My NaNoWriMo Journey
Behold, for I have returned from the wilderness!
And I have words!
Lots of words!
Yes, this year I decided to partake in this zany challenge, and see if it would help me in my writing, and wanted to share my overall experience.
A few notes to remind you though, I write sci-fi, I write big, and I’m not one who is much for planning. At least not the making-notes, using-a-notice-board kind of planning.
So how did it go?
A Helpful Experience?
It was quite daunting for me at the start. Writing 1,600 words every day for a month, especially when for the most part, I wasn’t sure where I was going. I had the major points mapped out of course, but it was all the connective tissue I didn’t have. Bearing in mind before I started I had ~55,000 words (and that wasn’t the entirety of part one of a three part book).
And I’ll be honest, for the first few days I was writing purely on adrenaline, I was doing a lot of panic writing, stream of consciousness type of stuff, just to get all the words out. And yes, sometimes not a lot of it made any sense. But I felt it necessary to get it done, just to hit those word counts.
Words Words Words
But of course, it isn’t really about the word count is it? Well, not for me it wasn’t. It was, overall, an exercise in building discipline; in knuckling down and getting some writing done every day. This is something I sorely needed, because the past few years have been terribly inconsistent for me.
But it wasn’t just that, especially for a more freestyle writer like myself. Because once I’d gotten my requisite word count for the day done, I found myself asking “right, so what’s next?” and then I’d find myself planning, that’s right, planning, what I was going to write the following day.
So that’s two massive ticks right there. Discipline and Planning.
Of course, I didn’t feel like I could keep this up. I had a huge amount of self doubt, and this was only about eight days in. “How am I going to keep this up for the whole month?” Because this is epic fiction I’m writing, with a lot of plates spinning, a lot of plot strands to keep track of, and a lot of characters, am I going to be able to do them all justice? Especially in those plot threads that I didn’t have so much material planned for.
But overcoming self doubt is another useful takeaway, and because I am obsessive enough to not give up, I forced myself to write. While this may not always produce the best results, it does actually produce results. And a few of those were actually quite surprising.
The Turning Point
This was fantastic. About twelve days into the month, I found myself writing a section that I’d planned out, that I’d skipped over a few days before, and had gone back to. I had planned to fill in that hole, and do two others. When I’d completed that first section, I checked my word count and was surprised to find I’d hit the target. The best thing was it didn’t feel like it. It felt like I’d written half of that. Which is awesome, because it meant I was growing my writing muscles back and I had material mapped out for the next few days.
So that’s another tick – Momentum.
It couldn’t last, however. I did have a few bad days. I couldn’t get into it, or I didn’t have time, or my stupid ‘real’ job sapped all my energy. So yes, I had a few troughs.
Another surprising thing that I found was that, because I was ‘panic writing’ a lot, just letting things pour out, I made a lot of connections I would never have thought of previously. Different characters met up, interacted in different ways, and ended up in different places. This opened up a lot of new avenues for me to get to in the future.
I also discovered, writing in this way, that I developed a lot more material for those plot-lines that I hadn’t had so much idea about before, filling in quite a bit of back story and world building along the way. On the flipside of that, the ‘main’ plots that I previously thought I knew more about, began to fizzle out a little. Though it did make me happy, in a sense, because it helped me focus more on what was originally weaker material, and made it stronger.
Ultimately though, I do have to face the inevitable. I didn’t ‘win’ NaNoWriMo. I didn’t ‘complete’ my story. Despite all I have written in the past month, I am still so very far away from the finish line.
The final takeaway (for me) is that completion isn’t necessarily the ultimate goal here (at least for this project). I managed to write 53,650 words this month. So in the past thirty days, I have managed to almost DOUBLE the word count I had for this project from the past three years.
Now that is an achievement.
Will I continue with this discipline, with this momentum? Hell ye… no! while it is impressive that I’ve written so much, I have reached the point where my spellchecker is no longer registering mistakes. So NoNoWriMo may be over, it’s time to head into NaNoEdMo.