40 Days of Writing: My First NaNoWriMo
Would it be ironic if I didn’t know how to start this post? How do I write about my experience of writing for NaNoWriMo for the first time? Well, it definitely starts with writer’s block and the good ole I don’t know where to start.
NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization that helps promote writing. The initial rule of National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days. WTF? Yeah. Crazy, I know. Books that are now well-known, started out as NaNoWriMo projects. Heard of Water for Elephants or Fangirl? Those were NaNoWriMo books.
But, I never go by the rules. I tend to read and see which rules apply to me and my current journey and adjust accordingly. It’s okay to make your own rules. You’re not cheating the system, you’re setting yourself up for the best kind of success–one that has you in mind, not everyone else.
That being said, I contemplated starting a new project but my sister yelled at me. I had been looking for an excuse to abandon my current work in progress (again) but she wasn’t having it. So, for my first NaNoWriMo, I broke the first rule and worked on something I was already writing. I started counting my words on my first session though, so my word count for November was set at zero.
Writing can be so lonely. There’s something about knowing other people are working towards their goal alongside you that makes you feel like you are a part of something. Maybe that’s what kept me going.
This week I still had motivation, though the writer’s block of procrastination started to creep in. I started cleaning, baking, painting, you name it, procrastinating. Which, is part of the writing process. You can’t hold yourself to be staring at your blank page forever. Sometimes you need to walk away and do something else creative to spark the next thing.
This week was rough. No matter what I did, I didn’t feel like writing. I kept a calendar and awarded myself with stickers if I wrote. Looking back, I did write more than I thought I did. A lot of times you get stuck on everyone else’s goals and forget your own. While it’s nice to have other people writing at the same time you are, it’s also a win if you just write one sentence. You can’t expect yourself to be what you’re working towards. Remember you are a work in progress and this is all part of the journey.
This week I honestly don’t remember. But nevertheless, it happened. It was the week where I was so tired. The homestretch. I didn’t write many words, I laughed when I took the final count. BUT I had 32 more words than I did the day before. This was the week where I decided to push it to 40 and see how the challenge would turn out. I was embarking on my first writing trip to New York for Christmas and thought it was a perfect way to end this long month of commitment.
In the spirit of making my own rules, I decided to extend my NaNoWriMo to a 40 Day Challenge, to document this experience, so here we are. Adding two more weeks didn’t get me 50,000 words and a finished first draft. It gave me a push forward. More than I had than when I started. A clearer vision. More words and plot points. A better sense of my characters. You’re getting there. Don’t worry.
I won’t call this the finish line because it’s just the beginning. I set out to try and run a marathon without training for it. Sure I had been writing, I know what my book was about, but this was just a trial run. I had expedited my growth as a writer. I kept moving the manuscript forward. Even when I deleted words, I kept writing. And I think that’s the point. At least for me, that I kept going. I tried something new. Learned things about my writing process.
At the end of the 40 days, I wrote 15,703 words. That was two character perspectives I didn’t have at the end of October. NaNoWriMo gives you badges when you reach certain milestones. I never got to 7 days in a row, 14 or 21, but I wrote 2 days in a row, 3 and even more. My milestones were measured in stickers and words I didn’t have before.
If you’re thinking about doing NaNoWriMo, remember that a lovely life worth living can’t be measured in time. It’s a journey. And so is your manuscript. You are growing with it. Let it breathe. Keep writing your story. You’re the only one who can tell it the way you do. And if you make it to the 50,000 words, I’ll be cheering from the sidelines for you. I probably sprained my ankle back on the first mile and I’m happily drinking Gatorade and eating a banana.