Okay, so Nanowrimo begins today. And while I am not participating—as I am still burned out from the novel I just finished editing—I want to throw my support behind everyone I know (and even those I don’t) who are doing it this year. I’m so intrigued by this project, I can’t even tell you. I think some of it is how solitary writing is, or is for me anyway, so I love the idea of a group effort, or at least knowing that others are struggling along as you are. People: you can do this. You can! A few days back someone left a comment in my journal asking if I had any advice for someone trying Nanowrimo for the first time. So, late, here’s what works for me. Might not for you. But I’ll offer it up anyway.

1. Write at the same time every day. This has always been the one constant for me: I just write better in the afternoons, between 3-5. I think it began because I always used to write before my wait shift at 5:30, and I got in the habit, so I’ve kept doing it. I truly believe if you stick to some sort of schedule you can train your brain to think, okay, right, this is the time I should be working. I know when it’s 3pm, no matter where I am. And I am doubly aware of it if I’m not writing: it’s that nagging feeling, like I left the iron on or something. Your time might be midnight to two, or seven to eight in morning, or whatever. You probably already know when you do your best work. Now you just have to use it.

2. Don’t think too much. Just write. This is my downfall, always. I do best when I’m totally focused for my two hours a day, but can then tuck the book away and not actively think about it, fretting over it, for the other twenty-two. When I’m under a lot of pressure, I can’t NOT think about the book, while I’m brushing my teeth, making coffee, whatever, and this is never good. The best ideas come when you’re totally distracted, falling out of the air like unexpected asteroids. Boom! And there’s that scene you’ve been looking for. I think this another reason why I love Nanowrimo. You’re encouraged to just keep going, and NOT obsess. Good advice.

3. Chocolate helps. Okay, so this might just be me. But often the only way I can drag myself up to the computer day after day, when I’d really rather be napping or watching Oprah, is with the promise of chocolate. Hershey’s nuggets with Almonds are good, I find. Eat one, check your email, eat another, get to work. I’ve convinced myself they are crucial to my creative process. If not my waistline.

4. Writing should be fun. This is another one that I often forget, or struggle with, especially when I hit a bump, or feel like my entire book is caving in on itself, never a good thing. I’ve had books where writing was like going to a party everyday (This Lullaby) and ones where some days it was all so overwhelming I had to go lay down after I was done (Dreamland). Every book is different, or so I’m finding. But the one constant is that I do this because I really, really like it, even on the bad days. So if you’re in the midst of total self-loathing, just hang in. When you think you just can’t bear to start up again, you’ll have a great day that makes it all worthwhile. And it all counts. Every minute, every page, every word, even the ones no one will ever see.

5.Don’t compare. This is a hard one. Whenever you’re doing something, and so is someone else, the natural tendency is to look at theirs and see yours in a different light. Not healthy. Trust me. Whether you’re writing in a workshop, a class, or on your own, there will always be people who seem like it’s easier for them, that words just pour from their pen, unhindered, while yours seems to stop up constantly, sticky and gummy. But everyone struggles, even if you can’t see it. Focus on your own work, and write for YOU. You’re your own harshest critic, but also your own best support. Feel crazy yet? Ah, welcome to the wonderful life of a novelist! (I’m kidding. Sort of.)

Well, there you have it. Five tips, ignore them if you want, I totally understand. Really, I couldn’t begin to tell you How To Write A Novel, as I’m still figuring it out myself. Like I said, every book, every process, is different. When I started my first novel in college I found this great quote, can’t even remember who said it: “There are three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Which means, you have to find your own rules, what works for you. As I said earlier, you probably already know what some of them are. Now use them. And good luck! I am with you all, in spirit.

have a good day everyone….