Friday, November 15, 2013

How to Write When You Feel Like Death

Hey all,

If you've been hanging out on Twitter recently, you may have noticed that I am not there. This is a bit of a travesty, guys, because I love it there and I miss you all. But see, I'm two weeks max away from delivering my second baby, and I basically feel like death warmed over. All day. Everyday.

I'm also doing NaNoWriMo.

So there really is only so much energy allowance I have per day, and I know that I burn most of it up by 6pm. Therefore, between the hours of 6am and 6pm, I know I have to work, take care of my other slightly needy kid, and write for NaNo. Twitter is on the back-burner for now.

Which brings me to this list here that I compiled. Even though I haven't been actively tweeting, I have been stalking all of your feeds and watching you ratchet up your word counts through the insanity that is NaNo. I've also seen a few of you get the flu, start feeling run down, and just downright burnt out. That is so sad, and I feel you. My word count is abysmal at this moment. But if you're struggling with feeling awful and still have the drive to finish, I have a few tips I've picked up from my author friends and from my own experience (I was in a similar situation last year and still managed to finish!).

Let Go of Your Story: I know the point of NaNo is to complete a draft of something or other in 30 days. But I find that if I tell myself it has to be this draft, in this way, I close off all the creative floodgates when I need them most. And let's be honest, you need as much excitement and creative power as possible right now to carry you through the next fifteen days of this marathon. So feel free to give yourself some space. That plot bunny that's come up during the first half of this? Follow it down the hole. That short story you've been wanting to finish? Do it. Writing is writing, and writing is more fun when you're doing it passionately. So bring some life back into this race when you're not feeling at your best but you still want to reach the finish line.

Write or Die. Sometimes It Feels Like They Take That Literally: I love Write or Die for certain situations, like when I've planned out the next scene pretty meticulously and I know I can whip through it with a little help from Write or Die, and I feel like the words will still be decent ones. However, this is a code red situation, and you may not feel up to putting in anymore effort into planning for this story on top of actually writing it. So just turn that sucker on in kamikaze mode, and write. And don't care if they're shitty. I swear, don't. It's about survival right now, remember?

Small Chunks Are Key: Part of the reason my word count is awful is because I haven't tallied up all of my words scattered over my iPad, phone, and various notebooks yet. I write whenever I feel a tiny bout of energy bubbling up, and I write for literally five minutes (or until that energy evaporates. Sometimes it's three minutes). I don't usually operate like this, and it's kind of tough for me. I like to write in looooong stretches, because I can feel myself getting better as the time goes on. I run the same way. But when you're not feeling like your most awesome self, feel free to write for five minutes here, ten minutes there. It makes the task less daunting, plus you'll be surprised how much you actually get done throughout the day.

Rewards and Rest: I've written about rewards are rest on my personal blog before, but I'm just going to reiterate it here: you're not going to want to do this when you feel like crap if there isn't some kind of reward in it for you. I'm not talking about intrinsic rewards, the "Oh, but I feel so accomplished ones!" No. That may work when you're not stressed and sick, but that is not going to fly right now. I reward myself with Tums. How pathetic is that? But it works. My conversation with myself goes something like this: "I know you have terrible heartburn right now, but I need you to write in this notebook for five more minutes. I'll set a timer. When you're finished, you get some sweet, sweet relief in the form of Berry Smoothie Tums, mmk?" If you're not into the whole depriving your body of medicine and pee breaks tactic, try something else you want just as badly: a twenty minute nap, a fifteen minute browse on Pinterest, a latte, a cookie, whatever. I'm serious. Whatever works.

So there you have it! By the way, these tips don't just apply to NaNo. I also use these when I'm feeling under the weather or stressed any time of the year and there's a deadline I'm trying to meet. Anyway, I know you guys can do this! See you at the finish line!

Andrea Hannah is a YA writer represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider. Her debut novel, OF SCARS AND STARDUST, is coming from Flux in Fall 2014. She writes stories about criminals, crazy people, and creatures that may or may not exist. When she's not writing, Andrea teaches special education, runs, spends time with her family, and tries to figure out a way to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (still unsuccessful). Oh, and she tweets a bajillion times a day, mostly about inappropriate things.

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2 secret replies:

  1. These are great! Especially the rewards and rest. I promise myself a day off at the end of the week if I work hard. Then I can rest without feeling guilty. :)

  2. I do that too, usually! Always a day of rest at the end of the week. But now I'm just giving myself a break every five minutes :) haha. Happy writing!