger ideas I wanted to cover, but I wasn’t sure how they would show up in my novel yet. We discussed finding inspiration everywhere around you, and how a poignant novel doesn’t have to have an exotic setting. So I decided to focus on things that I knew. I wrote down funny things that happened to me throughout the day, looked at pictures I liked, and found ways to bring them into the details of my book. I love the Midwest, so a small town became the setting for part of my story. When forming your story, make sure to look around for the things that you relate to and care about to incorporate. Don’t feel pressure to write what you think people will like; write about what matters to you.
Another way to find inspiration is to get together with fellow writers. You can go over ideas, discuss favorite books, or complain. Whatever works. But spending time with other creative people with a similar goal will help.
(image via Pinterest)
- Make writing fit your lifestyle
Now, this is essential. I struggled so much because I was going about writing in the entirely wrong way. I am a social person and hate being alone. So when I started the process by writing alone in my room after my internship, it clearly did not stick. Once I adjusted my process, I actually looked forward to writing. What works for me will be different than what will help others, but here are just a few ideas of when to fit writing in:
- On your commute! Unless you’re driving, travel time is perfect for working on a story. You can write, people watch, or think.
- Before bed! I made a point of writing at least a few pages before going to sleep each night. Whether or not they make sense is debatable because I was tired, but it encouraged me to write quickly and just get it out.
- Don’t feel like you have to be alone when you write. I adopted a study group mentality and started working on my story while spending time with friends. If they put on a movie, I’d still go but work on my book.
- Make it a competition against yourself or someone else! I am competitive by nature, so I especially enjoyed this one. I’d set a time limit to see how much I could write or promise myself a prize for accomplishing certain goals. Another way to do this is through formal writing competitions. For example, American University's FOLIO competition is coming up as a chance to test your poetry and prose ability.
Most importantly, DO NOT feel like a failure if you don’t have the end result you expected. Writing is a process, and I know through this process I learned a lot about my story and myself that I did not know on November 1. So keep writing and, most importantly, enjoy it.