I never like to say never. It’s such a final word, and none of us really know what might happen down the road. That’s why I am leaving myself an out and saying that I will probably never do NaNoWriMo again.
Don’t get me wrong- I love NaNo! My first two books originated as NaNo projects, and since I’ve only published two books, that seems like a pretty strong endorsement of the ‘write a novel in a month’ frenzy, doesn’t it?
Yes, but it no longer suits me.
My first NaNo experience was great, and without it, I may not have ever written a novel. I was very much in that someday category. Someday, I will write a novel. Somehow, I got sucked into attempting NaNo by a group of online writing friends.
I didn’t do any advance planning, as that’s never been my style. I just had a vague idea of what I would write about, and I jumped into NaNo with gusto.
I wrote every day. I used my lunch break at work to writ and I came home in the evenings and wrote more. Most of the time, I succeeded in meeting that daily goal of 1667 words. After a few days of fighting my inner editor, I was able to lock her up in the basement. If I had an alternative idea of how a scene should go the next day, instead of making changes, I wrote the new version and marked it in italics in my manuscript. I’d decide in December which version was better. All that mattered was the words.
My writing friends were the best support group ever. We cheered each other on, gave each other dares and engaged in word count wars. We kept each other honest and accountable. If I posted in our thread on the NaNo site that I wouldn’t be online again until I’d written 700 words, I was accountable and motivated because I wanted to log back on and say “753!”
If I started to experience writers block, it didn’t matter. I’d leave that scene and write something else. I was fortunate that my novel project that year didn’t follow a traditional linear structure, so writing scenes out of order was usually never a problem.
Looking back, I think I just found lightning in a bottle with my first NaNo experience. It was gold.
I finished the month with about 57k words and a completed rough draft. I was a winner! I’d written a novel. Although it underwent substantial revision, and gained about 10k words, it was a pretty solid draft. The majority of what I wrote that NaNo November made it into the published book, including an obscure reference to Manitoba that was part of a dare.
‘Hey, that went so great, so why not do NaNo again?’ I said the next November. Besides, I had my book in mind, thanks to a scene-stealing supporting character from the previous year’s effort demanding her own book.
I wrote every day. Or I tried to, but it didn’t always work. I’d experienced quite a few changes in my life since the previous NaNo and it was harder to concentrate.
Most of my great NaNo group from the year before wasn’t participating again, so I didn’t have that external motivation and accountability.
My new story followed a linear structure, so writing out of order never seemed to work as well. I tried to plow through, I tried to skip around, but I just didn’t seem to be in the groove.
I wrote 54k words that November, so I was technically a NaNo winner, but what I had was nowhere close to a completed draft.
The project sat around for a bit gathering dust, and last November NaNo dawned again.
I thought ‘Hey, I’ll participate as a rebel this year and finish that WIP.’
I’ve heard people say that their NaNo experience is made by getting together in person with fellow participants in their region for write-ins. That sounds like a blast if you live in, say, Los Angeles. When you live in a mid-sized town in Iowa (and that’s mid-sized by Iowa standards), not so much.
I posted in the local region thread on the NaNo site to see if there were other participants in my city who might want to meet in person for a writing session at B&N or Starbucks. I got two responses, and both said they would have to ask their mother first and make sure she could drive them there.
They were ages twelve and thirteen.
Good for them for attempting NaNo! I wish them all sorts of success in their writing careers. But I didn’t see how us meeting for a writing session would be of benefit.
Being a NaNo rebel didn’t work for me, either. I finished that book, finally, but it April not November.
I recently published it, and I am very happy with the final product. It probably includes about 20k of those original NaNo written words. Twenty-five percent.
This year, I am about two thirds of the way through a new project. I didn’t bother to sign up for NaNo as a rebel to try to finish. I do try to write every day, but there are some days when I just need a break.
I don’t feel guilty about that because I know the book will get done. And when it’s done, I’m confident it will be a draft I can use. Will it need revisions? Absolutely. But I know I won’t be discarding seventy-five percent of it.
NaNoWriMo simply doesn’t work for me anymore. I don’t need it to force me to write and finish something. I’ve proven I can. I don’t have an active local region of people to meet with, so that part doesn’t benefit me. And writing as fast as I can, without regard to quality, now seems like wasted words and therefore wasted time.
Good luck to everyone who is participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I hope you win and produce great books. I credit my first NaNo experience for getting me started, but I doubt I will be participating again.