Monday, January 26, 2015

My 2014 NaNoWriMo experience


I took time off this November to focus on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month); about a year ago I had an idea for a book about an enchanted tarot deck. The idea had been knocking around my brain for a while, so after I sent out my first novel to beta readers in September, I figured, "Hey, why not? NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to see what I can make of that idea." So I went for it.

I spent most of October getting excited about the new book, and worked hard to restrain myself from plotting any of it out--while I'm a firm believer in seat-of-the-pantsing (the NaNoWriMo term for people who like to let the muse take them where it might without any pre-plotting), my self-doubt tends to creep in. What if the muse doesn't come this time, and I end up repeatedly writing "this is stupid, I am lame" to fill up my blank screen? But I held firm, and had faith in the process, and banished my self-doubter to the same realm where I lock up my self-editor during NaNoWriMo.

Armed with the bare bones of my idea, I started writing literally at 12:01 am on Nov. 1st after removing my Halloween make-up. I wrote a chunk, and then woke up the next morning and wrote another chunk. The words flew out with a will of their own; my fingers channeled some force beyond my understanding. Oh happy day! Huzzah! The writing muse is here!! Right?

Until Day 4. I woke that morning to the 'realization' that everything I'd written was complete crap, and I was fooling myself to think I could ever be a writer. Nobody, I was convinced, had ever written such drivel since mankind had scratched out the first words onto the walls of caves.

But I held firm. I reminded myself that every writer has moments where they feel this way, and reminded myself that first drafts are never good. I told myself to just keep writing.

I decided to check out some of the virtual write-ins on the  NaNoWriMo YouTube channel to keep myself motivated; they archive their past write-ins and you can watch them anytime you need that push. So helpful! It's just as good as watching them live--they give you prompts and timed writing sprints, and even if you don't do the prompts (I didn't) it's an awesome way to get yourself focused and writing. And, there is silliness and joking to keep you in a good state of mind. I highly recommend checking them out anytime you feel you just can't get your writing mojo flowing.

I was so impressed with the write-ins that I decided to sit in on a live one, on 'double-up day'; this is a day where they encourage you to double your daily word count for the day, and your donation, if you are able. They had several virtual write-ins that day, and I sat in on as many as I could. It spurred me on to not only double my word count that day, but to triple it.

And with that, I was off and running. I finished my 50,000 words in 17 days, and had the rest of the month to get the novel up to my personal target of 60,000.

By November 30th, I had a mostly finished novel; I finally finished the draft completely yesterday, coming in at 68,900 words. Along the way I changed from third person to first person, wrote several scenes with characters and backstory that I had to completely revamp, changed names and job descriptions of characters so many times I thought I'd go crazy, and ended up with a fully-formed plot and a draft that I am mostly very proud of. I know it's going to need a lot of revision when it comes out of hibernation, but I have an excellent foundation to build from. And that can only be a good thing.

So here's what I re-learned about it all:

1) Self-doubt doesn't stop after the first novel. My brain likes to feed me fear, but now I know how to overcome it. Just put my head down and write anyway.

2) Persistence is everything. Keep writing. Think what you just wrote is crap? Worry about it later, when you have a clear head. Don't delete and start over, and don't quit. Just keep writing.

3) The muse WILL come. If you write, your  neurons will fire and your neural networks will begin churning out stuff, and ideas will come. If you have an idea and a plot to start with, great! But if you don't, that's okay. The act of writing itself gets you thinking, and your mind will kick in.

4) You should bust tushie to get ahead of your word count/goal, because you never know what's going to happen next week that will throw you off. Easier said than done, I know. But true nonetheless. Thank goodness I got as far as I did early on and by November 30, before my jury duty kicked in and derailed my 'I'll get it up to 65,000 words in December' goal!

So there you have it--and I hope your NaNoWriMo experience was just as amazing. :)

Keep writing, my friends!!


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience from the NaNoWriMo, I have often wondered what it feels like being in the mids of it.

  2. Thank you for reading! Sometimes it makes you want to tear your hair out, and sometimes it make you feel like you're flying. :)


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