For many people, November 1st means it’s time to head to the store for some marked down Halloween candy. Or, perhaps it’s time to start worrying about Thanksgiving, your favorite football team, or No Shave November. But for many writers out there, November means it's time for NaNoWriMo.
Fondly known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month is an annual event where writers all over the world try to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. This year marks NaNoWriMo’s 20th anniversary, and with a new website and even more ways to hold yourself accountable to your goals, there has never been a better time to join in on the fun.
Whether you’re writing science fiction, romance, a mystery, or all three, we know that that 50,000 number can feel like a lot. How do you keep yourself accountable, while also getting through the month with your sanity and word count intact? Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s resident writer, Jake Sisko, often found himself writing under high-pressure circumstances himself (remember that whole Dominion War situation?) while on his journey to becoming a professional author. So, who better to look to than Jake himself for some Dos and Don’ts for making through the pressure cooker that is NaNoWriMo?
Do: Use Your Real-Life Experiences to Help Your Writing
In “...Nor the Battle to the Strong” Jake and Dr. Bashir respond to a distress call on their way back from a medical conference, and Jake finds the insuring hospital triage process and life in the war zone that follows difficult to process. You may or may not have an experience as intense as Jake does in this episode, but even if you haven't spent time in a warzone, your real-life experiences can help your writing come alive. Use your real feelings of heartbreak or excitement whenever you are not sure where to take your novel next. Stealing from a real moment of your life may be what helps you get over a tricky bout of writer's block.
Don’t: Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Jake has the tendency to get so caught up in his writing that he forgets to take care of himself. Sometimes a little break, like the three day vacation Jake passes on in “The Muse,” is just fine. While the chances that you will come across someone like Onaya, a being who can literally suck your life force by feeding off your creative energy, are pretty rare if you don’t take a break, it still can’t hurt. When you are so focused on getting those 50,000 words in it can be pretty easy to forget to do things, like eat, sleep and bathe. But those are just as important as getting your word count in. If you wear yourself out by working too hard, you will never be able to finish your novel. Remember that NaNoWriMo is a marathon, not a sprint!
Do: Write Whatever Comes to You
Onaya gives Jake this excellent advice in “The Muse”. And, while I know we just went over that Onaya was trying to kill him, this is still good writing advice! Even if it seems too silly or too dark, even if it seems to blow the plot off course, even if it seems like details that don’t need to be there — If it pops into your head, write it down. The ideas that comes to you out of nowhere are often what help shape the story, and during NaNoWriMo there are no bad ideas. If the idea doesn't work you can always take it out later when you edit. But there is a good chance the silly idea that popped into your head might just save your story.
Don’t: Be a Bad Roommate
Jake and Nog work through some very relatable roommate problems in “The Ascent.” The young Ferengi is a bit of a neat freak, while Jake has a far more relaxed attitude towards cleanliness and prefers putting his energy towards his creative pursuits. It can be very easy to forget to pick up after yourself, or to remember that other people may have to be up early while you are trying to get your word count in. But if you live with other people, it is important to still be considerate towards your family members, significant others, or any roommates you might have. And, having a cleaner workspace will also probably do you a lot of good. If you are feeling some writer's block that is a great time to take a few minutes to clean up a bit. It will give your mind a break and could save your relationship with those you have to live with.
Do: Share Your Writing
Jake is pretty good about letting others read his drafts and finished work, and often seeks out feedback. “The Visitor,” which sees an older Jake sharing his writing with a guest, Melanie, is a great example of this. While you might not feel as successful now as Jake is in the future, you’ll never find fans if you don’t show other people your writing. Start with your friends, especially the ones who have been supportive of you wanting to write to begin with.
Jake sharing his drafts is also a great tip. Sharing writing you are still working on can be really helpful! A fresh set of eyes may be what you need to see how you should go forward. Sure, it can be scary to share your work, but you have to do it. Stories are meant to be told not just kept in the writer's head.
Don’t: Give Up on Your Writing
“The Visitor” shows us that Jake gave up writing to try and save his father. This is incredibly noble, but even Captain Sisko was disappointed by Jake’s choice! Sure your writing may not always seem like the most important thing, but you are the only one who can write your story. If you don’t write it no one ever will. It can be very easy to get distracted by “real life” and forget to write. You may tell yourself that you can write whenever what you’re doing is done. But you will always be able to find an excuse to stop writing. You need to keep writing no matter what.
With these tips, you will be well on your way to winning NaNoWriMo. Good luck!
Rachel Amber Bloom (she/her) has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Texas State University and now works in social media in Austin, TX. In her free time she writes and is on the podcast Masks and Mayhem. If you want to see her nerd out about Star Trek and other things follow her on Twitter at @dramadork884.