Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

Long Shadows of November: The Reality of Post-Novel Depression

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When you finish a novel, there is a major rush of exhillartation. You have climbed the mountain and as is your right you are ready to celebrate. Your mind begins to fill with dreams of publishing contracts and interviews, the book tours and the awards. You see the cover of your book quite clearly. You see your name in tall letters, your characters enshrined in the literary canon, your plot praised, your writing revered. You never want this feeling to end (who would), and if you are inexperienced, you may believe that it never will.

The feeling of euphoria fades, sometimes as quickly as it comes.

I am a NaNoWriMo winner, but I still have a lot of work to do. I estimate at least another 100K words before I begin my process of revision. There are many months ahead. But even now, I am beginning to feel the twinge of post-novel depression. I suppose it has something to do with the artificial schedule and deadline of NaNo.

I suspect there are many of your who are done-done with your book and are now grappling with the full effects of post-novel depression, so I thought I’d take a moment to share my experience.

You’ve just spent days, weeks, months (even years) working through the pain and triumph of your story. The characters you created are no longer just ideas or names, they are family, friends, and lovers. They are a part of you, as inseparable from you as your own face.

Yet, the story must end… The characters exit. The audience leaves the house. A single light shines on the empty stage. As silence descends, you are left alone in the theater of your mind.

You may try to work through it by writing more or working on other projects. You may try to exercise your way out of it, or distract yourself with a vacation. I’ve tried all of these avenues and each time I found that I was only delaying the inevitable.

Take heart though, this deep anguish is something that most, if not all, novelists experience. So while you cannot “beat” it, you do not suffer alone, and eventually it will end.

Personally, I have come to recognize post-novel depression as part of the process. Instead of dreading it, I welcome the experience as a natural part of writing. This does little to cushion the darkness but it does fend off the worst of despair.

Just remember that this will pass. The story in your hands is yours alone and you will turn it into a bright and shining miracle once the clouds clear. 🙂

Shut The Hell Up And Write: A Whiner's Guide and NaNoWriMo Profile

As part of my NaNoWriMo Halo Giveaway, I offered all of the folks who signed up a chance to write a guest post for How Not To Write. I think you’ll be amazed as I was at the variety of people who have submitted posts. I know I am. I’m also proud to share their words here and I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment. — Jamie

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Today’s post comes from Liz C.

Liz, according to her boyfriend, enjoys collecting competencies, which means that she tries new things then dumps them when she gets bored. By day she sits at a desk in front of a computer and answers tech support phone calls, which has enabled her to write probably 75-80% of her novel at work. She is enjoying her first NaNo, and when November ends, she’ll go back to writing on her five blogs and dreaming about maybe taking some writing classes before next year.

You can find her main blog at http://anywayiwasjustthinking.blogspot.com, where she whines about all sorts of things, including her 25 year old daughter and 9 year old son, neither of whom read her blog.( Although her ex-husband and boyfriend do.)

Shut The Hell Up And Write: A Whiner’s Guide

I admit it: I’m a whiner. I like to try new things, and even though in most cases I do all right, I always whine a lot about it along the way. I blame this mostly on my Protestant ancestors, the Greek chorus that sits in the back of my mind reminding me not to be boastful or get too full of myself. Whining about how hard everything is and how I am sure I am going to fail is my weak attempt at modesty. Sometimes I do fail, but most of the time I come out OK.

I blog, therefore I whine in public. As you can guess, I’ve been whining a lot lately about NaNoWriMo. It’s my first. Yeah, it’s been a challenge, but I hit 50K on the 20th and still have a shot at 75K. And I may even finish the story, although that’s still in doubt. Is it any good? Well, I think the basic premise is cool, although since I haven’t written anything remotely fiction-like since Mr. Johnson’s creative writing class over 30 years ago, I’m making quite a hash of it. But I’ve won NaNo, and that was my goal. I’ll postpone my dream of agents beating down my door until I get a clue.

In today’s blog post I complained about how everything was falling apart and how miserable I am. Then I cranked out 1600 words and went to lunch. Back at my desk, it was time to catch up on my blog reading before diving back in. I read many blogs: food blogs, humor blogs, writing blogs, and a few personal blogs.

So there’s this woman I know. I don’t know her well, although we’ve met a few times in recent years. She is funny and witty and clever and… eccentric. She has ‘deficits’, as she puts it, but she embraces them and celebrates them. They are all part of what makes her funny and witty and clever. And eccentric.

