I had delusions of winning until November 25th. We drove to Wisconsin that day, and I’d hoped that my status as non-driver1 would mean a very productive day (and, of course, again on the drive back on the 28th).
I arrived in the Great White North having written about 2,000 words. At that moment, I had to concede that it wasn’t realistic to think I’d win NaNoWriMo. I settled into relaxing with my family and doing other stuff. I read for several hours on the drive back while my son slept. I wrote sparingly but didn’t push myself to produce lots of words.
I ended out the month with 32,703.
It would be dishonest to say I’m not disappointed in myself. I had some sour grapes to deal with yesterday, even while I was really happy for everyone meeting their goals. At the same time, I feel like I had a super productive month. Our region had a “what you learned this month” thread, and I had all of this to say:
1. I am absolutely a plotter — it doesn’t take away from the discovery writing process. The novel still flexed and changed under that plot, and having that framework allowed me to discover some interesting things. (Like the relevance of my main character’s random little sister, or what to do with that large cast of women who have popped in and out of the novel.) At about 32K I not only found that I knew where the novel was going (still in the same general direction as that original outline), but knew most of the stops along the way. The draft will still require a lot of work, but I feel entirely capable and enthusiastic about the novel still. Plotting helps, for me.
2. Collaboration in the plotting process can be very helpful in some spots, and get difficult in others. When I was young and dumb, I had this stupid idea that getting help with a story from other writers somehow diluted or ruined the “magic” of a story. That it wasn’t really yours if other writers helped you work out the kinks. That’s bullshit. I was wrong. Stories barely belong to their writers anyway.
3. At this stage in my life, balance is a lot more important to me than 50K words — and I can’t have both. I’m simply not that fast nor consistent on average. In prolific months past 30K has been about my average, and I think that it’s what I can manage while still tending a social life and a family life. I think if I can manage anywhere from 15K to 30K most months as a writer, I’ll be on good footing.
4. Much like Amanda, the further removed I am from the Internet, the better and more productive my writing. Jack is onto something with the Neo, guys; that thing is magic.
I was mad for a while that NaNo made my 30K into a failure. That having written 25 days out of the month was somehow not enough. But I have to set that bitterness aside and realize that I wrote 25 days last month. That’s huge for me; I’ve barely written for half of the month in the past. Go me. And 30K is about half of a novel; it seems entirely plausible that I could finish this first draft by mid-January.
I’m taking the experience with me into December. I’ve set goals that better fit my ability — slightly higher on the weekends, with a few “zero” days over the holiday weekend, coming in at a goal of 20K for the month.
I know that this is the actual goal of NaNoWriMo: less to do the 50K thing, more to find a routine, habit, and pace that works for you as a writer. So in that measure, NaNo may have been a success. I’m still a touch irked that I couldn’t force myself to 50K, though.
- My mother owns a stick shift, which I don’t know how to use. I tried to convince her to teach me once we were in rural Wisconsin, but no luck.