The Help Desk: I'm writing a novel this month. Does anybody care?

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Dear Cienna,

I'm finally doing National Novel Writing Month this year. But I need your guidance on this one point: should I tell my friends I'm doing NaNoWriMo so they can offer moral support and shame me if I fail? Or should I not tell anyone I'm doing NaNoWriMo because I don't want to have to explain what my novel is about over and over again? The only thing worse than keeping a secret from my social circle is talking about fiction, which seems about as exciting as talking about my dreams, only possibly more embarrassing. Help me decide?

Dina, Bitter Lake

Dear Dina,

You are correct: Listening to any person talk in detail about the plot of their NaNoWriMo novel is on par, entertainment wise, with reading their dream journal. Or listening to them brag about their children. Or watching a snail take a shit.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't tell your friends about your NaNoWriMo goals – you absolutely should. Here's how you build accountability for yourself while giving your friends a vested interest in your writing: promise that for every day this month that you fail to meet your word-count goal, you owe them one pitcher of beer. This will ensure they're checking in often to see how much beer you owe them.

Of course, it also means they will ask you about your novel because they are probably polite and undoubtedly adore you. If you're self-conscious talking about it, try crafting a one-sentence elevator pitch in advance that you can spit out and be done with.

Here are a few examples of my past (failed) NaNoWriMo efforts for inspiration:

  • It's a coming-of-age story about spiders – like Charlotte's Web but more overtly sexual.
  • It's about a man whose mother named him Fetus because she was a bitch.
  • It's about a death-row psychopath who writes morality fables for children.