National Novel Writing Month – You’ve Begun! How Do You Keep Going?
Fourteen-time NaNoWriMo winner Nita Sweeney offers motivation for your National Novel Writing Month adventure.
Congratulations! You’ve taken the huge step of signing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and you’re in the throes of writing your novel. But what happens if (when?) the exuberant exhilaration wears off? How do you keep going?
Don’t panic! Whether it’s your first Nano or your fifteenth, time-tested methods will help you keep going once that initial excitement wanes.
For the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge in which writers all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words of fiction (1,667 words a day) during the 30 days of November. Other writers (like me) aka “rebels,” write in other genres, revise, or add to existing works.
Regardless of which challenge you have chosen, the following tips can help you keep up your momentum and cross that finish line strong.
Candy Bar Scenes
Coined by author and writing teacher Holly Lisle, the term “candy bar scene” refers to any scene you are eager to write. Writing such a scene is a reward. You get words down and you enjoy it.
If you feel stuck, take a few minutes to make a list of scenes you know must happen in the story. Bonus points if these scenes excite you and make you eager to write, i.e. candy bar scenes. Don’t worry if any of these scenes occur late in the book or even at what you believe to be the end of the story. Don’t worry about writing out of order. Especially if you use writing software like Scrivener or yWriter, but even with word, you can cut and paste or drag and drop scenes into the correct order later. Organization is what December is for!
Make the list. Then, whenever you feel blocked, grab one of those scenes and dive in. Often we’re only fighting inertia. Use one of these “delicious” scenes to entice you back into the work.
Community for NaNoWriMo Motivation
I’m writing this during the pandemic. For safety issues, NaNoWriMo cannot allow in-person events this year. In the before times (and hopefully in the very soon after times), write-ins allowed wrimos (people participating in NaNoWriMo) to gather and write side-by-side in small groups. The pandemic prevents that fun, but it can’t keep us from gathering online!
Be sure to join your local region. Municipal Liaisons (regional leaders) and other wrimos host activities on Discord and Zoom or other chat rooms and video conferencing platforms. Word wars and word sprints or just camaraderie to write together will help you meet your daily goal.
The NaNoWriMo forums may also help you get the work done. Stumped with your plot? Go to the borrow a plot thread. Trouble naming your character? Let someone else name her for you. Don’t know what the name of that thingie your villian uses to kill people? Head to the experts forum. Someone there surely knows.
A word of warning, however. Time you spend in any of these communities takes away from the time you have to write. Beware of time sucks and rabbit holes. Perhaps set a timer to limit how long you spend scrolling through the interesting forum threads. You have words to write!
I hope you’re already well stocked with writing “fuel” (books and snacks). Chocolate and meditation books are my favorites right now and I also need coffee and tea. But we also need to eat healthy foods. Remember to eat a vegetable once in awhile and some protein too.
Friends and family can help here. If they want to support your efforts, invite them to bring you snacks! Promise them you’ll help with the dishes . . . in December. Boundaries are your friends in November (and always).
Maintaining Your Writing “Machine”
In addition to eating a few vitamin-rich foods (or taking some vitamin tablets) during November, don’t miss out on other ways of keeping your writing “machine” in top shape. By “machine” I mean your body.
If you exercise regularly, do your best to keep that up. Exercise benefits mood and mind health and great character arc ideas might pop into your head when you’re out jogging with the pupperina.
If you don’t have a fitness routine, add a walk around the block or a stretching session between writing bursts. Who knows! The habit might stick beyond November.
Your emotions can use a strength session too. Five minutes of meditation or a ten-minute writing practice session can refresh you during the month. No need to complicate it. The simplest thing can have a great benefit.
Structure is Your Friend
Those write-ins I mentioned? That’s a structure. A ten-minute timer, another structure. Word sprints and word wars, yet another way to structure your time and get the words down.
Make It Your Own
Some people write best first thing in the morning. Others are night owls. Another group loves to sneak in a writing session on a lunch break. And you’ll find still another bunch writing in their cars in the parking lot while waiting for their kids to get out of school.
Find the time and the place and the mode that works best for you. Make no apologies. Part of the lure of NaNoWriMo is experimentation. It’s a safe space to figure out your best writing practices. Lean into those, and don’t let anyone dissuade you.
Share Your Tips
I’ve offered some of my best motivation tips. I’d love to hear yours. Comment here or buddy me on the website. I’m willwrite4chocolate. And check out my other NaNoWriMo blog posts. I’ll see you around the forums!
Fewer Meds? Yes, Please!
A review of Journaling Power by Mari L. McCarthy
Mari had me on page 2:
After a year or two of regular writing therapy, I found I didn’t need the masses of prescription drugs I’d been taking.—Mari L. McCarthy
As someone once on six different medications, Mari’s pronouncement that she too found a way to reduce (or eliminate) her dependence on pharmaceuticals sparked my interest in reading more of Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live. In this part memoir, part how-to book, Mari L. McCarthy shares how her worsening symptoms led her on a search for health, and shares what she discovered so we can all benefit.
