Reflections on NaNoWriMo
Some of you may know that November is known to a lot of writers as NaNoWriMo. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, NaNoWriMo is the shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is writers take the month of November and try to get a rough first draft of a 50,000 word novel. The idea isn't to write your best, but to write a lot. I first tried NaNoWriMo seven years ago and I failed miserably. I had moved back to OKC just a few months before, I was still really figuring out what kind of writer I wanted to be (I was in denial that I should be writing inspirational romance), and I had no idea what I was really doing. I quickly discovered that 50,000 words is A LOT and I was in a place that I wasn't ready for that kind of task. It wasn't a completely wasted experience though, it helped me discover a few things about myself in regards to my writing. The main one being that I don't necessarily do well writing really fast, especially without a plan. This year, I decided to give NaNoWriMo another shot, but with my own twist. My goal wasn't to write an entire novel, but more to simply focus on one particular story everyday for a month. I was (mostly) successful and once again, I learned a lot about myself as a writer, and also some tricks to help me in the balancing of a fairly full life (full-time job, part-time job, church commitments, ect) and my writing career. Here are my reflections after NaNoWriMo.
Most authors fall into one of three categories: Plotter, Pantser, and In-Betweener. Stated simply, plotters plan everything out. They have an outline, a timeline, character profiles, and probably write their stories beginning to end. While it's still creative, their creativity has a plan that needs executed. Pantsers are the opposite. They "fly by the seat of their pants", writing as it comes, with usually no kind of outline, and maybe not in order. While they may jot down a timeline or a character profile, typically plotting makes them feel like they are hindering the creative process. The third type of writer, the in-betweener, is where I fall. Like it sounds, we fall somewhere in between plotting and pantsing, but usually with a lean toward one or the other. We may have a brief outline, but we don't follow it exactly. Or a character profile but the character may deviate from it. We may sit down one day and have no idea what we're writing and just write while another day we have everything worked out. I definitely lean toward pantsing. I have a basic outline, recently I've been exploring Myers-Briggs personality types for my characters, but I rarely write a story in chronological order, and a lot of times the story just takes over. After I finished edits on Worthy of Redemption and started on the next novel in that series, More than Enough, I was pretty much in full on pantser mode. Setting aside a time everyday to write gave me a chance to get back into more of a balance.
The area where I benefited the most, and where I succeeded the most, was in time management and writing consistently. The first day of November, I decided to write during my lunch break. We have a small break room with a computer and thanks to Office 365 and the Cloud, I can access my stories from anywhere with an internet connection. I didn't really set any goals, but I had about ten minutes left and I was at 460 words. I thought "I can totally get to 500, that's a good goal." I kept writing for the next ten minutes and ended up with 546! I decided this was a great time to write, and a good goal for the next month. I ended up writing on most of my lunch breaks (a couple of them I had to run errands) and hit my goal every day, exceeding it by a lot on several occasions. The highlight was on November 15 when I doubled my goal and hit 1,076 words during my lunch break! It was such a great feeling. I wrote other times during the month other than my lunch breaks, but these times were quickly my favorite. I posted some updates on my social media sites, and I had people asking me about my word counts. It was a ton of fun and felt like such a community effort.
I'm honestly not sure what my final NaNoWriMo word count was, but I realized as I was trying to figure it out that I don't really even care. It was never about the total amount of words, just about the drive to do this every day. I succeeded in writing every day and I exceeded my daily goals. More importantly, I feel like I made some discoveries in how to balance my time on this writing journey. I was talking with someone about it and I said it reminded me a little of a super strict diet like the Whole 30. You don't continue to eat nothing else after it's over, but you don't go back to eating a candy bar and drinking a ton of soda every day either. You've built a foundation. That's how this felt. I won't spend every lunch break from here on out writing at least 500 words, but I will probably do it at least two or three times a week. I built a foundation and I know I can do it.
So that's my experience. I may not have "won" NaNoWriMo in the sense that I got my novel done, but for me, it was one of the best things I've done creatively in a long time. Thank you to those that followed along on my journey and encouraged me along the way. (Especially my coworkers- you guys were awesome at keeping me accountable and being excited when I crushed my goals).
*If you want to keep following me along on this journey, I update most often on Instagram. The link is in the connect section of my website.
Christ-Follower. Writer. Caffeine-addict.