Originally posted at www.theeditingco.com
This year, after many years of procrastination, failing, and heartbreak, I decided to give myself one last chance at success: I was going to win NaNoWriMo.
For those unfamiliar with this perilous and crazy endeavour, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month:www.nanowrimo.org) is a challenge that comes about every November and entails writing 50,000 words in a 30-day period. All these words should amount to a novel, or something novelesque at any rate.
What it actually amounted to was a mad-dash to the finish line at the eleventh hour, as I attempted to make sentences that had a modicum of sense attached to them. It also meant fighting against tears because I would not allow myself to give up.
NaNoWriMo sets you up with what at first seems to be quite a large task. I, having never written a paper over a thousand words nor having never completed the goal in previous years, naturally found this to be a bit daunting. Just looking at that massive number was enough to send me into a panic.
Those at NaNo suggest breaking it down into smaller chunks, writing 1,667 words a day if you wanted to complete it on time. Even so, this seemed like something that “real” writers do — those who write on a daily basis, those who have the time to craft and perfect their art.
This begged the questions: Was I actually up to this? Am I a writer?
I was about to find out.
I’m not sure why I decided that this would be the year that I would accomplish this goal. I guess some rationale was that I am now out of school and would have the appropriate amount of time to dedicate to my story. Foolishly I forgot that my two part-time jobs would eat up most of that time and that I would be stuck writing either very early in the morning or very late at night.
But I persisted.
I decided the best way for me to actually write anything was just to dive in head first. I had tried creating an outline but realized very quickly that I had no idea what my story was going to be. I had no beginning, middle, or end, just a vague concept of a main character and her life (which seemed strangely similar to mine...).
But I persisted.
I didn’t want to waste my time just thinking about the writing. Instead, I decided that I was not going to write the story in any sort of chronological order. I would choose plot bunnies that struck my fancy and expand on them until I got bored and moved onto another segment.
And I persisted.
Another rule was that I was not allowed to edit anything I wrote until after the competition was over. Being the perfectionist I am — which is most likely the reason I had never finished before: I was too caught up in getting it right the first time that I couldn’t appreciate what I had — this was incredibly difficult for me. I didn’t even allow myself to reread what I had written unless I was adding to a section. Even then, it was just to moderately refresh my memory before I dove back in again.
And I continued to persist and persist and persist.
Amazingly enough, this method worked. I did run into a few plot holes, which stumped me for a while, but I plodded through. I didn’t allow myself to get hung up on them because there simply wasn’t enough time. I could rework them later. I still needed to write another 5,000 words. I could make them make sense another day.
There were quite a few days when I would look at my actual word count and then look at the word count I was supposed to have reached and felt mightily disheartened. I would think to myself, Well, I’m already behind, I’ll never catch up. Who am I writing this for anyway? No one’s paying me for this, and I’m pretty sure I’ve stolen all of these ideas from other people.
I had to remind myself every day that I was doing this for me. I was doing this so that I would know that I could do this. I was doing it ... because I am a writer.
And at 11:30 p.m. on November 30, 2013, I crossed the finish line. I had 50,000 words behind me in the shape of a story.
A total of 312,804 people signed up to write 50,000 words in one month. Only 41,940 made it across the finish line. I was one of them. Fewer people than words necessary were able to accomplish the goal.
And I for one cannot wait to do it again.
For more information about NaNoWriMo and its other events, check out www.nanowrimo.org