NaNoWriMo has come to an end for another year. This was my first time, and after speaking about taking part before the event I thought I ought to share my experience.
Filled with enthusiasm, I got off to a good start. In my first day I clocked over 2,000 words and wondered why the fuck my writing process had never been so fluid and productive before. By the end of day four I’d written four chapters and was sitting at a hearty 9,286 words. Confidence was high as you can imagine.
But then life began to drag me away like an expanding whirlpool. A few very busy shifts in work saw me lose focus and days went by when I didn’t type a single word. I fell behind, but I plodded on. Sure and steady wins the race as they say (though it’s never the case, really?), and did what I could, though that estimated date of completion was creeping deeper into December.
By mid-November I’d given up trying to hit 50k, but I continued to write and by the end managed to get through 11 chapters and 31,099 words, which for me is the most productive period of writing I’ve ever managed.
What did I learn?
In order to achieve NaNo glory you have to prioritise your novel writing above all else. This is something I failed to do. I’ve been running this weekly blog for nearly six months now and getting out of the habit of posting I found difficult. I enjoy it too much for one, and blogging is my way of staying connected with all of the wonderful readers and writers of the world. So continuing to blog definitely set me back.
Perhaps the greatest thing I found about NaNo is that it gives you a desire to write. Writing is our purpose, but without desire there’s no urge to fulfil it. The goal is laid out before you. Something to achieve, to feel good about and be proud of. Such thoughts drive you to ignore those feelings of doubt that dissuade you from trying. You sit down and type words, free from critical thoughts and feelings. It helps you find the enjoyment in writing that sometimes we forget about.
All jokes aside, caffeine is certainly a requirement for success. I’d avoided caffeine for about 6 months before NaNo, but at times it was too difficult to keep on going without. I soon realised what I was missing. I feel possessed after an injection of it, fingers gliding across the keyboard, word count shooting up. Then comes the inevitable crash. Me, not the computer.
If you want to avoid caffeine, there are other things you could try. An apple for breakfast is said to make you more alert than a cup of coffee. You could do a bit of exercise, like a walk, jog or cycle, which usually makes you more alert (depending on how far you go) and is always a great way to shake off any mental blocks. And you could always do a line of cocaine. That usually does the trick for a few hours. Or days.
I would encourage any writer to get involved in NaNo. I was sceptical when I first learned about it. What kind of writing would I produce when faced with a looming target? Unreadable prose and a nonsensical plot filled with one-dimensional characters? My approach has always been quite methodical, taking my time, trying to consider things as I go. But it was taking so fucking long—I began writing my novel in June 2015. I needed something like NaNo to force me to change my writing process.
I learned a lot about myself during the past month and I’m sure many of you out there have discovered much about yourselves too. I learned what I’m capable of when I really push myself. Maintaining that consistency is key, and if we can all do that then there’s nothing to stop us from going far.
Despite not hitting the target, it’s given me encouragement that I can be productive and that I can finish this novel by the end of 2017. It’s about fucking time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you enjoyed it! If you did, why not stay in touch by signing up to my mailing list? All subscribers receive a free eBook, This Craft We Call Writing: Volume One, which is filled with writing tips and guides on prose, plotting, viewpoint, tense, world-building, writing fight scenes, editing, and much, much more!