It’s the morning of November 30th and I’m feeling both frantic and completely unenthused.
For most people, the date ‘November 30th’ won’t mean anything. But, for anyone who signed up to ‘NaNoWriMo’ this year (or any other year, for that matter) it will mean quite a lot.
‘NaNoWriMo’ stands for National Novel Writing month and November 30th marks the final day of said month. It’s the last chance to sprint to the finish line of a 50,000-word race.
At this moment in time, I have written 47,961 words, and I have 2,039 to go. This is the furthest I’ve ever got with this challenge. I tried it a couple of years ago and didn’t get past the first thousand words. And, I tried it last year, by which I mean I talked about trying it and then failed to even start.
This year I decided to take the challenge seriously. I had a project that I really wanted to get started: ‘Lost and Found in the Realm of Imaginary Creatures’. (You’ll notice that many titles and chapter names of NaNoWriMo writers tend to be on the long side to pad out that troublesome word count.) I had profiles for all of my main characters and I had a loose story plan. And, in true desperate writerly style, I had written 2,000 words in advance which (in my opinion) is just enough to get a decent head start and little enough to maybe not be considered cheating… However, anyone who has ever failed NaNoWriMo will know that no matter how much planning you do, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get any writing done.
The final push was this… The week before NaNoWriMo started, my boyfriend said that I just didn’t have time to write that much, it was unnecessary pressure and that I would just end up being disappointed if I didn’t write enough. True, true and true.
However, truer than all of that is the fact that I don’t like being told that I can’t do things. So, this was the final push. My boyfriend said I couldn’t do it, and I was determined I could. (I’m absolutely certain that behind the beautifully worded motivations of why many famous writers write is actually the fact that ‘so-and-so said I couldn’t do it’.)
So, here I am on November 30th, staring at the same screen I have done for the past 29 days.
Here are the lessons that I’ve learnt from NaNoWriMo so far:
Start planning in September!
Every single year, November creeps up on me in stealth mode. Next year, I’ll be ready!
50,000 is a lot of bloody words!
This honestly did not occur to me until it was too late. I remembered the days when a 3,000 word essay was hellish and a 10,000 word dissertation was ‘impossible’. And, yet, I could not quite compute that this 50,000 would be much, much harder.
If you’re going to plan, plan properly.
A lot of my story planning includes large blank spaces and notes such as, ‘SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS HERE’. There are often a lot of plot holes that I’m not willing to admit and that becomes all the more obvious when you’re trying to scramble out of them, a few thousand words into the story.
If you’re not going to plan, at least have an ending.
Writing blindly into my story when I hadn’t planned properly wasn’t always the worst thing in the world. I often came up with some good plot twists on the spot. However, my biggest mistake was not having a proper ending in mind. I have written and written and I am still no closer to finishing my story because I’m not entirely sure where it’s going anymore!
It’s much easier to write if you’ve got a story that can go the distance.
As I wrote myself into corners, I would occasionally start a new chapter of a story idea that seemed more attractive. These ideas sounded great as elevator pitches, but didn’t actually have much going for them when I tried to write them. I will definitely test-drive a couple of draft chapters of my next potential NaNoWriMo story before jumping in head first.
It’s 90% crap.
This sounds negative but it’s not. Writers spend months and years working on stories that turn out to be 90% crap, then they finally get up the courage to pull out the bad bits and clean it up. I know this because I’ve done this myself and, right now, I feel relieved that I haven’t spent months and years on this story, getting more and more attached to it only to get rid of most of it. I’m sure I will write plenty more crap, but the bulk of it is out there and ready to be edited the hell outta!
Make NaNoWriMo your own.
To anyone who wants to write more, or write at all, try NaNoWriMo! If you don’t want to write a novel, write something else. If you don’t want to write 50,000 words, choose a different amount of words. My reason to sign up this year was to discipline myself to write every day, your goal can be as simple as that!
Don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit.
There’s nothing worse than trying to drill creativity out of your brain in one avenue when it’s just not there. Mix it up a bit, write some poems, some blogs, some essays – whatever! Just get some words down on paper.