Okay, before you writers climb all over my case...
NaNo survival articles for writers abound. I even have one or two floating around out there.
The other night, though, Hubby and I were talking about November. It was right around the corner, and this year will be a little different than last year. All three of us are taking part in NaNoWriMo this year (it kicked off last night), so we'll each be playing the part of writer AND support staff for each other.
In our conversation, though, he mentioned that there were a few things he wishes someone had told him before hand about what he should have known going into my writing adventures.
So, as we roll into November, for those who are married to, parents of, or living with, an author who is tackling the daunting (but not impossible) task of writing a full, 200 page novel in 30 days, I give you the advice that Hubby wishes he'd had a year ago.
- Thou Shalt Not Speak Unless Spoken To First...
- Honestly, writers aren't trying to be rude when they snap at you for just asking if they want dinner. If you do get a rude reply, it's entirely possible that your writer is struggling to find just the right word or phrase for the scene he or she is working on. Their frustration is probably not with you, rather, they are irritated that nothing seems to fit.
- Be prepared with lots of snacks.
- Writing is hard work. And meals, they get forgotten. I've had meals brought to me, which got cold and went unnoticed because I was deep in thought about a scene, or pounding out the words to describe something intense in my manuscript (and yeah... I've even asked Hubby when that pizza was going to be ready... with it sitting beside me.) Healthy snacks are best, candy works great as motivation. Either way, keep that writer fueled up. Your writer has possibly forgotten they have a stomach that is empty.
- If your writer is the cook, be prepared for easy-fix meals.
- My biggest frustration last year, was having to stop mid-stream to fix dinner. (Real Life is soooo intrusive when you're a writer!). Alas, I have Hubby and Daughter to feed on a daily basis. Since all three of us are writing intensively this month, and all three of us take turns with the cooking, so...
- We made sure the freezers (both the small freezer and the chest freezer we recently acquired) are stocked with easy-prep meals like frozen pizzas, meatballs, hamburger patties and sausages that can be tossed in the crock pot. (Heads up! Join my mailing list at the end of this blog post, and get some of these recipes delivered right to your email in-box!).
- Treat your pizza delivery driver well - You will see him (or her) often.
- Easy fix meals are second only to delivered hot food. If your writer is also the primary cook, then please be sure to take good care of that delivery driver - chances are good that you'll see much of him this month.
- Be prepared for blank look.
- Your writer is probably thinking about their plot and is not in touch with reality. They might be looking at you, and seeing your lips move, but that critical detail they're currently pondering is using every firing neuron and brain cell. It's not personal - it's just NaNo.
- You are in this together
- Like it or not, you are just as much a part of writing this book as your writer is. As much as they may be the one creating the story, you are providing valuable emotional and moral support. Without you, they wouldn't be doing very well. (It's a myth that successful writers are aloof, withdrawn and utterly solitary - we need other humans. We thrive on the interactions of others to fuel the minutae of our stories that make them come to life!)
- You are NOT a bachelor
- Sorry guys (ladies, this goes for you, too!) Just because your spouse or significant other is writing a novel, they haven't forgotten you or ceased to love you. They are just caught up in the grip of a story they feel compelled to write, and they only have 30 days to get it all on paper - while trying not to completely ignore their real lives. It sounds a hell of a lot easier than it really is.
- Be prepared for really late nights
- Okay, here's the skinny: In my house, I'm the late riser, early to bed person. Mostly, because of chronic fatigue due to fibromyalgia. (Yeah, being in pain all the damn time and pretending to be "normal" is exhausting. Hell, just being in pain all the time is exhausting. Never mind the extra energy it takes to explain the situation to all those people who insist "You don't look sick..."). However, during NaNoWriMo, bedtimes can be a little wonky. Hubby keeps a close eye on me when I start staying up until 10, 11, 12 at night, and then, as December 1 rolls near, 2, 3 or 4 in the morning becomes closer to my actual bedtime. Needless to say, homeschooling Daughter requires that I am up around 7:30 in the morning, and those super late nights can't be frequent, for me. Your writer might be juggling work and/or school as they try to bang out 1600 words before they go to bed. (Yes, folks. to make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month, a writer will need to average 1,600 words per day). Be supportive, and keep an eye out for exhaustion (Urge rest, and remind them that winning NaNoWriMo is not an all-consuming goal. They really will get more done when they're well-rested).
- Schedules are irrelevant
- For all the writers I've met doing NaNoWriMo, I can tell you one recurring theme: Whatever the standard schedule is for your writer 11 months out of the year, during November, everything that can be negotiated, will be moved around to accommodate writing. Obviously, some things are set in stone, like jobs and school (unless you're like Daughter, and can rearrange your schedule, or use NaNoWriMo in place of subjects). Even emergencies get a skewed view from the writer pursuing that Winners' Shirt. Last year, I ended up in the ER with a migraine that refused to let up after 4 days. I don't remember much of the time in that gurney, but I do remember telling the nurse I didn't care what they did, as long as they made the headache go away so I could get back to writing (never mind that it was Thanksgiving... I didn't care about the holiday - I'd missed 3 days of writing already!).
- Accept that the fictional characters your writer is using, are real people (to the writer)
- I'm not sure how long it took Hubby and Daughter to accept this fact last year. But by the end of November, we spent more time talking about what Jill, Sophie and Ian (the primary characters in Finding Home) were up to than we did talking about social media, the news, and family issues combined.
- Believable stories come from writers who view their fictional characters as living, breathing entities. We go out and sit on the beach, and talk to our characters to understand why they're doing what they do. If you want a great illustration of this, check out the movie True Memoirs of an International Assassin. It's a fictional comedy, but the author in the story behaves very much like many of the writers I know (minus being kidnapped and dragged off to third world countries to execute three-way assassination plots).
- Your writer still loves you.
- If you're like Hubby, this one is a given. But when I'm caught up in drafting a story (or editing on a tight deadline), I will occasionally surface to an "Oh, shit" moment, when I realize I've been neglecting my relationships. Accept that we do this - we get so caught up in the story, that we temporarily forget that there's a real life going on outside the computer. It happens. It passes. We haven't stopped loving you. In fact, we've probably written parts of you into our protagonist, and have forgotten, for a moment, that you are a flesh and blood person. Be prepared for tacklehugs and lots of cuddles when the novel is finished (or when your significant other comes up for air, and has an "oh shit" moment of their own).
- And finally... November is only 30 days long. It will pass, as all things do. And come December 3rd or 4th (allow a few days for detox and celebration), you will have your... mostly normal... writer back to their usual self.