November was National Novel Writing Month. During NaNoWriMo, hundreds of thousands of hopeful novelists representing countries all over the globe endeavored to write a fifty-thousand word novel in thirty days. I was one of the hopeful.
This was actually my second NaNoWriMo. Last year I didn't get past the registration. I didn't read the email pep-talks the organizers and other writers sent. I didn’t write anything—not one word. I rationalized it away with my surgery and recovery, but truth be told—I forgot about it until midmonth—and when I finally did remember, I had no idea where to even start the process of writing a fifty-thousand word story. What on earth was I thinking?! Rather than admit I was woefully out of my element, I decided surgery and recovery were much more acceptable
This year, I pre-registered for NaNoWriMo. I eagerly anticipated the November 1st kick-off. In preparation, I read the pep-talk emails from last year—they had been sitting unread, in my NaNo mailbox. They were inspiring. They were timely. They offered awesome strategies and encouragement. I grew teary-eyed thinking, I can do this.
The pep talks this year were equally awesome and inspiring. I already had a working outline, notes and ideas, and almost 10K words—they would not be counted in my NaNoWriMo word count. I was motivated. I was inspired. I was ready. I thought I was in a pretty good starting position. Adding 50K words would make my work in progress (WIP) a respectable 60K and give me plenty of material to rework and tighten. I don't intentionally over-write, but in re-reading, I will often find ways to say the same thing with fewer words (writing “tight”). And there are always ideas or subplots that just don’t belong—especially when the story takes on a life of its own and does not want to be told the way originally envisioned.
In order to write 50K words in thirty days, the daily goal is 1,667 words. It turns out on my laptop, which is defaulted to 12-font Times New Roman, 1,667 words is roughly 3 pages. That’s a totally do-able goal—even if a day or two is missed, playing catch up is still very doable. This will be a piece of cake…or so I thought.
NaNoWriMo has a few “rules” writers are encouraged to follow. I broke every rule.
Rule Number One: Write with Consistency and Discipline.
Consistency and Discipline have never been staples in my life, so I was pretty sure from the start I would not be following this particular rule. Not a problem. Many NaNo-ites write inconsistently. They might write a few hundred words on days they work their day jobs or take care of their families. On catch up days, when they are off from their regular job, or someone else, like a neighbor or family member, has charge of the kids, they might advance their story by several thousand words. Because I lack discipline, and knowing my schedule and writing habits, I planned on being a burst writer. As part of that plan, I took the last week of November off to celebrate my birthday at my Moms house in Florida, and work on my novel. Mom goes to bed when the sun goes down, and does not have Internet or TV—there would be few if any distractions. I envisioned pulling all-nighters reminiscent of my college days. Not only would NaNoWriMo be a piece of cake—it would be a fun piece of cake.
Rule Number Two: Silence your Inner Critic.
Not only did my Inner Critic voice her thoughts, she did so constantly—when I wrote, when I read, when I plotted and planned, when I experienced creativity block, and when I
Rule Number Three: Just get the words written.This proved to be impossible for me. I rewrote my pre-NaNo words at least six times. I lost major word count each and every time. Rather than moving forward, I spent valuable writing time losing ground. Not exactly the forward movement I had envisioned. Granted I was tightening up the work, and that’s always a good thing—except during NaNoWriMo.
Rule Number Four: Stockpile Creativity Block Busters.
Creativity Block, sometimes known as Writers Block, will hit. It’s a fact. The pep-talks in last years NaNo Mail warned me: Be armed and ready. I read several wonderful posts on how to handle Creativity Block. Too bad I failed to heed the excellent advice they gave: If you are stuck in a scene, move to another scene and worry about connecting them later. If the words are just not coming, do something different. Go for a walk, read a book, watch a movie, take a power nap, play with your dog—what ever—just stop trying to force it. I forgot this and sat staring at a blank computer screen for three hours one night. Almost in tears, I finally remembered to walk away, then come back and try again. I was still blocked. I finally broke through when I remembered there are eleven other months in which to iron out wrinkles and fix problems. I free texted a different scene. It worked. I wrote a second scene. And I wrote a third scene. In a matter of a couple of hours I was able to write several thousand words. Break-through success—I like that.
My goal was to finish my novel during November. I failed that goal. I had a specific genre in mind, but the novel refused to be written the way I originally envisioned it: as a 35-45K word Cozy Mystery—kind of a light-weight piece of fluff that you look forward to spending time with at the end of a long work day, or a vayca read while relaxing by the fire or on the beach. Pre-NaNo, I had been kindly informed it was not a Cozy. It was more straight Mystery. Okay. I’m flexible I can change direction. I decided I would write a 50-60K word Mystery. (The word counts are rough industry averages.) However, my Novel intervened and she refused to be written as a Mystery. It seems she wants to be an Adventure.
NaNoWriMo is sort of a pseudo-contest. Winners are authors who cross the 50K word finish line before the clock strikes midnight November 30th. One of the reasons, it's a pseudo-contest is because the only prizes are the ones you purchase for yourself from the online store—that and the intrinsic knowledge that you have written a novel, and the experience you gain from completing a goal. I didn’t cross the winners finish line in this pseudo-contest, so I won’t be purchasing a “winner” t-shirt. But I don’t consider myself a loser either—I’m a pseudo-loser—one who has learned a lot about writing in the last thirty days.
And that, in and of itself, is a form of winning.