Almost every day since November 1, someone has said to me, “I’m so behind on NaNo.” I even caught myself saying it on Saturday.
My plan was to write 3000 words per day so I could be done before Thanksigiving. In fact, I’d be done on November 17. I was pushing myself to write 50,000 in 17 days while working a full-time job. So when I “only” wrote 1500 words last Friday, and then none on Saturday, I was feeling guilty, even a bit panicky about “only” being up to 13,500, even though I had more than enough time to hit 50,000 words before November 30.
This is NaNo! You’re not behind until December 1!
The problem for me is that once I say I’m going to write every day, I’m wracked with guilt when it doesn’t happen. (Same thing for working out.)
Which is why I decide each and every morning if I’m going to take a day off. Because when I plan ahead to not write, I still feel organized and on schedule.
And believe me, I need a day off once in awhile or my poor characters suffer. Writing day after day drains me and I stop telling my story in order to have fun with my characters and start writing to get them out of my hair.
Even with NaNo, if you’re writing just to hit your word count, you need to stop.
Because when I walk away for a while, my mind still keeps churning and I unconsciously plan and scheme for my characters while I’m rested, motivated and thoughtful, without even realizing it. I’ll come up with an idea that excites me so much, I return to the manuscript itching to get started and move the story forward.
Sometimes, this will happen on the day I’ve chosen to take as a rest day, and then I end up plugging away at the keyboard anyway.
The day before yesterday I decided not to write while being in the middle of the hardest day of my work trip, catching up on my blog and driving to Milwaukee, because I knew I would be writing just to get it done and the quality would not have been very good.
Then I found myself eating breakfast and thinking about a friend who had inspired one of my NaNo characters (one really had nothing to do with the other!), and the next thing I knew, I had pounded out 2500 words while sipping my tomato juice.
Today, on the other hand, I had planned to write, and I can already tell the stars are not aligning in my favor. So I’ll spend the evening wracked with guilt and probably try to “make up for it” tomorrow. So, yes, I’m ignoring everything I just wrote in this entire blog post!
I’m not behind on NaNo if I don’t write 3000 words a day, and you’re not behind if you haven’t written 1667 words every day or whatever your goal might have been. You may actually be much more off-track if you’re forcing your characters to do stuff, just to get words on the page every day.
Oh, trust me, the time for panic is coming; it’s just not here yet. So take a deep breath, relax, do something else and then write.