NaNoWriMo 2013 Aftermath
Whew! November is over and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is finally finished. Did you participate? How did you do? Did you make it to 50,000 words?
As my NaNo progress badge in the right column shows, I didn’t reach the that coveted finish line, but in my mind I still succeeded. Why? Because I now have 19,000 more words than I had on October 31. That’s not too shabby.
Here’s how my NaNo challenge went:
The first week, I was out of the gate like gangbusters. 1667 words per day didn’t seem too difficult and I managed to keep up—for 5 days straight. By the end of the week, though, heading into the second weekend, the engine started to chug and sputter.
I don’t normally write on the weekends (I treat my writing like a M-F day job), so it went against my routine to write on Saturday and Sunday. I’d managed to do it the previous weekend because that was when NaNo began (Nov 1 was a Friday), so I was all keyed up, my mind just swimming with ideas for scenes. I couldn’t not write that first weekend; I was that excited!
By the time that second weekend rolled around, though, the ideas for new scenes were petering out and my psyche was clamoring for a return to the comfort of my normal writing routine. I still managed to get some words on the page that weekend, but it was far less than the 1667/day needed to make 50,000 words in 30 days.
I also started to notice that I was having to push myself more and more to get past what I’m calling the 900-1000 word hump. I discovered when I sat down to write that I’d get a burst of urgency about a scene, start writing it, get to around 1000 words then feel like the scene was done (or at least what I could do with it for right now). My mind said, “You’ve written enough,” my creativity felt low, and any additional words I tried to add to the scene felt like belaboring something that had already come to its natural conclusion.
Yet, I still had to get to 1667, so I pressed on. I’d dig deep into my brainstorming and come up with another scene I could start, but since I hadn’t given any thought to it yet the words came more slowly. At times it felt like my fingers were literally inside my head trying to pull words out one at a time. In one day of trying to get to 1667 words I wrote “skeleton” drafts of 4 different scenes where I mostly had dialogue and nothing else. Not enjoyable at all.
I came to the conclusion by mid-month that this was not how I liked to write. I can’t just vomit out words and pretend to be happy with the results. And it has nothing to do with an inner critic or anything like that. It has to do with how I approach my daily writing. I don’t wait for inspiration. I don’t pull an idea out of thin air and start typing. I have a plan.
My method for writing involves coming to the computer knowing what I’m going to write that day. I have a scene in mind, which I’ve rolled around in my head for at least 12 hours, giving myself something to look forward to. Although I like to use the NaNo challenge to give myself a kick in the butt and get some progress on a draft that’s dragging its heels, sustaining that momentum for 30 days straight just doesn’t jive with how I construct novels.
Typing blindly into the wind without direction felt like a waste of time to me. I didn’t want words on the page for the sake of meeting a word count unless they served a purpose in furthering my story. For example, I did do some journaling from my characters’ perspectives during NaNo, most of which won’t end up in the books in that state, but it contributed to the book by helping me understand the characters more. The journaling helped me build back story and motivation that fed new scenes. That’s what I mean by “served a purpose.”
During the third week of NaNo, I became aware of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and instantly knew it would interrupt the writing challenge. That had me thinking maybe I should try a NaNo-like challenge again in March or May, where there’s no major holiday requiring I plan a menu, clean my house extra specially or put up decorations. 😀
The fourth week of NaNo was almost a complete bust. I was consumed with Thanksgiving preparations, baking and cleaning like a mad woman. I’d given up writing on weekends already by now. I think I wrote 2 out of the 5 weekdays that last week. Definitely not on Thanksgiving itself. I was too exhausted.
So, you might wonder why I put myself through NaNo if every year it’s the same struggle. Masochist? 😯 Not hardly. I do it because in the end, I make progress. 19,000 words is 19,000 words and the majority of them are solid parts of the novel that I’ll keep. I may not have made it to 50,000 words (and major kudos to everyone who did—it’s not easy!), but I challenged myself, I learned new things about myself and my writing process (what works, what doesn’t), and I also learned more about the story I’m writing, all of which can only help make the work stronger.
Will I do NaNo again next year? Probably. Because I think it’s important to keep challenging yourself, and also because NaNoWriMo is more than just writing every day, there’s a community aspect to the challenge, a supportive atmosphere of writers cheering each other on, rooting for each others’ success, that I really enjoy.
Plus, it does inspire me to write more on a daily basis than I normally would—at least for those first 5 days.