Winning NaNo with Children

By Debby J.

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I was kind of stumped for words. Well, not with my novel. But yeah, with that too. I was trying to think of a short and sweet blog post I could write that might reveal a little bit about me, your Municipal Liaison but also have information you might find helpful. I am sitting here, at 11pm in my bedroom while my kid snores loudly beside me. She is only one year old but she sounds like a freight train. I’ve hit my word count for the day and really should be trying to get ahead but instead I’m penning this for your reading pleasure.

I was catching up with a fellow ML in our top secret chat room and it got me thinking about NaNoWriMo and how people do it with children. See, WitchyRobyn has been doing NaNoWriMo for way longer than me and was there in the chat room my first year. She is in charge of the Elsewhere Region of Louisiana and if I recall correctly, she was super pregnant and was running most of her write-ins virtually. So, seeing her again in the chat room this evening made me think, “Man, I would have loved to have some hints about how to win NaNoWriMo with a kid before I even thought about a kid.”

I asked for her advice, and she said, “Be sure to let everyone in your life know what you’re doing. People are more likely to help out and watch the kids for a couple of hours if they realize how much this challenge means to you. My girls are turning 1 and 2 this month and the help I get from my husband is invaluable to my success. In the future, as I continue with both writing and MLing, I want my girls to see that any challenge can be met despite the obstacles. Also, I would suggest looking at co-ops with other wrimos with kids in your area. Arrange playdates with them to split the load and give everyone a little bit of writing time while the children entertain themselves for a bit. Don’t discount the creativity gained from looking at the world through your child’s eyes. Get on the floor with them, play with them, and worlds can open up.”

Pennblade from the Massachusetts Southbridge/Sturbridge Region says: “To always have fun. I told that to my son. Writing is a journey, not a chore. Enjoy the ride. You’ll never know where you’ll end up.”

Rachel Sanford from the Arkansas Fayetteville/NWA Region says: “I have a 2 year old son. I try to let him do his own thing during November and let him be as independent as he wishes. I also keep in mind that things happen and to just go with them. There are days you aren’t going to meet your goals, but nap time and bed time are invaluable times for writing.”

AuroraLee from the Canadian Annapolis Valley Region says: “If kids are old enough, get them to write with you. A great way to let them explore their own creativity? (disclaimer: I don’t have kids)”

To be honest, I thought last year was really hard on the novel writing since I had just birthed a human being who needed me around the clock. She just had her two month shots and was ready for the world, for the most part. But, she was still a baby. She came along with me to the physical write-ins but I really didn’t get as much ML stuff done as I wanted to last year. However, I DID complete my novel with several days to spare. This year is actually quite a bit more challenging. So, here it is, my short list on how to win NaNoWriMo when your child needs you.

  • Make Time – I know this rule kind of applies to every participant because life happens. But with a child, you really have to make the time to do it. Ideally, you have someone who can act as a support and will help you make the time. My husband graciously watched the baby for at least an hour each night to help make sure I had the time I needed to write.
  • Go Mobile – I don’t think I would have managed last year if I needed to go to my awesome, but far from everything baby desktop. And my ancient, clunky laptop was not really an option. We invested in a lightweight Chromebook and I made sure the iPad was charged. I wrote many a word on my phone as well. I imagine this November, I’ll have phone in hand while kid tries to be a lemming at the park.
  • Don’t Sleep – If you are fortunate, you have a newborn that needs you every three hours through out the night. In that case, after the baby goes to sleep, you should spend some time writing some garbled mess that you might not understand in the morning. If you are blessed with an older child that sleeps through the night, then consider staying up a little bit later to write. Or waking up early.
  • Get Inspired – Use your kid as your inspiration. Whether it is to motivate you to finish because maybe someday this novel will pay for college (hey, I’m a writer; I relish fictional scenarios!) or it is with actual ideas from your child, utilize this invaluable resource. My baby is still snoring and you know what, I’m going to try to squeeze this exact scene into my novel because it’s what I know. At the very least, it will boost my word count.
  • Go With It – Write when you can. Get ahead if you can and if your kid needs you, then attend to your kid. Your novel will still be there. If you don’t finish before November 30 but you can make it on December 1 then do it. Work your tail off to finish, but don’t miss out on precious memories because you were worried about that days word counts. Be flexible and just go with the flow.

I’m sure it is no surprise that this advice is so similar to what we’ve said in the past about winning NaNoWriMo (we being anyone who has ever written about winning NaNoWriMo). The reason is because the advice is universal. This advice applies to parents and singles, to the young and old. The key ingredients to winning NaNoWriMo don’t change just because you have a kid. It’s just another, different complication that is all too worth it.

Comment below and tell us what you think helps you win with kids. Or if you don’t have kids, what helps you win despite the many ways life can get in the way?

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