I identified with her hitting a point of desperation and discovering a solution. My memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, explains how running put the missing piece in place for me and pulled my health into balance. Like Mari, I was “in a desperate bid to recover my health.”
For Mari “writing therapy” was that missing piece.
Physical health is so completely intertwined with emotional health that it’s a wonder that so many of us deny the link.—Mari L. McCarthy
Mari suffers from MS and the onset of more extreme MS symptoms took away her option for the exercise she previously enjoyed. When she discovered Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” (three handwritten pages first thing each day) Mari soon experienced the kind of profound shift that I found in running.
At one of her lowest points, Mari could no longer write with her right (dominant) hand. Thinking of it solely as physical therapy, she trained herself to write left-handed. In that process, she not only discovered the way therapeutic writing transformed her emotions, but the act of dragging her pen across the page brought back circulation into part of her body being ravaged by MS.
My long-time teacher, best-selling author Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones, Three Simple Lines) often says, “Writing is a physical act.” Mari would agree.
Before I took up running, in addition to taking those many medications, I studied with and assisted Natalie Goldberg for several decades. Natalie teaches “writing practice,” the freewriting technique she founded based on her Zen practice. Similar to Mari’s journaling results, writing practice offers insights, and infuses the writer with a sense of calm and clarity.
In the years before I began to run, I’d stopped my daily writing practice. But the pandemic and my husband’s health crisis drove me back. I began to study with Natalie and and “met” online or over the phone with other writing practice regulars to write and read out loud. While Natalie didn’t intend writing practice to serve as therapy, similar to Mari’s “regular writing therapy” writing practice is therapeutic.
You Should Be Writing, the writing journal I co-authored with Brenda Knight, serves as a safe landing spot for therapeutic thoughts. Our journal offers author quotes to serve as inspiration and instruction. Whether a person wants to write for publication or seeks healing, the quotes in Chapter 8, “Writing as Medicine” show how writers throughout history felt the salve writing offers.
Mari’s method of journaling is also a form of meditation. Mari writes:
Instead of reaching for more caffeine, I would just sit with the tiredness, breathe deeply and acknowledge: “You are exhausted. Let’s just explore what’s going on.” I would approach my issues from a heart perspective. I stopped reacting in a knee-jerk fashion and expecting instant solutions. I learned to live more in the present moment.
Because of the scientifically-proven benefits, meditation earns a spot in my “Three Ways to Heal Your Mind,” completing the body—mind—spirit trifecta we require for stable health.
Mari found her own wellness trifecta, with a pen.
About the Book
Can the simple act of putting pen to paper every day lead to healing?
In the multi-award-winning Journaling Power: How To Create The Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live, Author, Musical Artist and CreateWriteNow.com Founder Mari L. McCarthy shares her story of how she used her own writing to relieve her symptoms of multiple sclerosis, become a 5-octave singer and created 20+ Inner Journey Workbooks.
This best-selling self-help memoir teaches you how to use your own journaling power to heal the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual issues in your tissues and embody and empower your True Self. You get step-by-step guidance on how to:
- Reduce physical pain and overcome illness
- Heal emotional wounds from past traumas
- Resolve inner conflicts and create self-compassion
- Eliminate limiting beliefs and fears
- Reconnect with your inner healer
- Reduce stress and find your inner wisdom
- Set realistic goals and discover the motivation to make them happen
Whether you need to heal from stressful life events or learn how to put yourself first, Mari L. McCarthy guides you on a journey of well-being and self-care. With Journaling Power, you unlock the powers of this self-healing tool to lead a life of joy, compassion, creativity, and growth. So, grab a notebook, a pen, and a quiet space, and reveal the strength of your unconscious mind.
About the Author, Mari L. McCarthy
Mari L. McCarthy, Founder and Inner Work Tour Guide of CreateWriteNow.com shows curious health-conscious people how to use Journaling For The Health Of It®️ to heal the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual issues in their tissues and to know and grow their True Self. She’s the multi-award-winning author of Journaling Power: How To Create The Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live and Heal Your Self With Journaling Power. Additionally, Mari created 20+ Journaling For The Health Of It® Inner Journey Workbooks that include Who Am I?, Declutter Your Life In 28 Days, and Take Control Of Your Health In 24 Days.
Find her online at:
Blog Tour Dates
March 1st @ WOW! Women on Writing – Join us as we celebrate Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power. Read an interview with the author, find out more about the healing powers of journaling, and enter to win a copy of the book.
March 4th @ Reviews and Interviews – Visit Lisa’s blog and read her interview with author Mari L. McCarthy about her book Journaling Power.
