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Swoon Author Vicky Skinner: Welcome to the NaNo Party

Hi!!! I am so excited to be here today to talk to you about my favorite holiday, National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo is not a holiday, you say? Nonsense! This year will be my eighth year participating! And after 8 years, NaNoWriMo is like Christmas in my house! It’s something I look forward to every year! The food, the writing groups, the absolute chaos of slamming out 50,000 absolutely terrible words in 30 days, losing sleep, quality time with your spouse, and probably letting work slip just a little bit. That’s what NaNoWriMo is to me. But just like with everything else in writing, the beauty is the way we all handle it differently.

For me, NaNoWriMo is like a big party. The most important things at a party are the people, the food, and the music.

The People: The very first time I did NaNoWriMo, back in 2010, I did it all alone. There’s really nothing wrong with doing it completely alone, but what I’ve found is that it makes it significantly less like a party and more like work. I think a good writing group is essential to staying motivated. Since that first year, I’ve created a small group of NaNoWriMo buddies here at home, with my mother and two close friends, but maybe you don’t know any writers in person. That’s the beauty of the NaNoWriMo website. You can meet people online who are looking to write what and when you’re writing. The site can connect you with people in your area if you don’t want to meet online. Or you can even use Twitter and other social media sites to meet a community of people who want to motivate each other. If doing NaNoWriMo completely alone is your cup of tea, more power to you. But writers need to motivate each other, especially during something as intense as NaNoWriMo.

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The Food: Look, I know people (me) who like to use cookies and chocolate and hot tea as their writing fuel, but I also know people who prefer to go the coffee and veggie chips and orange slices route. Whatever your means of sustenance, it’s very important. Food fuels your brain. If you’re stuck, it could honestly just be because you’re hungry. It’s hard to focus when your tummy is rumbling. If you’re meeting friends for a write in, meet somewhere where you can get a pastry or a bowl of soup to keep you fueled. If you’re at home, find a small, inexpensive snack and keep it on hand throughout the month. Eventually, you’ll find that every time you’re stuck, you reach for the snack, and it comforts you back into writing.

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The Music: Like I said, the beauty of NaNoWriMo is that everyone does it differently. I know people who absolutely can’t work with music playing, but most of the writers I know are attached to their writing music. I believe that art influences art. If you’re stuck, you might need to watch a movie or go to a museum or yes, listen to some really darn good music. If you’re trekking along, and you’re not feeling it, download some new music. I use Spotify to discover new artists and create playlists that will keep me moving forward. Whether it’s quiet instrumental music or upbeat, inspirational tunes, you need something to keep you focused and in the right frame of mind. Don’t ever underestimate the power of music on your manuscript.

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I know I said those were the three important things for NaNoWriMo, but let’s not forget this is a party, so the actual most important rule is to HAVE FUN!!

It’s really easy to let things get too serious when you’re trying to cram 50,000 words into 30 days. You get stressed, you get tired, you get overwhelmed. We’ve all been there. Maybe you fell behind by 10,000 words early on and now you’re struggling to catch up. Maybe you’re having to work late into the night because that’s the only time you have. These are things that are going to try to suck the fun out of the experience, but it’s important that you not put too much pressure on yourself. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun. It’s a time of celebrating and reminding yourself how awesome you are. It’s not just about crossing the finish line.

If you write 5,000 the first week but then got too busy, you still did GREAT. Because you wrote 5,000 words! And chances are better that you’ll go back and finish something you already started than that you’ll start something you’ve been meaning to start but never have!

Maybe it’s the last week and you’ve been doing great but something came up 10,000 words from the end, and now you don’t feel like finishing that manuscript. Hey, you did GREAT. You pushed yourself, you opened your brain up, and released as much of that story as you felt you needed to, even if you don’t want to continue to pursue it.

Sure, NaNoWriMo is about finishing a book. But it’s also about putting you in touch with your creative side, making yourself focus on a project, and doing something that you might not normally do. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t finish because remember, this is a party, so even if you didn’t make it to midnight, you showed up, and that’s a great place to start.

Happy National Novel Writing Month, everyone! It’s my favorite time of year, and I hope it’s yours, too! Grab your writing buddies, grab your snacks, start your playlist, and HAVE FUN!

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Author spotlight

Vicky Skinner

Born and raised in Texas, I don't act like much of a Texan. I like cold weather and hate country …

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