November is over, and I’m happy to say I officially won National Novel Writing Month. I reached 50,000 words on November 21, with nine days to spare.
I originally set out to finish my novel in progress during November, and I did add 10,000 words to that novel. But mid-stream, I read Patrick Rothfuss’s pep talk and decided to follow my enthusiasm. I switched to a completely different novel. I added 62,500 words to that novel, and so now have a complete, 75,000 word draft of that novel. Which feels good, if also a little disorienting.
Here are my reflections on participating in NaNoWriMo:
– I love graphs. If you’re that kind of writer (and I am), you can go to the NaNoWriMo website and enter your word count every day. The site produces a nifty little graph which shows you where 1,667 words is (the average daily count needed to hit 50,000 words in a month), and then where your word count for the day is. I found myself strangely motivated to get a daily word count that was over 1,667 words. It was like I was competing with the graph.
So I’ve now created a spreadsheet in Excel that does the same thing. It allows me to track my word count, AND create a nifty little graph that tracks my progress. I’m not going to bother trying to explain why I find this graph so satisfying. I just do, so I’m going with it.
– Having the end of the month as a deadline helped to push me that last final bit. I had my 50,000 words. I could have stopped there. But I got in the habit of writing. And I was close to the end of the story. I knew that with one good day over the Thanksgiving weekend dedicated to writing, I could knock it out. And I did. So, deadlines are good. Even the ones you make up yourself.
– Even for someone who writes most days, writing every day is better. Everyone has their own process, I know. But it helped me to make writing into a habit. Like checking my phone. Or picking at my lip. Or binging on potato chips. These are bad habits, but the definition of a habit is that it becomes, you know, habitual. Difficult to stop without some effort. That writing should feel this way is a good thing.
– Every day I was going to sit down and write. It’s easier to do this if you have some vague sense of where you’re going. About halfway through NaNoWriMo, a writing friend sent me this online article about writing scenes. I had already been doing some of these things–imagining the scene in my head. But it helped immensely to ask myself some of these questions before I sat down to write. It helped me with the writing that happens when I’m not in front of my computer–the writing that happens in the shower, while you’re cooking, on a walk, driving home from work. You know that writing? That kind of writing is just as important, especially if you’re trying to write a novel in a month.
– The very last NaNoWriMo pep talk was by Holly McGhee, and she focused on imagination. She told a story about a dark time in her own life when her imagination saved her. Writing is keeping the door to your imagination open. Sometimes in the daily grind of word counts and getting rejected and wondering if your novel will ever be published, imagination gets lost. But it is, at its essence, what we’re doing. Imagining. Playing. Making things up. Doing National Novel Writing Month helped me remember that. And that’s more than enough to make it worthwhile.