Back in 2008, I stumbled across a pretty little website all in blue which was counting down the days until November 1st and the start of the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.
I did a little research, read up on the history, ran it by Mom and Dad, and decided to try it out with a sequel I was planning.
I reached the goal of 50,000 words that month, to my surprise. The book was hideous, but it was a stepping stone to where I am as a writer today.
I tried it again in 2010. That story was a little better, but I lost half of it when I accidentally saved half of the book over a copy of the completed book. That was frustrating.
Two years later, I entered NaNoWriMo yet again. This story was by far the most satisfying. Whereas the other two were not quite completed at 50,000 and the end of the month, Book 3 managed to be tied up nicely in around 57,000 words, which I achieved near the end of the challenge. I didn’t lose any of the story, and it set the stage for the stories I’m writing today. This was also during the worst of my writing slumps to date, so being able to write, much less finish, anything at all was a huge accomplishment.
Every November between those months of mad keyboard-pounding and over the last three years since the last time, I’ve considered trying the challenge again. I can easily manage 50,000 words in a month if I give myself a few hours a day, but it’s a good motivator to stay focused. Last year I wrote my favorite story thus far and this year I’ve been working on editing it (which I’m starting to enjoy almost more than writing the first draft.) I posted Book 1 to a free writing website to see what sort of feedback it’d get, and it’s been mostly positive, so I’ve been working on a sequel. Then I realized November was coming back around, and I figured, “Why not?”
I’ve learned a lot about myself and my writing in the last few years. Namely, that it is in my best interest and that of the story if I have at least a vague outline including an end goal. I used to never finish books because I wrote by the seat of my pants and every single scene was a surprise. I would get five or six chapters in and be completely lost with no easy way of getting back on any sort of coherent track, and then get frustrated and give up.
I used to do this because I believed it was the only way to keep the writing experience as organic and inspired as possible. I have since learned differently.
Book 1 is posing a little challenge in the editing stage because I didn’t have a lot of the details outlined and several threads got dropped half-way through, so I’m having to go back and weave them in. Not again, though! I’ve had Book 2 simmering on a back burner for months and in these last couple of weeks leading up to November I’ve forced myself to write out the plot over and over again until I have the biggest kinks worked out and everything makes decent sense.
This year, I’m prepared.
More, though: I upped my personal goal to 75,000 words (Book 1 in around 110,000 at the moment, at 31 chapters). Using this handy little project mapping tool I was able to plan out the word count I will need every day to reach my goal. Because of how my November is shaping up, I made the weekend loads lighter than that of the weekdays. Then I threw in little incentives and rewards when I reach certain goals. I’ve heard this is a good method, but I’ve never done it before.
So that’s NaNoWriMo, and this is me preparing like it’s a storm. Until I tried it, I never realized there was a large part of me which thrived on planning and systems and details and lists. It’s a little frightening, though this side of me is proving very helpful. Over on the sidebar, you’ll see my word count tracker for November. Every time I enter my day’s word count onto the site, that will update, if I didn’t fudge up the coding.