Post NaNo Reflection

My spasmodic writing spells and stats

Although it is only a week since NaNoWriMo ended, it feels like an eternity ago that I typed “THE END” to my 50,000 word novel.

My first attempt at anything of the sort, I feel rather proud that I completed the challenge. After starting a day late, spending the majority of the month below ‘the line’, and being conscious of the fact that most of what I was writing was, well, rubbish, I nonetheless pulled through and stuck it out til the end. I even finished a day early. Who would’ve thought?

So, the month began with me, no plot, and a blank page. I wanted to write a fantasy novel, epic in nature, with the typical premise of chosen one, kingdom in peril, battle of evil. I had a pretty interesting character and some good world building going on, but 35,000 words in I realised something.

I was bored.

Now, I may not be a bestselling author or an acclaimed literary critic, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if the writer is bored, that’s not a good sign. If I can’t find it interesting, then how the hell is anybody else supposed to?

At this point I was still falling way behind the daily word limit goal and my motivation was wavering. I knew I had to do something drastic to get on track in order to reach my 50,000 word goal or I would find myself curled in a ball of despair come November 30th, never daring to try write a novel again.

What did I do? I started writing another story.

It came to me one moment, and the next I had all these ideas, a plot and before I knew it I’d written 7,000 words. I had been struggling to churn out the daily 1,667 words until that point, and here I was, 7,000 words in a day!

I abandoned the original story and continued with the new one until I fondly greeted that 50,000th word. Granted, I ended up with one unfinished story and one 15,000 word short story rather than one 50,000 word novella, but I like to think the point was that I finished.

This is what 50,000 words looks like...

I signed up for NaNo with one expectation: To write 50,000 words in a month. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be disciplined enough to write regularly over a longer period of time, and to break down my fear that it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time round.  I told myself that if one good idea, paragraph, character or sentence came out of it, then I would be happy. As it turns out, in that I was successful.

There are also a few things I learned over the month of November:

  1. I like to write in chunks. I’d rather write big chunks over a shorter period of time, than little snippets over a longer period of time. Over the entire month I actually only wrote 18 out of the 30 days.
  2. The NaNo forums are truly wonderful. I didn’t think in this little part of the world called Tasmania, that anyone would be participating in my area. As it turns out, there was a group of Northern Tasmanians keen to get their write on, and we ended up meeting each Friday to vent our NaNo stresses and challenge each other in word wars.
  3. I like graphs. Seeing that little blue line inch a little further every day was unbelievably motivating.
  4. I am incapable of writing a *good* novel in a month. NaNoWriMo may produce some stellar stuff for some, but for me it was 90% word mush. There were a few good lines in there, paragraphs even, but mostly it was just stream of consciousness writing. Even though I quite love the short story that came out of it, I feel it would be less work to start over again than to go back and edit it into something worthwhile.
  5. I would do it again. What a sense of achievement it was to reach that finish line, to receive my winners certificate and to be completely immersed for 30 days in a large creative project. Although it may not have produced any particularly wonderful writing for me, it was still an amazing opportunity to push myself to write every day with the support of all those other wrimos out there.

Congrats to everyone out there who participated in NaNo this year. Even if you didn’t reach the big five oh, I think you’re all winners. If the month of November saw you writing something, then you’re ahead of those who have not yet found the courage to write anything.

I leave you with the wise words of Chris Cleave, who was kind enough to give us Wrimos a mid-month pep talk:

It doesn’t matter what genre you write in. All literature is transformative. To make people laugh; to tell a light-hearted romantic story; to let intelligent readers forget their troubles for an hour in the absence of the politicians and the money men who make our lives hell – these are some of the hardest feats to accomplish as a writer, and some of the most serious political acts you can perform. You don’t have to be a Serious Writer to be a serious writer. I once read a beautiful paragraph about teenage vampires – teenage vampires, for goodness’ sake – that moved me more than all of Hemingway. You don’t need to be trying to change the world in order to change someone’s world. What you need is to be seriously committed to your work.

A fellow local Wrimo and I decided to print our 'manuscripts' in celebration of completing the challenge. A tangible memento.

~storytelling nomad~

22 comments on “Post NaNo Reflection

  1. Congratulations! I only got to about 14,000 words. However, I’m up to over 21,000 words now.

    I love writing novels, and just because November is over doesn’t mean I’m going to stop. However, I did lower my goal for this book to 30,000 words. But that may change to 50,000 in the future.

    But, congratulations still! You’ve accomplished what many cannot!

    • 21,000, even 14,000 is a stupendous effort! Kudos for carrying on post NaNo too; I took several mental health days come December 1st!

      Thanks for stopping by and congrats to you too for your NaNo achievements!

  2. I have found in the past year from writing challenges like these and working with writing peers is that the true value isn’t writing the perfect book, it’s what you learn about yourself, your process, and where you can improve. Congrats on accomplishing that. :-)

    • Thank you! And you are so right, Angela. I definitely learned a lot, not least of all that a perfect 50k in a month is impossible for my standard sized brain ;)

  3. High five! I never have time to write in November, it’s always work or exam time! It’s a really pity as I’ve previously found so many nano writers to be wonderful and encouraging people, especially in the forums and chat on the site!

    • I didn’t visit the chat rooms, but the forums were definitely encouraging, with loads of activities, competitions and meet-ups happening everywhere. It’s amazing what a group of people with a collective goal can achieve when embarking on the same journey together. Hopefully one November exams and work will do the right thing and let you write!

    • Thanks Lissa! Ah, how cool! I saw on your blog that you studied at UTAS! I’m about to start the new Masters in Creative Writing course there in the new year. Are you coming back for good or just visiting?

      • Oh man, I didn’t know they were finally offering an MA in Creative Writing! I wanna get me a piece of that! I have thought about going back for my Masters but with the move and a wedding and everything it just won’t be feasible to go back to Uni for a few years.
        I’m coming back for good.

      • It’s a new course starting in 2012 and it looks amazing! Over the year and a half you get to write 50,000 words creative (which can be one big story, several short ones or the start of a novel) plus two 5,000 word book journals, where you read intensively in your genre as well as books that will help you improve a particular aspect of your writing, whether it be characterisation, plot, dialogue, world building etc. Writing and reading: what could be better than that?! An overseas move + a wedding are definitely valid reasons not to take up full time study anytime soon, but hopefully once you’re all settled in you might get a chance to enrol :)

        That’s great that you’re coming back to the Apple Isle though. If you’re ever up Lonnie way and want to catch up for a coffee and talk writing let me know!

  4. Congratulations! I love your printed manuscript. My story is sadly nowhere near finished, so it’s not printed out yet . . . maybe in the next 6 months, we’ll see :).

    Meeting up with local fellow wrimos is invaluable, and I’m glad that even in your little corner of the world you were able to find that support!

    • Oh don’t let it not being finished stop you! I certainly didn’t ;) My friend and I just wanted to hold in our hands what we had achieved in a month. God forbid if anyone actually reads it! :|

      I’m glad I found local Wrimos too! So motivating have face to face encouragement from others doing the same thing.

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