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Supporting Your Local NaNoWriMo Writer

Posted on November 13, 2014 at 6:00 am

By Gwendolyn Haley

Every year, I dread the arrival of November, because it means I have to say goodbye to my husband for a month while he participates in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), by attempting to write a novel of 50,000 words in one month.

Sure, he’s still at home, but when your loved one is engaged in the big, hairy, audacious goal of writing a minimum of 1600 words a day—you aren’t going to see them very much. There’s lots of support for the writers available online, but I thought I’d offer some encouragement those of you who find yourself—willingly or not—on a NaNoWriMo support team.

Whether your significant other, friend, roommate, child, or coworker is participating, you have an important role to play. You are joining the ranks of other notable support teams. Picture it: Mickey from the Rocky movies, Yogi Berra of the NY Yankees, Knute Rockne, All-American, Mission Control from Apollo 13, and you!

Lower your expectations for interactions

At the beginning, NaNoWriMo seems like a fun adventure, but as the days and weeks grind on, you are going to want to spend time with your loved one—during the holidays, for example. Give them permission to duck out early and avoid social engagements this month. Let the house get a little messy (or a lot messy in our case). The kids and I absolve Dad from all household chores and family activities during the month of November. While your writer can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid all human contact, you can help them focus by minimizing social obligations. I always get a lot of reading done, and one year I learned to knit during NaNoWriMo. Above all, give your writer permission to write.

Supporting Your Local NaNoWriMo Writer by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

Offer unconditional encouragement

Writing a novel can be an emotionally draining experience. There will be highs and lows (and the lows can be really low). Your writer needs to hear, and hear often, that they can do this! You have the opportunity to be the one voice in their life offering a counterpoint to the voices (often their own voice) that tell them they aren’t a good enough writer, that they don’t have enough talent, or that their story isn’t worth telling. You will tell them yes. Yes they are talented, yes their story is worthwhile and yes—they are worth the investment in their dream. After all, you are making a substantial investment into their dream, too. Be sure to celebrate the milestones along the way. The 25,000 or halfway mark is a big deal—make it one. If your writer has set daily word goals, ask how they are doing and congratulate them along the way.

Don’t let them give up

About mid-month, you are going to hear your writer start to make grumbling noises about quitting. DO NOT LET THEM. They may be stressed about word counts, stuck for ideas, or even questioning their own sanity for attempting it. They may express guilt for taking so much time away from family and friends. Remind them that a writer writes. Here’s where you might need to move from being a cheerleader (see Tip 2) and become a drill sergeant. Keep them going and do not accept any excuses. They were the one who signed up, and it’s too late to turn back now!

Keep the caffeine and snacks coming

Or whatever fuels their productivity. My writer likes Dr. Pepper and rewards himself every few thousand words with another can. My job is to keep the fridge stocked, and the kids away from the stash. I keep meals simple so that they can be consumed while in front of the laptop when he’s trying to meet a daily word goal.

Supporting Your Local NaNoWriMo Writer by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

Remember, NaNoWriMo is a marathon, not a sprint

There are days when you will be heartily sick of the whole thing. Imagine how your writer is feeling. Pace yourself and remember to breathe. Getting a writer through NaNoWriMo is no small achievement. It takes some sacrifice on your part to help a writer achieve their goal. They couldn’t do it without your support. When it’s all over, treat yourself and celebrate that it will be 11 months before NaNoWriMo comes around again.



Spokane County Library District is here to help support NaNoWriMo participants as well. Click here to check out dates, times, and locations for NaNoWriMo Write-Ins and an After NaNoWriMo Editing Workshop.

Gwendolyn Haley

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