Prepping Your Family for NaNoWriMo

I consulted with my hubby, John (aka John Waverly), before writing this post. You see, last year he was the one who picked up the slack and took care of our family while I wrote like mad. He had some very good points that NaNoWriMo participants and their families should consider before November 1st hits.

Be Realistic

If you already schedule 4-5 hours a day for your writing, then you can probably stop reading this post right now. But if you're like the majority of writers out there, your writing time is probably more sporadic. Achieving your NaNoWriMo goal of 50K in 30 days takes a commitment equivalent to adding a part-time job into your schedule.

Think about it: If you write an average of 500 words an hour, then it will take 100 hours to hit 50K. But wait! We need to add in time for writers block, brainstorming, and, if you attend any write-ins, potty breaks and socializing. Let's say that's about another 20 hours of time. So now we're at 120 hours to achieve your NaNoWriMo goal. Which equals a 4 hour time commitment every day. Now me, I don't write on Sundays. I leave that day for church and family, which is especially important when I'm cramming so much writing time in the rest of the week. I try to write about 6 hours a day during NaNoWriMo.

Reprioritize Your Schedule

If you already work a full-time job - and face it, we all do no matter whether it's inside or outside the home - then you, personally, need to be willing to give up a lot during those 30 days.

  • No TV
  • No books
  • Cut back on the gym
  • Take the month off from volunteering at kids' schools
  • Postpone any Girls or Guys Night Outs
  • No movies (yes, this includes the next Twilight movie. Trust me, it will still be playing two weeks after the release)

You'll find a good chunk of writing time just by doing this. But it's still going to take more. And any free time you do have, should definitely be spent with your family and helping around the house.

Get Your Family on Board

During the writing challenge, you'll spend a lot less time with your family. The further you get into the month, the more tired, frustrated, and emotional your spouse will get. Trust me, I know. My hubby is THE most supportive writer's spouse I have ever met. Last year, I started out November by hosting a writers retreat out-of-state. I was gone for a week. Then the rest of the month, I went to write-ins 3 times a week and had online write-ins the other nights - not to mention the writing I did during the day. I slacked on laundry, have a very dim recollection of helping clean, and it was a happy day if I remembered to put in a meal in the crock pot. By the time the 20th hit, he was totally read for November to be over. Here's how we survived without getting a divorce.  =)

Before NaNoWriMo kicks-off, sit down with your spouse to go over both of your schedules together. Keep in mind that you don't get to take over the schedule just cause it's NaNoWriMo. Your spouse has commitments, too, and needs support as well. My hubby is the Cub Scout Master for our church. Each month he plans a pack meeting, hosts a committee meeting, and has a district meeting to attend. I made sure to be home to take care of the munchkins so he could fulfill those important commitments.

Both of you need to come prepared with lists of activities. For you, that will be regional write ins you want to attend, work schedules, and commitments you can't cancel. You'll need a list of activities for your kids and your spouse, too. Now figure out how you can juggle home and family responsibilities in a way that's agreeable for you and your spouse. Be sure to plan time for family time and work out a meal schedule. Our family budgeted extra money to eat out. Each week, we planned two crock pot meals, ate out twice, had two left-overs/whatever nights, and made pancakes each Sunday for dinner. We tried to make things as simple as possible to keep stress levels down.

If you have older kids, get them in on the meeting too.They are much better with schedule changes when they've been in on the decision making and are more willing to help out with extra chores. Usually. If the moon and the stars all align just right . . . or if you provide the right incentives. Which brings me to the best part . . . 

Set Goals & Rewards

No one wants to mess up their happy routine, but they'll grin and bear it for someone they love . . . especially if you create rewards that include your spouse and kids.

Pull together a family meeting and together set rewards for when you hit certain word count goals. For example, when you hit 10K host a root beer float party. Might I also suggest that when you hit the halfway point (25K), that you let you kids have a movie & popcorn night while you take your spouse out on a celebratory date night. Both of you take a break - no talking about writing or schedules, just a night of fun and laughter. And of course, there's the big pay off when you hit 50K. Plan something that your family loves, but doesn't get to do very often. Maybe it's a night at the movies, a new family Wii game, or taking a weekend vacation. Make NaNoWriMo as fun for your family as possible.

The Most Important Things

Communication is key. Talk often with your spouse and munchkins. Express your appreciation for their support. If someone is stressed out or upset, be willing to set aside your writing for a few minutes and let them vent. Give them hugs. When things are settled again, get back to work. Nothing is more important than your family, but your family can accomplish anything when they work together.

Would you like to comment?

rebecca h jamison said...

Wow, Danyelle,

You're inspiring me to try a little harder to get my word count up in November. There is no way I can do the whole NaNoWriMo. My husband is a bishop and his mother is having major surgery soon (probably in November.) But I think I can set a different goal to maybe write as much in a day as you write in a week.;)

Congrats on your disAbilities book. My sister is disabled, and I wish we'd had more resources for her at church when she was small.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Thank you, Rebecca! I think the important thing about National Novel Writing Month isn't necessarily hitting the 50K, but making progress with your currently manuscript - whether that's adding as much word count as your time allows or working on an edit. Figure out what you want your goal to be - then go for it!

Shanda said...

I'm actually considering NaNoWriMo this year. I watched last year & thought, "There's no way...." yet here I am. Thanks for the great advice!

rebecca h jamison said...

I needed an editor for my previous comment. I meant that I want to write as much in a week as you write in a day. Lol. Good luck with your goals, and thanks for the advice. I'll definitely set a goal.

Lacie Myers said...

Wow! this is an incredibly helpful and inspiring post. I am gearing up for my first NaNoWriMo experience, and this is great advice. Your ideas can help make it an enriching experience for the whole family and model healthy processes for future family challenges. Thanks!

Rachelle Christensen said...

Love these ideas, especially the family reward for word count! I've been doing that this month with a Halloween chain we're making. Every time I hit 5K words, we add another chain and the kids get links for doing their jobs too. :)

Jennifer K Clark said...

Great post! I'm doing my own version of NaNoWriMo right now because I have a goal to submit my M.S. by the end of Nov.
Your advice was right on. Everything you mentioned is so important. I can't believe the roller-coaster of emotions that constant writing brings on. It is so exhausting to try to be creative 24-7. But I'm setting at just over 30,000 words and just over 1 1/2 weeks left.
Good luck to everyone taking on NaNoWriMo!!!

kbrebes said...

Very nice, Danyelle!

Betsy Love said...

Great Post and great ideas! I am so ready for NaNo!!!! This is my first time. I did BIAM (Book in a Month) through ANWA last year, but thought I'd try NaNo this year as well. I'm so getting the family ready for tomorrow. Even bought lots of super easy box dinner type meals hubby can put in the oven.