I wasn’t sure at the beginning if National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was for me. Reaching the 50,000 word target would require 1,667 words per day, over all thirty days of the month. That seemed doable, but the idea of potentially churning out word count at the expense of story bothered me.
In “On Writing,” Stephen King wrote, “You find yourself constantly questioning your prose and your purpose when what you should probably be doing is writing as fast as the Gingerbread Man runs, getting that first draft down on paper while the shape of the fossil is still bright and clear in your mind.” That’s what I tried to do, and here are a few of the things I learned along the way:
I don’t like finality of the thirty day deadline. Post-NaNo, I will work toward a daily target of about 2,000 words, allowing myself three months per project. If some days I’m ahead of pace, and other days I need more time, so be it. But creatively, I need the freedom to work at that pace, without the constraint of being ahead or behind the pace to hit some arbitrary deadline.
I don’t like writing on Saturday or Sunday. I’ll gladly write more during the week to keep the weekend for me.
My characters, and the story, evolved in ways I hadn’t anticipated in the beginning. Strict outlining would have limited this evolution.
In the second half of the book, I started doing nightly “Story Notes,” noting plot points I wanted to be sure to include in the next few chapters, and exploring ways the story might evolve. These notes gave the story direction, without the restriction of following a rigid outline.
I met several people who had tried NaNoWriMo in the past. They’re everywhere!
I saw something that talked about “real writing vs. pretending to write.” As I wrote, I could tell the difference. “Real writing” is fun.
My writing near the end of the three weeks was dramatically better it was at the beginning.
The timing of NaNo couldn’t have been better for me. Scaling back one career, and starting another as a writer just a week before the start of NaNo 2013, it gave me a way to focus my activities on the most important part of the switch: my writing.
In the end, NaNo 2013 was a tiring, stressful, yet invaluable experience. I loved it, will miss it now that it’s over, and look forward to going at it again in 2014. (OP 11/22/1013)