It’s November 1 and that means one thing to writers: the first day of National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo). For those of you who’ve been living in an underground bunker for the past few years, this is where thousands of writers get down to business to try and write a novel in a month (or at least 50,000 words of one!). In 2011, 256,618 writers participated and 36,843 crossed the 50K finish line.
I’ve never participated—I suppose every month is NaNoWriMo for me—but I think it’s an excellent idea. Don’t so many wannabe writers complain that their dream is to write a novel but they just don’t have the time? With NaNoWriMo you know that thousands of people are hunkering down, cranking out their daily 2000 word count and that’s a great motivator to finally get that novel started.
But what about staying motivated during NaNoWriMo? Or what about staying motivated whenever you’re writing a novel? Sometimes it’s just not easy to keep up the pace, no matter how much writing experience you have and no matter what the deadline. Writing is hard work and it can be daunting—there’s no doubt about that. So here are a few tips that might help you keep going:
1. Set at timer for 10 minutes, 25, 45 or whatever, turn off all distractions and just write. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with under self-imposed deadlines.
2. Try writing at a different time of the day or even a different location. Changes like this can sometimes kick-start new creative impulses.
3. Read the opening chapter of a novel in a different genre from what you’re writing. Or read the first chapter of a “competing” novel. It’s so easy now to find excerpts of books online and you might discover a new writer you can learn from or realize that your story is better than what’s out there!
4. Take a day off from writing. Lots of people say to write every day, but a break can do wonders for your creativity. Just don’t take off a whole month!
5. Go to a favorite café and do some people watching. Listen to conversations, observe behavior. Bring your laptop and/or notebook, look lost in thought and no one will realize you’re eavesdropping.
6. Watch a movie and notice its structure and character development. Does it hook you immediately in to the story? Are the characters three-dimensional or caricatures? If you think it’s a bore, why? Watch actively instead of passively and take notes. Apply what you learn to your own novel. You just might make some important discoveries.
7. Read your favorite magazine or blogs about writing. Get inspired by a fellow writer, or even a little envious, and you might find yourself back at your desk in no time, ready to type your brains out!
Girlfriends, what keeps you motivated?
Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels, "Midori by Moonlight" and "Love in Translation" (both published by St. Martin's Press), and the e-book novels, "FallingUphill" and "His Wife and Daughters," and e-book short story, “The Girl in the Tapestry.” She's also the author of the nonfiction e-book, "Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband." Her short story "Love Right on the Yesterday" appears in the anthology "Tomo," published by Stone Bridge Press, and her essay "Burning Up" is included in "Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen ofPop." Wendy holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and teaches for Stanford University's Online Writer's Studio. She also does private manuscript consulting for novels and memoirs. Follow her on Twitter at @Wendy_Tokunaga and visit her website at: www.WendyTokunaga.com