#NANOWRIMO2019: How I Conquered the Challenge & What I Learned

Hola my great people!

 

I hope everyone’s turkey and family day, formerly known as Thanksgiving, was amazing. This was my first year cooking! Your girl threw down some macaroni and cheese, yams, greens, hooked up the Hawaiian rolls in the oven with butter (get hip), and made my famous peach rolls (I might share this recipe soon – it’s my favorite dessert to whip up for folks!). I only served my best friend and my mom was there for support, but they both said I did a good job *happy dance*.

 

I realized how therapeutic cooking can be for me. My emotions have been very up and down lately and I found myself turning to the preparation and cooking of those meals as a way to make me feel better and occupy my mind. I want to try and attempt at least one new recipe a month starting in January – I think it’ll be a nice practice for me to pick up and pursue!

 

Another ‘first’ the month of November delivered was my participation in NaNoWriMo! I had a small concept for a potential story and decided to use it in my first NaNo attempt. And it wasn’t the easiest or hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I learned a lot about myself and the way I prefer to and tend to work at my best.

 

And I won! I met the 50K word count on November 29th. Woo hoo!

 

Let’s talk about my experience and what I learned from the challenge.

 
 
 
 

NaNoWriMo definition straight from trusty Wikipedia:

 

National Novel Writing Month is an annual Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.

 

There are different ways to approach this. Writers can personalize their goal(s) and make the challenge into whatever they like. The point is pretty much just pushing yourself to stay committed to the goal(s) you set and realize your potential. It can be hard to stay on track and be consistent as life gets in the way and it can be easy to find excuses. This project is geared toward helping writers find lesser excuses and take more initiative.

 

I decided to go with the default: Aim for 50,000 words on the manuscript of a new work-in-progress. I had never before put down 50k words for a project in one month, but it’s also never been something I tried to do. Regardless, I was confident that as long as I plan (Neutral Plotter here) this would be a piece of cake.

 

And sometimes it was just that. But sometimes it wasn’t. I’ll address my takeaways from the four areas below!

 

1. No editing

2. Outline?

3. Every day?

4. Deadline

 
 

N O E D I T I N G

 

Listen.

 

My first drafts are always cleannnnn, you hear me?

 

I might not completely know where the story is going yet, but I always make sure my words are polished and things make sense.

 

Not with this project.

 

NaNo taught me a lesson in letting go. Closing the laptop on page three and coming back the next day to pick up where I left off on page three. Not going back and editing what I had written during the last session. I even only re-read my words when I needed a little refresher on the feel of particular scenes I had to continue writing.

 

I learned how to stop forcing perfection and just allow myself to write the story freely. It’s a first draft, it’s supposed to be ugly. By the grace of God, nobody is going to see that sh*t! You’re going to make a million changes in all the drafts to follow. It just has to make sense to you. Here’s a wonderful quote that supports this sentiment:

 

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

– Terry Pratchett

 

In forcing myself to keep moving forward, I saved a lot of time and energy and was able to both get more words on the page as well as let the juices flow without interruptions of wanting to revise every scene and consider the story’s structure every twenty minutes. This is definitely something I see myself continuing to implement outside of NaNo and in my writing routine going forward.

 

O U T L I N E ?

 

I always write with an outline. Again, Neutral Plotter here. My notes are organized by chapter and it keeps me from forgetting ideas and helps me stay on track. The outline changes as I go, but it’s always there, aiding in taking the story in the direction I want it to go. And I’ve even dabbled in completing character bios and character development worksheets. Why not? It can’t hurt!

 

But for NaNo, I started with a solid outline, went rogue for the first time for about two chapters, then returned to following an outline toward the end.

 
 
 
 

Going rogue was great! When I had around 37,000 words on the manuscript I sat down to write and realized I hadn’t gotten this far in my outline. So I said, “f*ck it!”

 

I had to write something so decided to see what I come up with right there. I never feel confined by my outlines since I change them as needed, but writing without one did provide a feeling of being in an open space. There’s nothing to follow, no clue where sh*t is going to go, just letting my mind compose the story on the spot. I didn’t mind not having a planned out sense of direction and now I know I’m fine with working that way if it comes down to it. But, I’d rather have an outline of some sort simply to stay organized and keep track of ideas I have for the story. Those chapters will also be a little harder to clean up later, but that’s not a huge deal.

 

E V E R Y D A Y ?

 

A big part of why I chose to participate in this challenge was to test my consistency.

 

I wanted to see if I could manage putting words on the project every single day of November. A set amount of words, at that. And in the beginning, I was doing great. I made sure I sat down with my laptop and added at least 1600 words to the manuscript every day for about two weeks straight. Even when I felt like I could keep going, the most I would do was around 2500 before realizing how much I had written. Then I would make sure to stop and just pick it back up the next day. I loved this practice because it gave me something to look forward to in the next writing session. Like, “Oh yeah, I was in the middle of this fire a*s scene!”

 

Then, I started missing days.

 

But when I would miss a day, I always made sure to make up for it on the next one. Or if I missed two days, I made sure the next two days caught me up to where I should be. Then the last week of November rolled around and between having company and getting tied up with other events and such, I missed a good 3 1/2 days. This led to me sitting down and going in on November 29th to make sure I made it from 42,000 words to 50,000 by the 30th. And I was on a roll, really enjoying how the final scenes of the manuscript were turning out so I ended up exceeding 50k that day.

 

So technically, I failed at the consistency part of the challenge that I wanted to improve at because I didn’t touch the project every day. But, I learned not to make myself feel like a failure and was careful to not inflict negative self-talk. And I consider learning not to be so hard on myself to be a total win.

 

D E A D L I N E

 

This was my first time working with a deadline on my writing ventures as well.

 

I have aimed for milestones to be reached by certain dates, but they weren’t hard deadlines like November 30th was. So I found out the best ways for me to write and get work done to ensure I meet it. Which, ultimately, is just revolved around a healthy mixture of discipline as well as being gentle with myself when I needed it. I noticed myself putting more effort into making sure I was in the best place I could be in (mentally, emotionally, and physically) when I sat down to write since expectations had to be met every time to get me to where I needed to be. And if I wasn’t in the best place, I let myself deal with what I needed to deal with, rest, recharge, and get my sh*t together so when I was ready to get back to work I was more likely to get into the proper groove I needed to be in.

 
 
 
 

So, my takeaways for anyone planning to give NaNo a try would be to definitely not take it too hard on yourself. Don’t see it as a pressuring challenge, but more so an opportunity to push you to grow as a writer. And be open to trying things a different way than you usually do. You just might discover a better way for you to create, or realize the way you’ve been working is the best way for you all along.

 

It’s a win, win.

 

If anyone participated in NaNo this year, whether you met your goal or didn’t you still win for giving it a try! Not everyone is willing to take on the challenge and you did! That’s enough to show you’re serious about your craft and have what it takes to strive for the next level.

 

Talk soon! xo

 

-aew

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