I’ll be honest, I kind of hate that the NaNoWriMo challenge is in November. It’s such a busy month. My kids got the WHOLE WEEK off for Thanksgiving, and my husband’s birthday is at the end of the month, and my son’s birthday is in early December so I have to devote at least a little time to making some plans for him. Then, you know, just for fun, our water heater died, the garage door broke and the dogs wouldn’t stop peeing on things.
But whatever. It’s over now and I (somehow) managed to write 50,000 words in 30 days! That’s a lot of words. Of course they’re shitty first-draft words, but still, a lot of words. I’ve read that only 15% of people who start NaNoWriMo actually finish, so, feeling pretty good about that.
This is the third time I’ve done the challenge. The first time was a qualified success. The second got me a great start on my second novel. This year, I’m working on novel number three. (I’m not good with titles, so they get numbers up until the very end.) And I ended up doing a few things differently this year:
Writing By Hand
This year, I wrote most of my words by hand. I have never done this. Ever. But I hate carrying my laptop around and I’m just super busy so I slipped a spiral notebook into my purse and started grabbing any free 15 minutes to do a little writing sprint. I counted up my words per page to get an average (about 300 per), and just used that when I tally things up at the end of the day.
The first thing I’ve noticed is that I can actually get a lot of writing done this way. Waiting for my kid’s soccer practice to end? That’s 600 words. Waiting for teeth to get brushed? Another 600.
The other thing that became quickly apparent was that my inner critic had to sit the eff down. Can’t edit on the paper (aside from the occasional arrow or margin note). But I know I will be able to edit as I type it all in at some point. So that has also helped with quieting that pesky inner critic.
Writing In The World
Writing in my notebook has given me a sudden aversion to writing in my office, at my desk. I’m writing on the couch, at the coffee shop, over a salad for lunch at my local diner.
This is a huge shift for me. I love my office. I’m usually all about my office, but now I’m finding that when I sit at my desk, my computer sucks me in (like, for instance, how I had planned to write when I sat down just now and ended up drafting this blog post instead).
Getting away from my desk helped me limited distractions.
I’m not writing in the mornings as much. Used to be that my creative time was from about 5am to 11am and then I was spent. I worked hard to carve out that time because if I didn’t get my writing done then, it didn’t happen.
Truth be told, I’m still not much good after dinner. By the time I get the kids to bed my brain is mush. But my “creative time” seems to have opened way up. I can write in the mornings as easily as I can write at my boy’s taekwando practice at 5pm. I guess I’ve gotten less precious about it. Being in shitty-first-draft mode helps.
Just Keep Writing
I think the most surprising thing I’ve found this year is that the words keep coming. I’m usually a planner. My second novel was a 60 page outline before I wrote a scene. This time, I just dove on in.
Every damn day I think, I don’t know what I’m going to write. But I sit down, and I start and the words come and – what do you know? – a story is taking shape. It’s my first pantsing experience. It’s a little scary, but also kind of exhilarating.
Also daunting is the idea that I’m going to have to type up about 200 pages of written prose (ug), but like I said above, at least that process will allow me to edit and make it better. My first typed draft will actually be a second draft. That’s kind of cool.
But for now, I’m jumping back to novel 2. I’m about 2/3 of the way through a draft that’s good enough that I might let a few people read it. I’m really hoping to wrap it up before my debut novel comes out on February 25th. That gives me twelve weeks, two of which the kids are off school. I think I can get it done… Stay tuned.