Dying for a follow up on my NaNo experience? I knew you were.
Originally posted on Tipsy Lit:
The beginning of December is a little sad for me. Not because Black Friday has once again crushed all my faith in humanity, but because it means that NaNoWriMo is over for another year. This is my third year, my third December
wondering what in the world just happened reflecting on a glorious month of writing.
I had never even heard of NaNoWriMo until October 2011. Two days before Halloween, someone mentioned it in my Twitter feed. Call me
crazy spontaneous, but I signed up on two days’ notice. Never mind that I hadn’t written seriously in years. I wanted to write seriously again. What better way to jump start? I threw myself face first off the deep end, and I belly-flopped. It was a little more difficult than I had imagined. 1,667 words a day didn’t sound like a lot when I was gleefully registering on Halloween, but the last major “work” I had undertaken was twenty-something years old. The gears in my brain were a little rusty.
I struggled for a lot of reasons. The parameters were just so tight. 50K didn’t feel like enough time to tell the story I wanted to tell. Could I go over? Was that allowed? Would people read my book if it was longer? I got caught up in trying to figure out how to tell a story in too few words. My prose was stilted, disjointed, forced. It was fun, though, connecting with other writers for the first time in decades.
I won that year; it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t, so I did what I had to do to throw myself across the finish line. I ended that year with thirty words to spare. But I didn’t write The End, so I didn’t feel like a winner. I didn’t avail myself of any of the rewards. I didn’t even print the winners’ certificate because the printer was out of ink. But I was a writer again.
In 2012, I knew I would do it again. I had a great story, some good plot points, and real life friends trying it with me. Again, I never considered not finishing. I was going to do it, the only question would be how clean that finish would be. That year, I got tangled up in a couple of major plot points that had become gaping holes. I know the idea is to push forward and fix them later, but the story just quit speaking to me. I switched over to a story I already loved, and I crossed the finish line a week ahead of schedule.I even managed to attend one or two local write-ins to meet other writers in real life. I continued that novel for another couple of months, and that manuscript is a tidy 108K and is currently in the rewrite stage. Its sequel asked to be written, and all 50K of it poured out in 12 days.
This year, I almost didn’t do NaNo at all. I had my reasons, the biggest of which was that I had already rediscovered the writer in me. 50K in a month is no longer the challenge it once was. I have five first draft manuscripts waiting to be edited with two more in the works. I wondered if there was anything left for me to gain. But I hadn’t written in a while, and the project that was pressing on me seemed like it would be an easy one. Besides, I loved the energy and camaraderie that NaNo brings. I signed up.
I went to my local kickoff. My real goal this year was to involve myself in writing activities with live people. I grew up with a writing partner, and I miss having someone I can call up to discuss a plot issue at two in the morning. I had high hopes. I had a schedule open enough to allow for a write-in a week, I hoped. It didn’t pan out quite that way.
The kickoff was a huge success by NaNo standards. By mine, it was not so good. Picture seventy socially awkward people crammed into the Travel section of Books-a-Million, and you’ve got a general idea of what fun was had. I am shy, but I’m good with people who are socially adept. I can borrow their social skills when I run out of my own. There were not enough graces to go around that night. Most of us were too shy/awkward to make eye contact and shuffled around the throng looking at our feet and trying not to touch anybody. Out of seventy people, only eight were brave enough to share their plot and participate in the games. It was all win.
Needless to say, I didn’t go to another write-in the rest of the month. I still love the idea of it, but in practice, it’s just so hurty. Why was I surprised? Many of us are writers because we live in our heads and have no idea what to do with living, breathing people. I should have taken the kickoff as a sign for what was to come.
Within the first few days of November, I wanted to quit. Not the writing. The project itself was singing along. I was logging 8K days with regularity. One one memorable day, I produced 10K and broke a personal record. I reached 50K on day seven without breaking a sweat. I was enjoying the writing and challenging myself to do bigger and better, but I felt all alone. Why was I participating in NaNo at all?
The thing I had loved most was being part of a community, but I couldn’t find where I belonged. I was not a beginner, struggling to keep up and begging for help. Nor was I one of the highest producers with a million word goal. I was me, a writer seeking to test her own limits. The forums were not a successful resource for me for various reasons, layout being the primary one. I felt like I had to apologize for my word count or discount it somehow. I was on my own. I did some word sprints on Twitter, and that helped me feel connected, but I rarely mentioned my actual word count.
I finished the month with 108K, which is a good count considering I was unable to write for a stretch of nearly two weeks. Sometimes life happens.And I never reached that elusive “The End.” I don’t think I tested the limits of what I can do yet, either. What could I accomplish in an energy-filled month with plenty of writing time and lots of support?
There’s always next year, right? Who’s with me?
Heather divides her time equally between her blog Becoming Cliche and an alchemical attempt to turn her mailbox into a turtle. Results on both are varied. She is currently at work on a full length novel when she can be bothered to put down the bonbons and turn on the computer. She does not photograph well.