I had the best intentions of posting regularly during the 30 crazy days of NaNoWriMo, but between all the word counting, World Series-ing, traveling for work and the aftermath of the election—the blog has taken a bit of a backseat.
But I thought this was a good point to check in and share a few thoughts on my first Nano experience now that I’ve reached the halfway point:
#1. I knew that writing 50,000 words in 30 days wasn’t going to be easy, but I had no idea it would be this hard!
#2. The dashboard on the NaNoWriMo website is both the best and the worst thing ever. Breaking it down into more manageable goals has been great on the days that I’m able to meet the daily targets. But on the days that I’ve fallen behind, that little “At this rate you will finish on” date taunts me. Right now it’s got me finishing on November 29th—but there were more than a few days when it said I wouldn’t finish until December 18th!
I actually find the pressure of a deadline a little exhilarating. Sure there’s the momentary freak out, but once that’s over, I find that it helps me focus and get back to writing. Probably a side effect of working in the ‘create-on-demand’ world of advertising.
#3. Writing Sprints / Word Wars can also be both the best and the worst thing ever. This was a new idea to me, but they are a big thing in the NaNo groups I’ve been involved in.
The first Sunday of the month, I went to a local NaNo write in and was introduced to my first “writing war.” Basically, you spend a determined amount of time (usually 15 or 30 minutes) getting as many words on the page as you can. A brain-dump of sorts. During my first word war, I got 470 words written. Not bad, I thought. Until the “winner” announced they had written 1,400. Oops.
The last few days I’ve been doing a few sprints with one of my Online NaNo groups, and as long as I pick the right scene to focus on and am in the right head space, I’ve been able to write up to 1,100 words in 20 minutes. Not all of the words will find their way into my ‘Draft Zero’ or my official word count, but it’s a good way to write without over-thinking, and it helps me resist the urge to self-edit along the way. When I’m doing sprints (I like that phrase better than wars) I have found that it’s easy to slip into the stream of conscious of my characters which can be a nice exercise.
#4. There is no wrong way to NaNo. There are some people who try and stick to the target of 1,667 words a day, every day. For me and my life—that’s just not realistic. But I did make a commitment to write every day this month. Whether it’s 100 words or 1,000 words, my daily mantra has been: “If I don’t write today, I won’t be able to say that I wrote every day.”
I keep this list as a reminder at the top of one of my NaNo documents. As you can see, there have been days where I’ve only managed to write 2 or 300 words. But at least I wrote something, so I consider that a win.
#5. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my writing habits during the last two weeks. One of my friends said that she falls behind every weekend and catches up during the week—and I’m the exact opposite. My head is filled with too much stuff during the week and it’s not as easy for me to focus completely on my writing. But since I made the commitment to write every day, I’ve figured a few things out to at least get some words down on the page.
When I’m writing, I need to focus on writing. Even if I have a slow hour at work, I can’t get into the right headspace when there might be an email coming in that would need a quick response. And since I’m not a morning person, after work is the only time I can carve out for writing each day.
I’ve also reaffirmed that white noise is very important for me. If it’s too quiet—I listen for a distraction. If it’s too loud I can’t focus. I’m like Goldilocks and the sound level has to be just right!
I love the vibe and environment at most Starbucks locations. The one right by my house is a little too small so I end up being hyper aware of everything going on around me—but the one a few blocks away is perfect. And if it’s after-Starbucks-hours and I’m writing at home, the Spotify playlist ‘Acoustic Afternoon’ on low does the trick!
A shot from yesterday’s Starbucks adventure where I learned the lesson that communal tables sound like a good idea—but once the two people next to you start flirting while having a conversation about molecular science, you can forget about focusing on your writing!
#6. There’s no way I can’t do a little bit of self-editing along the way. I am trying to keep the word count moving up and not going backwards to re-do what I’ve already written, but I just can’t help myself! I have been trying to limit my editing to beginning of each writing session. I’ll go back and re-read what I wrote the day before and make a few tiny tweaks. If there are big changes that will have a bigger impact on things, I make a note of it in my “NaNo Notes” document and move on.
#7. Every word counts. Literally. So if I’m feeling particularly behind my word-count schedule, I might consider using two words instead of one and ditch the contractions. It’s a good short term fix to get that word count up, but most of the time when I go back for that quick edit, I end up changing the word back to what it should have been in the first place. My word count goes down, but the writing will hopefully be better for it in the long run!
#8. I said in an earlier post that November is the worst month to do something like this (especially during an election year!). But I don’t think I could even come close to pulling this off any other month. Because the magic of NaNoWriMo comes from all the other people who are in the trenches with you—sharing their successes and frustrations and cheering you on even when you only got 470 words during a word war.
I’m sure I could come up with a lot more things I’ve learned over the last 15 days (and since I first posted this, I’ve already come back to add three new points) but as you’ll see from the screenshot of my dashboard above, the number of words written today is ZERO. (And these 1,186 words don’t count!)
So until next time, happy writing! Any other NaNo friends, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve learned. Jump in on the comments!