Making the decision to take the National Novel Writing Month challenge wasn’t an easy one.
Let’s look at the facts:
- I have an idea! I’ve been mulling over the same concept and world for nearly ten months, narrowing down the plot, finessing an outline, and building a beautiful world from the ground up. I had all of the preliminary work finished. Now it would just be about writing the story.
- I wasn’t involved with too much on campus yet. My afternoons were relatively open depending on how much homework I had.
- I really, really loved this idea, and I wanted to make it a reality.
- I’m a college freshman in the middle of my first semester of college. Classes are beginning to pick up with an increased workload before and after midterms. Did I really have the time to put in?
- I had attempted NaNoWriMo several years back and failed miserably. I didn’t want to see myself fail again. I knew if I didn’t succeed this time with this story, my motivation for this story would surely fall and it would disappear on the shelf with the rest of the unfinished ideas.
- I didn’t know if I could do it. That’s what stops from me trying a lot of new things. I just don’t know if I can pull anything off. Three cheers for anxiety!
Eventually the turmoil came to a head about three days before the first of November. I was sitting at the Caf (one of the cafeterias on campus) with my best friend at college, Roger, where somehow, we end up on the topic of writing. He mentions that he’s got a few ideas and that he’s going to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge himself within the week. Then the decision suddenly seemed easy. If one of my friends was going through the process too, maybe I could find it in myself to dive in headfirst.
This was going to be the most I had ever undertaken creatively. 50,000 words looks very far away when you’re sitting with a blank page and a word count of zero.
But on the eve of the first, I surprisingly felt ready.
November: The Process
Let’s just say the month started off poorly.
I missed class the entire day of the 1st because I was stuck in bed with a terrible migraine unable to move. I was so disappointed; I had been psyching myself up to start writing, and now I was unable to look at a computer screen without my head spinning. Had I already failed before I got a chance to start?
Luckily, by the next morning, I was back to my normal self, and after class, I wrote my first 700 words. I know, not much, but it’s what I could put in at the time. And it boosted my mood immensely. Alright! Now I’ve started!
I wrote over 2500 words the next day. Then another 1000. I found myself getting into a good pattern. I would write whenever I had inspiration, even it was jotting down only a single paragraph. If my inspiration stalled for more than ten seconds, I would immediately highlight over the text I had just written and see how many words it was. Then I would go to the NaNoWriMo website and update my word count. Watching the little blue bar rise closer with every update gave me the energy I needed to keep going.
And the story grew with every word I put down on the page. My characters became full fleshed beings who I manipulated through dangerous situations and honestly, put through quite a bit of hell. I began to see the inklings of the world I was creating although I knew eventually I would need to develop it a little more with the research I had already done. Events connected to each other seamlessly, and I found myself taking the story in a slightly different direction from my original outline. But I followed wherever the characters showed me, and it honestly made for a better story.
About a third of the way into the month, I took a little weekend trip to visit my boyfriend in Dallas. Since we hadn’t seen each other in over three months, I spent every last second I could with him and I did not pick up my laptop to write a single word. I don’t regret it for a minute. But when I came back and looked at my word count bar, I was reminded of how far I had to go and how much I needed to make up. I don’t think I was doubting myself yet, but it definitely was beginning to stress me out.
So what did I do? I became a maniac. I wrote about 3000 words each for four days. Don’t ask me how I accomplished that because to be honest, I don’t remember. Low homework days and a bunch of music, I think. Then I was pretty much back on schedule, now only needing to write 1667 words a day to be on target to reach my goal.
The End of the Road
I reached my goal on November 29. I surpassed my goal on November 29. In 30 days, I wrote 53,001 words. And my novel wasn’t even finished! I wouldn’t finish the last 5000 words until after finals in mid-December.
But I had done it. I had written 50,000 words in a month, and I had created something beautiful that I loved. I sat and stared at my computer in awe for a good ten minutes. I was so proud of what I had accomplished, probably more proud than any singular accomplishment in my life.
If you’re thinking about undertaking NaNoWriMo, I want to give you the following advice:
- JUST DO IT. Commit. Sign up for an account, and put your name on the list. The only thing that is holding back is fear. It isn’t your ability or your inspiration or your idea maybe not being up to par. It is only fear. It is so much easier to figure out what to do next once you’ve made the decision.
- Set aside an hour a day to write. Get yourself on a schedule. You are far more likely to stick with the challenge if your phone dings with a reminder at 2 pm every day to write. And actually listen to your reminders; don’t swipe them away, or you will never finish.
- If 1667 words a day seems like a lot to you, break it down. I discovered during the month that I wrote paragraphs that were about one hundred words each. Ten of those, and I had a thousand words. Much easier to stomach in smaller terms.
- Feel free to write from any point in your story. Don’t feel like you have to write straight from beginning to end. When I lost inspiration for the forward moving plot, I would skip to the end and start writing chapters in reverse order. (And yes, I did actually meet in the middle in the end.) You may find you reach your word count much more easily if you write where the inspiration leads you rather than trying to force it.
- Know that there are thousands upon thousands of writers just like you who are going through the exact same process that you are undertaking. Everyone is in the same boat, whether it’s your first or tenth challenge. Go read the forums if you get discouraged. It really helps boost your confidence.
I hope to see all of you join me for next year’s NaNoWriMo challenge!