To say that I am a champion NaNoWriMer would be a lie, because since I discovered this exciting, terrifying, and wonderful event, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pajama pants. It goes without saying that every writer has their own process and style, and what puts most people off about NaNoWriMo is that it forces you to stick to a schedule for an entire month, with the ultimate goal of reaching 50,000 words by the end of the thirty day period. This scared me at first, as I have terrible writing habits, even though writing is technically also my day job. But when it comes to writing for myself, I tend to write whenever the mood strikes me or when I can carve out a few hours during the week. But this year, that has changed in the spanse of a few weeks, thanks to NaNoWriMo. I’m not here to advertise it or try to convince you to try it, but I’m going to share my own experiences so far, because I truly believe that it is important for writers to learn from each other’s experiences.
So, here we are. After almost three weeks into November, I’ve finally found my writing groove. As I just mentioned, my writing process leaves something to be desired. It mostly consists of writing, deleting, coffee, editing, rewriting, deleting, more coffee, and… well, you can see where this is going. As a plantser, I had a somewhat decent outline and plan for my novel, especially since it was a novel that I’d been trying to write for over a year. Following a pretty gnarly depression and a life-altering move, it was difficult for me to find the motivation to write a story about adventure and heroism. My muse had left the building and moved to another planet at this time. Then this year came and things were going well enough for me to decide that “Yes! I’m going to give this NaNoWriMo thing another try!”
In October, otherwise known as Preptober to us NaNoWriMers, I created a writing journal. I’d recently started a bujo (bullet journal) and quickly became obsessed with organizing every little detail of my life, so I figured, “Hey, why not do that for my book, too?” I filled it with a basic summary (which I’ve veered off of so many times already), character lists and profiles, what-if ideas, and plenty of trackers. This was my way of preparing mentally for November, because I knew that if I didn’t have a written plan, my writing would be all over the place and I’d end up deleting everything in a fit of existential rage.
The first week was rough. I’m not going to lie. I had to drag myself away from Supernatural reruns and puppy videos and force myself to churn out those 1,667 words every day. I’m a nocturnal writer, so I tend to write at night, and this, in itself, was an issue, since all I want to do at the end of the day is sit in bed and switch my brain off in front of some show or nineties movie. During that initial week, I made a few writing buddies, who helped me stay on track with group word sprints and commiserative chats about the struggles of being a writer, the paralyzing fear of running out of coffee, and the dread of staring at a blank page. By the end of the first week, I had written 12,473 words and began to see where I wanted my story to go rather than have it running around like a lost chicken. The main lesson was learning that it didn’t matter when or how long or even how much I wrote. All that mattered was that I was writing every day and improving my personal writing habits.
Come Week Two, I was actually looking forward to our daily word sprints, even creating some personal ones to start off the day’s spree. It became easier to write every day, because something finally clicked in my head. I didn’t need to take five hours out of my day to write or stress out about all of the things I had to do during the day – all I had to do was sit down, butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and write something. I’m an editor, so I have an innate and uncontrollable urge to correct everything I read, even as I’m writing it. This has been, and still is, my biggest obstacle to overcome. But I’m getting better at it, I swear. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to write – not to edit or perfect a manuscript. This was a pretty welcome lesson in Week Two, because I’d gone and edited a huge chunk of my novel and then had to rewrite certain parts due to those edits. So, take my advice – leave the editing for later.
Now, we’re in Week Three, with only a little over ten days left of November, and around 20,000 words left to write. I had a very busy week and I wasn’t home for three days, so I couldn’t get any writing done in that time. But when I finally got home and settled back into my “sloth-mode” as I call it, I sat down to catch up on my four days’ worth of words. In two nights, I ended up writing over 10,000 words, and I didn’t edit a single one of them. Sitting down to write with the goal of catching up on almost 7,000 words was stressful, but I had promised myself that this year, I would finish those 50,000 words, even if the last word is written at 11:59PM on the 30th of the month. So, I was rather proud of myself for catching up and then some. The third lesson was that determination and motivation go hand in hand. I had a rather obvious epiphany that no one else was going to write my book for me and that this small goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days was mine alone to achieve.
Honestly, the past three weeks have been hard, but also rewarding. The motivation isn’t always there and neither is the inspiration. But that’s the beauty of writing, that it can be therapeutic and cathartic. It doesn’t always have to be good, because that’s what editing is for anyway. When I tried doing NaNoWriMo in the past, I thought that the point was to have a finished and perfect novel, ready for publishing, by the end of the month. But after many facepalms, I realized that I was wrong. This past month has been rather educational, at least with regards to my own writerly progress. I thought it would be impossible to stick to a daily writing goal, but I managed to do it (for the most part), and part of me wishes that NaNoWriMo was a year-round event. Another part of me realizes that it can be, because you don’t need a website to spur your passion for writing a story, just yourself.
So, I’ll shut up now and wish you all the luck and caffeine in the world, my fellow wordsmiths!
CJ's week three word count total: 33,944
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