March 5th @ Bareroot Health – Visit Heather’s blog where you can read her insights into Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 6th @ CK Sorens Blog – Visit Carrie’s blog and read her review of Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 7th @ Joan Porte – Visit Joan’s blog and read her review of Journaling Power by Mari L. McCarthy.
March 8th @ Author Anthony Avina
Visit Anthony’s blog and read his review of Journaling Power
by Mari L. McCarthy.
March 9th @ The Potpourri Parlor –
Visit Chelle’s blog and read her insights into Mari L. McCarthy’s Journaling Power.
March 10th @ World of My Imagination –
Visit Nicole’s writing blog today and you can read guest reviewer, Angela Clay’s review of Journaling Power
by Mari L. McCarthy.
March 10th @ Leslie’s Voice –
Join Leslie as she reviews Mari L. McCarthy book Journaling Power.
March 11th @ Living Upp –
Join Stacy as she reviews Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 12th @ World of My Imagination –
Visit Nicole’s writing blog today where you can read guest reviewer, Wendy Kipfmiller-O’Brien’s review of Journaling Power
by Mari L. McCarthy
March 13th @ The Faerie Review –
Lily shares her insights into Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 14th @ Book Review Crew –
Join Sara where she reviews Journaling Power
by Mari L. McCarthy
March 15th @ Freeing the Butterfly –
Visit the Freeing the Butterfly blog and read her review of Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
Even more reviews!
March 16th @ My Question Life – Visit Kara’s blog today where she reviews Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 16th @ Pamela Cummins – Visit Pamela’s blog where she shares her thoughts about Mari L. McCarthy’s Journaling Power.
March 17th @ Nicolle Nattrass – Visit Nicolle’s blog today where she reviews Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 18th @ Deborah Zenha-Adams – Join Deborah as she spotlights Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 20th @ Because of Words – Join Cassie’s blog today where she reviews Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 22nd @ Not Without My Coffee – Visit Angelica’s blog today where she reviews Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 24th @ Anne Janzer’s Blog – Join Anne today at her blog where she reviews Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 25th @ The Frugalista Mom – Visit Rozelyn’s blog where you can read her review of Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 26th @ Melanie Faith – Visit Melanie’s blog today and read her insights into Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 26th @ Nita Sweeney – YOU ARE HERE! Join Nita as she shares her thoughts into Mari L. McCarthy’s new book.
March 27th @ Anne Greenawalt – Join Anne as she reviews Mari L. McCarthy’s new book.
March 28th @ Christy O’Callaghan – Join Christy as she reviews Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
March 28th @ The Knotty Needle – Stop by Judy’s blog today and review Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
April 1st @ Eden Literary – Deirdra will be spotlighting Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
April 2nd @ International Association for Journaling Writing – Read Lynda’s review of Mari L. McCarthy’s book Journaling Power.
If you purchase something through the affiliate links on this page, Write Now Columbus, a collection of resources for central Ohio writers and readers, will receive a small percentage of the sale.
Do you dream of studying with my long-time teacher, best-selling author Natalie Goldberg? It was my dream for many years before I made it a reality. Nat has updated her website with new workshops. Maybe it’s time for you to make your dream come true. It was life-changing for me.
One of the most frequent questions I get in person and on-line is how to find a writing group. I found my first writing group by randomly walking into a coffeeshop and noticing two women doing writing practice. I walked right up and asked if I could join them. My second writing group I formed by putting signs up at libraries and coffeehouses.
Folks find each other in more ways that you can imagine. Often, after my classes, folks will hang around and exchange phone numbers or email addresses. People meet at book signings and conferences. There are meetups and Facebook groups.
If you’re not that bold, check out the list of ongoing writing groups on my website. This is not a complete list of course. Many groups are private. But don’t fret. If you keep looking and asking, eventually you will find a clan of your own.
And be sure to check out my other blog posts on similar topics.
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” – Octavia E. Butler
Several writing habits keep me involved in the practice. The first is an on-line writing group I joined back in 1999 after attending several writing workshops with Natalie Goldberg. A group of us formed an email list. We agreed to send eight ten-minute writing practices to each other. Eventually the list grew and now it is a listserv, but there are still a handful of us writing and sending these writes to each other.
This newsletter is another set of habits. Throughout the month I gather events that I see in the paper or other sources and individuals email events to me. On the first of the month I scan fifty to sixty websites for more events. On the third of the month, the day the newsletter is due, often at the last minute, I write an essay to include.
I rarely know what I will write about ahead of time. Sometimes I use a quotation to feed my thoughts. Other times I take the dog for a long, slow walk and an idea will form. And sometimes I do sitting meditation and allow an essay to arise that way. It’s as if my body and mind know that it’s the third of month, time for the essay, because only a few times when I’ve been in extreme emotional distress have I been at a loss for words. These habits have served me well.
What habits do you use to get the writing done? I’d love to hear about them.