Okay, so it’s a little past the midpoint for NaNoWriMo (actual midpoint was November 15th). But, here’s an (almost) mid-month report on my NaNoWriMo adventure!
I’m not going to win. I started out strong the first few days, but then in the second week, I got two new jobs! One almost-full-time job and one freelance job. I’m really excited about both, but these jobs have definitely eaten into my novel-writing time. But that’s okay. Sometimes life happens, and it’s not always a bad thing when it does.
I’m still trying to add to my word count by the 30th of November. Just because I know I won’t make 50,000 words by then doesn’t mean I won’t make some progress. And that’s really the point of NaNo.
Although I’m a bit disappointed that I won’t reach the coveted 50,000 words by the deadline, I have learned a few things during the first half of November that I know will benefit me for the rest of my writing career:
Lesson #1: Sometimes you have to push.
Those first few days, when I hit my planned 2,000 words each day, were HARD! Digging deep to find the stamina to keep adding to my novel—even when writer’s block took hold—was a great lesson for me. (Fun fact: This time last year, I was pushing hard to finish my screenplay.)
As much as I wish inspiration struck and creativity flowed automatically whenever I sit down to write, that’s just not the case. And when a writing project has to be done by a certain deadline, you have to keep going. Pushing myself for NaNoWriMo gave me a taste of life as a professional novelist, and since that’s where I’m heading, I think it was great experience for me.
Lesson #2: Sometimes you have to let go.
It’s great to know how to persevere to meet a deadline. It’s also good to know when you need to change plans you made for yourself. On October 31st, I had every intention of charging all the way to 50,000 words by the end of November. But as I said above, life happened and I just haven’t had the writing time I expected to have.
Realizing that plans (writing or otherwise) need to change doesn’t mean that you give up. It means that you reevaluate your strategy. Instead of trying to write 50,000 words—which would probably result in really sloppy writing and no sleep for me—I’ve changed my NaNo strategy. I’m using NaNo to encourage me to keep working on my novel in some way. I’m using it to keep my novel near the top of my priority list so that, when I can make time to write, I use it.
Lesson #3: Support makes everything better.
The great part about NaNoWriMo is that it’s so widespread. While you’re working away on your novel, tons of other people are, too! And there are ways to connect with those people so that we can all encourage each other and keep each other sane.
Before November started, I got in touch with writing friends and found out who is attempting NaNo this year. We’ve checked in with each other during the month to praise each other’s successes and provide encouragement during not-so-successes.
I’ve also been using Go Teen Writers to read about the progress of some professional authors I admire, and join the NaNo conversation through the comments thread. It’s so encouraging to read advice from Stephanie, Jill, and Shannon and also to see that their writing processes aren’t always perfect, either. Writers never stop learning, no matter how many books they’ve written.
Lesson #4: The most important goal of NaNoWriMo is to figure out the writing process that works for you.
Before I started NaNo, I spent weeks planning and worldbuilding for my novel, and I was SO ready to move on to writing. All the details in the planning were making me a little crazy. But once I started writing, I kept running into places in my novel where I wanted to stop and plan some more so I had a better grasp of my scenes!
My NaNo experience has taught me something I always suspected about my writing process: I seem to write best when I do a combination of planning and writing. I like to do lots of planning before I write, but I also have to figure some things out as I go. Once I have the ideas to get started, I like to write until I come up against a big wall, and then I stop and research and/or plan until I’ve worked my way over the wall. Then, later on, I fix smaller issues through edits.
Every writer has a different process that works best for them, and making a huge writing effort (like trying to write 50,000 words in a month) can be a great way to discover your process. When I was writing a bit here and a bit there, I wasn’t spending enough time with my novel to really notice how I wrote best.
I hope to have more lessons (and a higher word count!) to share when I check in on November 30th! Thanks for reading, friends.
How has NaNoWriMo been going for you? What are some writing lessons you’ve learned, this month or any other time?