She also blogs, although ‘blog’ is a lame word for what she does. I blog; she slices off a piece of her heart and sticks it on the screen. I love to read her blog, and when a rare post from her pops up in my Google reader, I hoard it, saving it until I have read everything else, like a tiny bag of Peanut M&M’s at the bottom of the plastic Halloween pumpkin.

Today, after she blew my socks off*, she ended with this quote from Thornton Wilder:

“When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.”

That hit me upside the head like a cold, wet sponge, causing me to completely cease whining for a good ten minutes.

I think it’s time for me to Shut The Hell Up And Write. November will be over soon enough, and then where will I be? Safe at home, whining about how I wish I was having an adventure.

* Note: That is both hyperbole and cliché. There were no actual socks blown off.


Interested in sharing your story? I’ve opened up the writer profiles section to submissions from any/all writers. Read on for “guidelines”.

NaNoParaNoia: A NaNoWriMo Profile

As part of my NaNoWriMo Halo Giveaway, I offered all of the folks who signed up a chance to write a guest post for How Not To Write. I think you’ll be amazed as I was at the variety of people who have submitted posts. I know I am. I’m also proud to share their words here and I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment. — Jamie

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Today’s post comes from Whitney McKim.

Whitney is a 2nd time NaNoWriMo participant. With nearly two NaNos under her belt she’s decided it is her calling in this life to spread the wonders of month-long noveling to the world – or maybe just Northern Virginia and Maryland. Whitney feels like writing what you know is for the birds! If fiction is for escapism, step outside your comfort zone and explore uncharted territory!

Other than noveling, Whitney can most often be found behind the lens of any number of cameras (a Nikon, a Fed 5, a Pentax K-1000, a Holga, or a Kodak Duaflex IV), haikuing, or running her beautiful Dalmatian, Magnolia, in flyball.

Whitney’s progress can be followed via Embarking on 30 Days of Literary Abandon (apologizes for the hyperlink, it’s an abbreviation for the “old” title to her first NaNovel: 10-90: The Life and Times of an American Bank Robber.)

NaNoParaNoia

It happens around 40K, sometimes as early as 30K. You’ve passed that half-way marker. You celebrated at 25K. You are happy to see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s true, NaNoWriMo Stardom is in your future. You are going to make it to the finish line! 50,000 words in 30 agonizing days will be an achievement that you can brag about for years to come!! You are going to be an author.

Wait… what was that? Didn’t you see it? It was just right there! Look!! There it goes again!!! No, I’m not crazy, It’s out there. Suddenly every bump in the night, every heavily cloaked man-who-fits-the-racial-profile-of-a-terrorist-suicide-bomber, every eye-shine in the night on your drive home from a write-in, every whine of your hard drive is a disaster waiting to happen. You are convinced that everything is out to get you.

It’s OK, take two aspirin and Tweet me in the morning.

You have a bad case of the NaNoParaNoia. It’s a condition that strikes WriMos when they least expect it. It’s not mentioned on the forum boards and you won’t find it in No Plot? No Problem! There are several strains of NaNoParaNoia.

Computer Pahocytosis NaNoParaNoia

Many people experience NaNoParaNoia as a nagging sensation that their computer will suddenly start to phagocytize their NaNovel while they sleep. Common manifestations of the Computer Phagocytosis NaNoParaNoia can be backing up your novel in every known location on the face of the planet including, external hard drives, USB flash drives, various online storage locations, emailing copies to yourself every 20 words, printing hard copies and stashing them all over your house, or actually drafting portions of your novel in permanent ink marker on your dog.

AgraphobiaAgoraphobia NaNoParaNoia

Unlike the previous strain, AgraphobiaAgoraphobia NaNoParaNoia can either be manifested by feeling as though onlookers are attempting to steal your brilliant NaNovel idea for their own or you could experience the aforementioned Terrorist day terrors. You’ll be sitting in your local coffee shop, minding your own business and suddenly you’ll be convinced that the old woman with the large, over-sized carpet handbag is really packing a sawed-off shot gun that’s got your name written all over it because you failed to stop and let her cross at the cross-walk near the grocery store last month and the old broad has been following you around for the last month, tailing you until she found the perfect moment to blow you away. Or, you could start to have a panic attack every time you see anyone resembling a member of Al-Qaeda, thinking that today could be the next time they try to stick it to America by planning to kick us where it hurts; right in our espresso, double shot, tall, no skim, double chocolate Latte loving hearts. Then every guy who walks through the door of the coffee shop wearing a winter coat and who looks like his name could be Ahmad you will believe is the next suicide bomber. After all, if you backed up your novel in every space-saving, internet-loving place known to month-long novelists everywhere it’s not gonna matter if you get blown to smithereens.

