It is December 2nd and I am emerging from the fog of November. Where has the last thirty-some days gone? I feel like it was only yesterday I sat down with excited glee to start a new NaNoWriMo challenge and yet it feels like years have gone by.
I ran into a lot of challenges this time around and learned many new lessons. Even though it was difficult I think it was also rewarding and I learned a lot about myself as a writer. That sounds cheesy doesn’t it? Ugh, I hate that but its true. So, I would like to impart some of my experiences and pearls of wisdom learned this year.
1. People are hella supportive!
A big thank you to everyone who encouraged me, discussed the project with me, followed me on Twitter and Facebook, and left me encouraging likes and comments. Years ago I would have been mortified to even admit I was taking part- wouldn’t have even considered people would be interested or care. Knowing I have such a great support team behind me helped me persevere. It keeps me motivated to achieve my goals and excited to share my progress. Who knows, maybe even someday my work. Extra special props go out to my mom and most notably my sisters for not mocking me too much during this time.
I mentioned this in my update but it bears mentioning again. I have always been a panster (for those who don’t know the lingo it is a “write by the seat of your pants” approach. No formal planning, possibly no idea where the story is going- just writing and seeing where it takes you); and have upheld and maintained a staunch Pro-Pants affiliation for most of my life. However, upon seeing this year that though I have tons (I mean thousands upon thousands) of pages of material for various stories I have not completed a single one. While preparing for NaNoWriMo by reading inspiring blogs and watching various writing vlogs and youtube channels I came across an outlining strategy that just seemed to click. I gave it a go and lo and behold, magic!
I didn’t outline my novel to completion but I did most of it. In the end it was what made my 2014 NaNoWriMo experience a success.
3. NaNoWriMo Word Sprints are life savers
This is the best thing I discovered this year. On Twitter various NaNoWriMo leaders host Word Sprints. You are given a specific amount of time (10, 20, 30 minutes)and you have to write continuously for that time. No distractions, no pee breaks, no coffee refills, just writing. They offer you optional prompts, and more adventurous writers may use them- I did not this time around. They are your cheerleader and head coach. I got so much of my word count done because of the Word Sprints and they were super fun to do!
4. Coffee shop write-ins are not my thing
I tried to be a more active participant this year and attend some NaNoWriMo hosted events. Namely the right-ins at local Starbucks. I arrived on time to a room, already a bit crowded, found myself spot with a plug nearby and stuck my head-phones in and got to work. Slowly the table I was at (a large, old-fashioned library style table) filled up. It didn’t take me long to figure out that everyone there knew each other. No one said anything but it was clear from the poignant looks, and the way they tried to cram in all around me, I was not in the right place. This was a table for a certain group, and I was intruding. This was, needless to say, very distracting and obnoxious. So, in a polite Canadian move, I offered my seat to a newcomer who was looking rather distraught that there wasn’t enough room at her precious table and went to a corner seat with a plug. My silent, look based exchanged with the person across from me, who had obviously witnessed the whole thing, told me that this was not a singular occurrence.
I stayed to finish my coffee but then booked it promptly after that. It was hard to write there, even without being at the table of NaNoWriMo gods. It was loud, another table of younger students (high school aged) were being…well teenagers, and giggling and laughing. Even with my music on every time someone moved, or came in, or left, or laughed so loud I could hear them over my music, I was distracted.
I learned that if I want to write in a coffee shop/cafe then it is better to do it on my own and at one not being purposely attended by other WriMo’s.
5. I hated my novel
It may seem silly, especially to non-writers, to say that. I have slaved over this thing for a month, I have given up time, personal hygiene, and parted with many dollars in the name of caffeine to complete it. I have stayed up until the wee morning hours slaving away to get a winning word count. If I cried over things-there would have been tears shed.
I was excited for this story- honest I was! I secretly was hoping people would choose this one because I really thought I loved the characters and the idea. I started off with such excitement, such hope and on about day 18 or so I realized that I really, really, really hated the f’ing thing. I hated my characters. I hated my plot with its predictable, ill-conceived, twists. I hated that my characters motivations were so…un-motivating. I hated that I put my main character with a very specific personality, and world view, into a situation that called for her to either change dramatically or act in a way that was inconsistent to her attitude. I hated that the two characters I had designed to have a romantic relationship just kind of ended up hating each other- which is fine actually just deflating. I hated that every word after about 20, 000 was like pulling teeth and I just couldn’t figure out how all the pieces I had in my head could, or should, fit together.
Only my outline kept me on track.
6. It didn’t matter I hated my novel
It was hard to push through the seething hatred; to sit down at the table, on the couch, in the cafe, and write. All I wanted to do was say: “New plague, everyone dies, the end” and call it a day. It was hard knowing that there were so many other, good, ideas floating around in my brain- begging to be let out onto paper and I was stuck writing this piece of crap.
But, I did it. People I’ve told that I hated it have asked, “well why didn’t you start something else then?” The answer I give is “because I wouldn’t have had enough time to start over and get my word count in”. People get that. The truth is that it didn’t matter that I hated it. Writing is like having a child (a topic I am totally an expert on). You can’t put it back in once its out. It demands to be written. It’s a painful process, yes, but at the end of it there is relief and yes some joy. Did it matter that I hated my story when I finally hit the 50, 000 word mark? No. I felt the same elation and sense of achievement as I did last year. I was still proud of my achievement, and perhaps even more so because I knew how hard it had been. It pushed me harder to finish because I just wanted it to be over! The last hour of writing I was checking my count after every sentence, just waiting to hit 50,000 even if it was in mid sentence so I could throw down the gauntlet and be done.
7. I have, basically, a novel
I have to write another scene or two, I admit, to wrap it up- but it is done. There is nothing new or significant it needs (you know, other than a complete overhaul). It has a defined start, middle, and mostly end. Even though I hate it, even though in my mind it is the biggest piece of crap I ever crapped- it’s done! I am actually even thinking about editing it- yes continuing to work on it because it is the first manuscript I have written since I was twelve and maybe I should do something with that. Or maybe I won’t- who knows. Either way it exists, and that is something to celebrate!
A big shout out to everyone on the NaNoWriMo team who made this year a success!
How was your NaNoWriMo Experience? What did you learn? What was your final word count?