You’ll see a lot from us in the next couple of months to help you finish your novel in thirty days.  I promise the articles and tips are gonna be good.

The Most Important Rule for NaNoWriMo

But over all the advice, over all the fun and the pressure and the late nights writing, there is one rule I want you to keep as the foundation of everything you do during the month of November: Write it anyway.

Your Inner Critic Wants to Make You Quit

I know how difficult this is. The inner critic gets vicious during NaNoWriMo, especially right around the middle of the month. That’s the point when you’ll “realize” several things:

  1. Lie number one: what you’ve written is drivel (translation: your inner critic will make it almost impossible to see the good in what you’ve written).
  2. Lie number two: your plan for the story is stupid (translation: your inner critic will try to make you afraid of finishing).
  3. Lie number three: you can’t write and you don’t know what to write next and you have nothing to write down (translation: your inner critic will scream so loudly that you’ll find it hard to believe otherwise).

This will be the most important time not to stop. Yes, even if you think you have writer’s block.

Your Inner Critic Is a Jerk

As you may recall from my previous post, your inner critic is a jerk. You can’t listen to it because the inner critic’s goal is not to make you a better writer. Your inner critic is trying to get you to quit.

Your inner critic is going to stalk you especially hard next month. NaNoWriMo isn’t necessarily about producing a published book. It’s about getting your butt in the chair and writing so consistently that you learn it as a habit. That means giving yourself permission to write poorly because that’s what it takes to write better.

That’s important enough to repeat:

Your inner critic will tell you anything to stop you from getting better. It’s gonna stalk you like a tiger. I’m going to try to help you recognize the pattern of its approach.

When Your Inner Critic Stalks You

Does this pattern sound familiar?

  • You start writing on November 1st, and whether it’s good or not isn’t the point. The point is that you’re writing, and it’s fun, like pushing off the top of a snow-covered hill in a slick, red sled.
  • A few days later, writing becomes more like work—kind of like the sled slowing down near the bottom of the hill. You want the story to make sense; you’ve got good taste, so you know what you’re writing isn’t necessarily great. But it’s still fun.
  • And then the sled comes to a stop, and the real work begins.

Up to this point, the inner critic has been stalking you steadily. There’s been a rustle in the grass, an occasional deep-chested growl that scares you, but it hasn’t come into view yet. You might even be telling yourself you’re safe. That it won’t strike this time. That you’ll make it through.

Your inner critic will wait until your back is turned to pull the sled up the hill before pouncing.

  • All of a sudden, it’s going to feel like everything you’ve written is crap.
  • All those lies I mentioned above will seem true and logical and right.
  • You won’t see what was good.
  • You won’t be able to remember how much fun it was on the way down (or worse, your inner critic will say it’ll never be fun like that again).
  • All of a sudden, your writing will stutter—like stumbling through the snow up the hill.
  • And here, one of two things will happen: either you will push through until you reach the top of the hill, throw the tiger off, and sled down again, or you’ll stammer, stutter, believe you cannot write more, and give up.

Writer’s block is a real thing in the sense that it will trip you and stub your toe real good.

Writer’s block is not a real thing in the sense that it’s a metaphysical chain that keeps you from going forward no matter what you do.

I know how that inner critic works. It sinks its claws into your back and tells you you’re done. It breaths on the back of your neck and tells you you’re through.

It’s a liar.

Write it Anyway

Yes, you can.

Yes, what you write will probably be lousy. That’s okay. Write it anyway.

Yes, you may lose the thread of where you’re going and why. That’s okay. Write your characters washing their clothes until they tell you where they’re going next. Write them going to the bank or brushing their teeth. Write the weird neighbor across the street staring at them through the window like a creep. It doesn’t have to be good. Write it anyway.

Yes, you will probably not end up keeping the stuff you write when powering through writer’s block. It doesn’t matter. Write it anyway.

When you write it anyway, you’re strengthening your muscles, training your brain, and teaching your soul that no matter what your inner critic claims, you will not be stopped. Write it anyway.

You Will Beat Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic stalks you like a tiger, but you know what? It doesn’t actually have any teeth. It can’t make you bleed. It can’t actually stop you. It can only convince you to stop yourself.

As we plunge into November and NaNoWriMo, you’re going to experience all kinds of things. You’re going to have fun; you’re going to discover you have more words in you than you thought; you may also discover this isn’t the book you wanted to write, or that it’s more than you intended to share, or that it’s bigger than you dreamed. Characters will do things you never expected. So might your inner critic.

You can do still this. Shed the idea that what you write has to be good. It doesn’t have to be good. It has to be written. Once it’s written, you can make it good.

Writer’s block won’t stop you.

Your inner critic won’t stop you.

Hang those three words on your wall: Write it anyway.

Now go forth and prepare to conquer NaNoWriMo. Make November your own.

Have you gotten tripped by the inner critic’s lies before? Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Today, I want you to practice fighting off that inner critic. I’ve got a challenge for you today. Are you ready? Of course you are.

Find an old piece of writing that got you stuck. Maybe it’s a practice from another article, or maybe it’s a work in progress you started and then put down.

Now, take fifteen minutes to continue working on it. What you write doesn’t have to be good. You don’t have to keep it. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Write it anyway.

You can beat that inner critic. I promise.

When you’re done, post your practice in the comments, and be sure to respond to your fellow writers and encourage them to stamp on their foreheads those three words: write it anyway.

Ruthanne Reid
Ruthanne Reid
Frothy, according to Kirkus Reviews. Thrives on regular servings of good books and cute cats.