NaNoWriMo Prep: Step Away

Only two days ago, I carried wine to my car in the snow. The cold air here is whistling down the neck of still-musty coats retrieved from storage boxes, leaves skitter in the wind, and a pumpkin late graces my writing time instead of coffee. Yes, NaNoWriMo is nearly here.

No matter how prepared or unprepared we are, no matter how much left there is to go before we feel “ready,” it is time to step away.

Put down the project and go walk in the cold, crunch through leaves with a favorite person next to you and a punkpin latte in your hand.

Go finish some laundry or cleaning, go out for drinks with all the people you will miss seeing next month, organize your pens in their mug with the cracked handle, eat enough “fun sized” candy that it is actually fun while watching marathons of junk television.

Do anything but write.

Take a break from preparation, from writing, from outlining (stop it), and go live. Enjoy cooking, listening to NPR, reading other people's fiction, shopping for sweaters.

It doesn't matter what we do, as long as we take time away.

We need to yearn for the writing, we need space to really know that we want it. We need the break from the page and screen to just be, to think, to feel our normal lives going on around us.

We need to every now and then close our eyes and imagine the task that is to come and to look forward to it, to feel the pull of the words, even if we do not know what they will say, and we need to be silent and listen for their distant voices.

They are already there, ready for us. We only need to show up.

So, for now, leave the writing where it is. There will be time later to plan or not, to write from the cuff or not, to think of ideas or not.* There will be plenty of time soon to be tired and stained with the color of our words and living halfway in the present. There will be plenty of time for creativity and adrenaline and long ,caffeinated nights trying to fit in just a little more work.

Rest now and rest well, there will be plenty to do.

In November.


*The next few posts are for those still plot hunting.

10 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Prep: Step Away

  1. I followed your guest post on and I have to say, I am completely in awe of what you are doing (and have done) this year.

    I too have given myself too many excuses as to why I don’t find the time to write as much as I want to. I think its time I walk the talk. I will be doing Nano this year, and I will be coming back to your blog for inspiration! Thank you for sharing what you are doing – I, for one, am beyond inspired by your efforts.


  2. Right now, I am a little confused and completely torn.
    The thing is, for once I decided to seriously prepare my NaNo by outlining my story for the very first time since I discover it existed in 2008.
    I did the NaNo four times and only won it once. The other stories went to waste, partially I think because I didn’t thought them up well enough, being a writing-purely-on-inspiration-writer.
    So here I am, trying to outline the story, and succeding to sum up the twenty or so first scenes (which I kinda need since I’m also a hellish-to-complex-stories-with-two-thousand-subplots-type-of-writer, and these happen to have a strong tendancy to go wild and totally escape my control)
    Anyways, I take a few minutes for myself and read your blog and then… well you tell me to back of and do anything but that.
    And I want to follow that advide, oh so much.
    Yet I’m afraid that if I don’t outline a little more, I’m not going to make it
    Torn, I said
    But I hope you’re going to have a great pre-Nano time !

    1. I know the fear. From personal experience, however, I would recommend following Pixie’s advice. If you think your outline is too complex, then your story will be too complex for you to make it through in 30 days. “Simplify” is always a good principle.

      One thing you can try to help you simplify is to write your different plot points and characters on Post-It notes, and hook them all together with strings. Figure out what your core story is, and then see what pieces you can eliminate without breaking the core. If you think you can’t take anything away without wrecking the whole story, try breaking off some pieces into separate short stories (or potentially novels).

      1. Oh my ! Even more novel ideas ! Feeling like my head is going to explode !
        Thanks for the tip though.
        Not sure I can de-complexify this story, however, since the subplots are a very important part of it, but maybe it is a sign that this story is just not nano-material and I should switch to another one. A simpler one (if I can manage such things which I highly doubt). Anyways, I think I’m going to enjoy coffee and walking instead of asking myself what could motivate A to stop B from killing C…

    2. Good points from Citizen there. You grok my meanings, sir.

      And I can understand the impulse to exert more control over your story, but it also sounds like you have a great start for yourself with the first bit of an outline, you can always add as the month goes on if needed.

      If your stories always try to run away anyway, I might be inclined to let them, at least for NaNoWriMo. The idea here is the words, not to come out with something remotely publishable.

      My advice to take a break before things start is because it is so easy to burn out with these things, thirty days is both very long and very short, and working longer than needed can add to that frayed-nerves feeling by the middle. But of course, I give lots of different advice, and none of it is meant to apply to everyone, you know what you need better than I.

      Keep us posted on how it goes!

      1. Well I decided that I needed to back off from my outlining (plus I really don’t like outlining as it turns out) and took time to do my laundry then catch up with the TV series Misfits. And I feel GREAT. So I guess I’ll see on November 1st where I am going to 😉

  3. I needed this advice. Thank you for posting it. I am plugging in a movie as soon as I am done posting this and cutting myself some slack. This is my first nano, not my first book, but I am as ready as I need to be, I think. The muses will have to carry me the rest of the way.

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