It’s happening. I’m going to be attempting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the second time this November.
I attempted and won NaNoWriMo once before, in 2013. I wrote over 80k words on what would become a mess of a novel that I still hope to detangle and rework someday. But what I learned from the experience has lasted me ever more in my journey as a writer, and set me on a far more confident path than I had previously been. Then I had a baby and didn’t write for almost three years.
I’ve been working on my fiction in bursts here and there over the past year, but nothing consistently. And that has become a problem. My mind is so full with ideas I am waking up in the night to write them down, which is a wonderful problem for a writer, but it is one that is challenging given my otherwise full and time-constrained lifestyle. So, I figure I need a good kick in the head to get all these ideas out, and there is no kick more solid and swift than NaNoWriMo.
What I learned the first time around:
- I can do it because I did it. I started on November 1 and finished writing over 50,000 words in less than a month. I had nothing more developed at the start than a few characters I liked, and a general idea of what I hoped to write on. I didn’t think of getting to any sort of perfect result and, instead, just wrote them through a variety of scenes in an otherwise meandering, plotless landscape. This is how I ended up with a messy first draft, but I still finished an entire first draft for the first time in my life. It was thrilling!
- I absolutely loved the challenge. I do really well with deadlines, limits and competitions. I finally rise to the occasion when all of these factors are at stake. I don’t just rise, but I enjoy it so much. The very act of sitting in my story every single day was a thrill and a blast that got my creative juices flowing like nothing else since. Participating in Twitter word sprints and watching my word count bar increase with every day felt as rewarding as putting coins in a vacation fund. It felt like I was investing in my story, in my self, in my work as a writer, by chipping away at this creative behemoth that is The Novel every single day.
- It helped me establish writing habits that I’ve utilized since. Writing every day, even for short bursts gets more on the page than waiting for a good chunk of time. Writing in the morning is much easier for me than writing in the evening. Taking breaks when I’m really needing them is okay and important.
What I hope to get out of it this time:
- Community. I was too nervous to even say it out loud the first time around, let alone participate in the immense and supportive NaNoWriMo community that exists online. My goal that first time was to simply prove to myself that there was a novel inside of me, and that I could write it. And I did. This time, as I’m seeking to unravel a story inside of me again, I am less nervous about sharing the experience, and, in fact, eager to connect with other NaNoWriMo writers for support, encouragement, and general complaining purposes.
- Proof. Proof that even though my lifestyle has significantly changed since the last time I did this, from being a full-time freelance writer who could write from sun up to sun down if I wanted, to being a full-time mom with a toddler, I can still do it. I need a crash course that can give me the tools and guidelines and motivation I need to put my writing, well, if not first, then at least not last.
- A first draft. It was so much fun to simply write whatever came up and follow the characters where they wanted to go the first time around, but that also left me with a big mess in the end. I had diverging timelines and shifting tenses, to the point that it made it a beast to edit. I’m hoping to be slightly more organized this time, starting out with a general outline and timeline that can help keep the story straight. I want to complete November with a solid, gigantic step in the right direction of getting this novel done. I consider a 50,000 word first draft a solid start.
How I plan to do this:
- I’ve made a calendar with scheduled writing time. I’ve examined all the holes in my day (of which there are few, but they do exist) where I can write. Before my kid wakes up, when my kid is napping, after my kid goes to sleep. So that’s when I’ll be writing. I have it all set in my calendar, with reminders and alarms. I have also set aside a couple weekend days where my husband can be on full-time kiddo duty, and I’ll be utilizing those full days to write.
- Treats. Is it any wonder NaNoWriMo is right after Halloween? Hello, leftover candy.
- Accountability. I’m being very open that this is what November will be for me. Writing, writing, writing. I hope to have a few accountability buddies* and will update here on Brimming as well.
Even if I don’t achieve 50,000, I will be far better off than if I don’t attempt NaNoWriMo at all. This is the perfect opportunity to course-correct and focus on my love of fiction writing for awhile. I’m not saying it won’t be difficult, but I am saying I’m finally up for the challenge again, and that is as exciting a feeling as anything.
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? What did or didn’t you like about it? Are you planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year? Never heard of it, but sounds interesting? Check out their site.
*Interested in being an accountability buddy? Let me know!