Odocoileus virginianus NaNoParaNoia
More commonly known as: Deer-hittith-carith NaNoParaNoia

This particularly specific strain of NaNoParaNoia is less common than aforementioned two. Deer-hittith-carith NaNoParaNoia affects those WriMos who have to drive long distances to Write-Ins in the dusk hours and find themselves on the constant look out for the seriously over-populated White Tailed Deer who like to stand like a deer-in-headlights on highways all across America plaguing unsuspecting WriMo motorists. Commonly, WriMos who are afflicted with this strain will often load up on extra doses of double shot, no skim, double chocolate lattes thinking that this will help keep them alert for the drive home. The ultimate fear is not that the crash will cause hospitalization, for mere broken bones will not impede one from reaching the finish line even if the laptop was destroyed in the crash (internet backups are a lovely thing). Rather, the fear is that the head trauma sustained could cause a brief comma that would end on December 1st, just hours after the window to verify those last few hundred words has closed.

It is possible that there are other strains of NaNoParaNoia out there. Scientists are discovering new symptoms every year. The most important thing to remember is that this is a very treatable disease. It is temporary and it seems that all patients are completely alleviated of all symptoms once their eyes are fixed on that beautiful purple Winner’s Bar and they are able to post Winner’s Icons to their blogs. Hang in there WriMos, NaNoParaNoia will pass.

[Editor’s note… While preparing your comments, you might want to visit the Phobia List so that you too can be as witty at Whitney. 🙂 ]


Interested in sharing your story? I’ve opened up the writer profiles section to submissions from any/all writers. Read on for “guidelines”.

On Expectations and Doing the Work: A NaNoWriMo Profile

As part of my NaNoWriMo Halo Giveaway, I offered all of the folks who signed up a chance to write a guest post for How Not To Write. I think you’ll be amazed as I was at the variety of people who have submitted posts. I know I am. I’m also proud to share their words here and I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment. — Jamie

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Today’s post comes from Tom Harold.

Tom is a Midwesterner trying to figure out how to get people to pay him for making full use of his creative talents. In his spare time he hones his skills by writing, building rolling ball sculptures, playing harmonica/singing in a blues band, drag racing, land speed racing, and working on photography. He figured he’d write a novel in 30 days, because he obviously doesn’t have enough other stuff to do. He is heavily invested in the creative process, which he blogs about at www.thatstom.com.

On Expectations and Doing the Work

I had it all planned out. I was hard at work on my NaNo novel, when out of the blue, Jamie invited me to guest post on his blog. I was honored. I was pleased. I was sure I was going to be able to provide some uplifting, motivational post containing concrete examples of how I had applied myself to WriMo, met my goals, and was enjoying a wonderful, rich, rewarding, and relatively trouble-free experience thanks to my tenacity, and the ever-present wave of unbridled enthusiasm from fellow WriMos across the globe. Oh sure, I’d have some problems, but these would work themselves out as I smiled, furrowed my brow, and kept on keepin’ on. I might get stuck, but it would be the “usual stuck,” nothing overwhelming, because I had “a plan,” or at least an idea.

That’s all that’s really required for victory, right?

When Jamie contacted me, it didn’t seem like this was an unrealistic thought. I was in the middle of chugging away on my NaNo novel. I probably had a good 23K under my belt right around the time he contacted me. I was scooting along pretty well, and it seemed a pretty safe bet that I was going to hit my goal of writing 50K by the 20th of the month. Sure the plot was moving a little slowly, but I was fairly certain that any pesky details would work themselves out in the remaining 27K, and I would likely be pretty close to finishing my novel by the time I hit 50K on the 20th. This would, in turn, mean that I wouldn’t have to worry about setting aside much extra time during the Thanksgiving holiday while family was visiting.

It was a very nice thought. It was very good(?) planning. It was also wrong.

