Despite my blog being a desolate wasteland for the last half of 2014, I did, in fact, participate in NaNoWriMo last November.
And it was such a glorious struggle, I wanted to give a brief recap.
In past years, I wrote that NaNoWriMo had outgrown its usefulness to me as a writer as I began to develop regular writing habits of my own. That remains somewhat true. I certainly don’t do my best work during NaNoWriMo, and its fast pace doesn’t allow for taking a break to step back and look at the big picture without falling behind, not when there are precious words that need to be written to hit that daily word count goal.
I find that taking a break from word crunching to stop and gain some perspective is not only helpful but necessary for my writing. It keeps me motivated and helps with the flow of ideas. During NaNo, I often miss being able to set the word count aside for a day and just work on the direction I’d like to take my story in. You know, to just sit there and ponder and daydream and plan. Sure, there’s nothing actually stopping me from doing this, but it would mean being another 1,667 words behind the month’s word count, and I often just can’t be bothered playing catch-up.
So, NaNoWriMo has its down sides, you could say, but here’s what it’s really great for:
Putting your butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard and WRITING THE WORDS.
And even professional writers (especially those who work within deadlines) benefit from that sentiment. All writers, whatever their experience level, need a bit of motivation, a bit of a push, an excuse, a reason, or some encouragement to actually get the words onto the page sometimes, and if that’s the only reason for someone to participate in NaNoWriMo, then that’s okay. It’s more than okay, it’s perfectly fine.
I think that’s why I continue to take part. Well, 50% of it is that. The other 50% is an excuse to talk about writing with other people who write, and even people who don’t, and really just spread the love of writing with anyone and everyone. I find a lot of non-writers are very curious about NaNoWriMo, and ask a lot of questions when I mention what I’ve been up to over the month. If the conversation reaches someone with even a shred of interest in writing a novel, and encourages them to actually take the plunge, then that’s awesome, and that’s what keeps me doing it.
That aside, how did NaNoWriMo 2014 go for me? Yeah, it was a struggle, a real battle, especially towards the end, but it was also my most successful one to date. It was the first time I actually completed my story. It has a distinct beginning, middle and end. It has a clear three act structure. It also has some secondary characters that are a tad more well-rounded than the usual cardboard cutouts that follow me around all November (a byproduct of pantsing rather than planning; without planning out my characters prior to actually writing, they generally turn out as either boring or schizophrenic).
This is also the first NaNoWriMo novel (out of five!) that I want to rewrite and edit and keep going with. It’s gotten under my skin, like an itch that won’t go away, and I’m taking that as a good sign. It means my characters still have more to say and do, and the content isn’t so dull or horrid that I don’t want to spend another second looking at it.
I averaged 1671 words per day. There were only three days where I didn’t write any words at all, and I generally made up for those the following days by having two writing sessions on those days, one in the morning and one in the evening. Yep, The fear of falling behind and not being able to catch up again is pretty good motivation for me. I’m such a sucker.