Well, my plan worked beautifully, but only by a half measure. I reached 50K by the 20th. Actually, before the 20th. Sometime around noon on the 18th I hit 50,297 words. Woohoo! I was happy! I was excited! I was – in trouble.

Yes, I’d hit fifty thousand words. I had reached my word count goal in my prescribed timeline. I’d even done a little better. Unfortunately, my planned laurel-resting was upset by one crucial detail: The story itself wasn’t anywhere near being finished. In fact, it seemed that, while my novel had begun at Word 1, my story didn’t really get going until somewhere around Word 20,000.

This was bad. This meant that Thanksgiving would not be the carefree affair I had envisioned. I would not blissfully play with my lovable little single-digit relatives while having some pecan pie and wowing the fam with the triumphs and tribulations of “How I Wrote a Novel in Less than Twenty Days.” Instead, what I would be doing in between bites of pie and playing with nieces and nephews was fretting, worrying, and more writing. Being that I like to get a good head start on things, I started in on the fretting and worrying part immediately.

I had thought that 50K would be this grand milestone, having this “I did it!” sort of feel to it. I was actually a lot more excited at 49,006 words. When I hit 50K I kind of went, “Woohoo – oh crap,” realizing that I still had a long way to go and didn’t really know how to get there.

As I collected my thoughts I realized a couple of things:

  • It feels like I’ll never finish this thing.
  • I’ve had this feeling before, and it has turned out to be false.

About two months ago I took part in a local art event in my town during which you were challenged to create a piece of artwork in one day. My “plan” (notice the use of that word again) was that I was going to begin and complete a work of kinetic sculpture within the prescribed period of time. When the day arrived, I showed up with all my stuff, unloaded there on the sidewalk, and went to work. I worked, I hummed, I chatted with passers by, and I kept working. Time was moving quickly, but I was still getting some things done. Suddenly, as if I had only arrived moments ago, people were streaming past me to turn in their completed works. I sat there at my little card table with large loops of copper in my hands resembling nothing more than maybe a loose wire basket. A woman with her daughter came up and asked me what I’d made. “It’s not done,” I said, shoulders slumping. Her daughter looked at me silently, and then walked off. I felt completely defeated and frustrated. I wanted to leave immediately. I wanted to throw out what I had started and forget the whole thing.

The urge to quit was very compelling for about ten minutes, but I fought it. I decided to stick around and look at the other art work, enjoying what others had accomplished, and considering my other options as well as giving myself credit for having done the bit I’d managed to do. I ended up having a really good time, and decided to let go of my previous expectations. Instead of giving up on my incomplete work, I would take it home and work on it until it was finished. It ended up taking quite a while, and there were times when I doubted if I could complete it, but in the end it turned out wonderfully, and I received some very positive comments on what was my first full effort with this type of art. While events didn’t transpire the way I thought they would, they certainly turned out well, and I’m very happy I stuck with the project.

While I was still in the process of completing that sculpture, I attended my first writer’s conference. I went into it with many ideas of extending my world of experience, of learning new things, of feeling inspired and rejuvenated. While there might be some rude awakenings, overall I planned to have a pretty great time. How bad could it be, really?

Toward the end of the conference I took part in a workshop that asked us to write character descriptions in ten-minute increments. We were then encouraged to read these aloud. I started out poorly, and got worse. By the end of the fourth and final exercise, I’d locked up completely, having written only a single sentence which had no descriptive qualities to it whatsoever. I had to tell the instructor in front of the group that I didn’t have anything to read. I felt defeated and frustrated and angry. (Ooh, anger – a new emotion! Well, it was probably there with the art work too, honestly.) I was ready to leave immediately. Why stay? There wasn’t much of the conference left on the schedule, and was I even enough of a writer to bother sticking around? After all, I apparently couldn’t describe what a shoplifting woman in Walmart looked like.

I wanted to leave, but I didn’t. I stuck around, listened to the remaining scheduled speakers, and then went immediately to my local WriMo meeting. It might seem that hanging out with other writers after feeling slain as a writer is a terrible idea, but these are WriMo friends. They’re all about rambling plot lines, flimsy characters, and thinly-veiled attempts at padding a scene enough to reach that magical 25K just before bedtime. In other words, they’re okay with mistakes. Very okay. After hanging out with these people and sharing my experience (“It was awesome, but I totally went down in flames at one point,” I told them.) I didn’t feel terrible anymore. I didn’t feel like I couldn’t write, I just felt like I’d had a bad moment. Now I’m more than 50K deep in WriMo and having a good, if sometimes rocky, time of it.

In both cases I went against my first instinct, which was basically to run and hide from the fear and shame of not living up to my own expectations. The huge payoff for working through those situations was that I proved to myself that I could go through the seemingly seemed impossible, and come out not only alive, but feeling pretty good about myself, with some positive results to boot.

I’m still not sure where my novel is going. I’m still intimidated by the thought of all the writing I have left to do, but I know that if I stick with it, the rewards will definitely be worth it. My past experience – research if you will – has shown that it is hard, it can be painful, but ultimately it can be pretty fantastic. I just need to lay aside the expectations and keep doing the work.


Interested in sharing your story? I’ve opened up the writer profiles section to submissions from any/all writers. Read on for “guidelines”.

The Look in Their Eyes: A NaNoWriMo Profile

As part of my NaNoWriMo Halo Giveaway, I offered all of the folks who signed up a chance to write a guest post for How Not To Write. I think you’ll be amazed as I was at the variety of people who have submitted posts. I know I am. I’m also proud to share their words here and I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment. — Jamie

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Today’s post comes from Ali Hawke.

Ali is writing her fifth NaNoWriMo novel and all five are wildly different. She does this every year, having dragged her husband and a co-worker into the madness with her, and even when it all stinks, it’s still a fantastic ride!

Drop by her website for a visit: http://www.quantumtea.com/blog/

The Look in Their Eyes

You say it to someone who doesn’t write, and they look at you like you’re doubly crazy. First there’s the “You want to write HOW MANY words in HOW LONG?” look, which is equivalent to how you’d look at a ferret that just surfaced in your morning coffee complete with scuba mask and oxygen tanks. You can get them over that one by blaming someone else for talking you into it, which makes you not insane, merely a supportive friend, albeit in a bizarre fashion.

Then there’s the revelation that your characters, whom you created, are misbehaving, and that’s a 9.8 on the weird-o-meter in almost every non-writer’s book. They’re sulking in a corner, they got blink drunk last night, they ran off to Reykjavik with the neighbours cousin’s ex-girlfriend, they stubbornly refused to fall in love with the right person, and inexplicably turned up in scenes they have no right to be in, doing stuff you didn’t plan on them doing at all, let alone right now. Yep, THAT look. You know what I’m talking about. They probably took an involuntary step back when you said it.

But it happens. Sooner or later, no matter how well planned your outline is (and I’m a rabid outliner), you find yourself writing something you didn’t expect. You have two choices now: Wrestle the characters back into place, or go with it. I say go with it! The story takes off in a different direction and you’re along for the ride, watching the characters tear up their lines and say something else. Maybe they’ll get back on track later, maybe you’re not writing the story you started out with, and that’s OK. Maybe they have another story to tell, maybe your original idea was sound and they’ll see that further down the line and come back to it with extra plot twists of their own. Stalk the wily characters in the wild and eavesdrop shamelessly. Some of them are brilliant. And you can’t stop thinking about them.

Grind through the first chunk of the story and you’ll get to the part where it comes alive. If you’re insanely lucky, it’ll take off immediately. Most of us have to put in some sweat first where you’ve written every cliché in the book up to and including “No, I am your father Luke!” (Darth Vader gets around and wears many disguises. If you haven’t seen him in your novel yet, trust me, he’s coming your way). At this point, the whole thing seems like a bad idea and a waste of your time. You could hurl it into a flaming pit of molten lava and decide that it would be easier to be a rocket scientist instead. Maybe you already are a rocket scientist. But there’s still that story in you like a hook in your mind, tugging at you. And once you get one story out, there’s another one bubbling up right behind it, two more after that.

The absolute best part about writing for me is the part just after you’ve finished the story. Finishing is a special magic. You have a stack of pages all toasty from the printer and smelling of interesting carcinogens. They don’t sparkle or dance, they just sit there, but they’re pages you brought into being that didn’t exist last month. You have all the time in the world to embed diamonds in the dialog and polish up the prose and red pen it into magnificence. Right after that next scene…


Interested in sharing your story? I’ve opened up the writer profiles section to submissions from any/all writers. Read on for “guidelines”.