So, I did it, I survived November. I’m not talking about the holidays, I’m talking about my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. Wow, what a month it was. For those who don’t know much, if anything about NaNo, it’s a fun way to challenge yourself with other authors to write a book (the default amount is 50,000 words) in a month. It’s National Novel Writing Month = NaNoWriMo. I had no idea what to expect, just that for the last few years, I have thought everyone was out of their damn minds when November came around.
“Write a NOVEL in one MONTH? Pfft, y’all crazy.” – Pre-NaNo Me
But then October came around and I had such a small amount of words on the fourth title in my Find Me series, that I knew for a fact it wasn’t going to get done by the end of the year if I didn’t up my writing game. So, I enlisted in NaNo two days before the month started. I took it seriously, mentally dabbing on my warrior face paint every morning, happily ignoring laundry piles for days at a time, forgetting almost completely that I had friends and that Vit D from the sun is a pretty amazing thing. I could rock out 1,667 words every day to hit my goal of 50,000 words in a month. That sounds completely attainable, doesn’t it? Well, you won’t believe what happened, and honestly, I kind of don’t really believe it yet either.
The Top 5 Things I Learned From Winning NaNoWriMo 2016:
#1 Procrastination is my enemy
This isn’t anything you haven’t heard a million times in your life since the first time you crash-studied the day before an exam in primary school. Writers know this intimately. We even use our writing as a form of procrastination by excusing our behavior as part of the process. I mean, it is, I’m not knocking research time (a necessity), copious amounts of chocolate (also a necessity), or alcohol consumption (borderline addiction for most). But, for some of us, putting off the inevitable is completely standard, and acceptable. Unless you really want to release your book. When you set a goal, have a deadline in sight, and a way to stay accountable, then it’s much easier to turn your process into productive time, and not self-wallowing or Netflix-binging. NaNo did this for me. I took it seriously and did my 1,667 words a day, plus some.
#2 I’m too hard on myself
Every writer goes through similar, if not the same struggles during the creative process of researching, writing, editing, formatting, publishing, marketing, etc… This is not a job for the lazy (even though I sit on my ass most the day, sometimes not writing anything for my WIP), nor is writing a job for those looking to make a quick dollar. Writing is very intimate, very personal and soul-fleshing. We authors put our minds on the page and invite strangers to devour them. This is scary shit for some of us, I won’t lie. Since I’m being honest, 2016 was a tough year – financially, and in general. Selling books didn’t come easy this year, nor did setting aside time for writing. I became to loath my job, and doubt myself as a writer. It got so dark in my head for a bit, that I considered throwing in the towel. But, then I realized a lot of my author friends were experiencing similar drops with some of their titles. It wasn’t them, it was the industry, the economy, the competition for sales. It’s just life. It goes up and down and we have to hold on so we don’t fall off. NaNo taught me this month, that if I get out of my own head long enough, I can also let the voices out onto the page. Rather than being hard on myself, I was hard on my computer. It worked.
#3 Accountability is key
Organization is not my thing. If your socks are all matching and neatly tucked into each other, next to your tri-folded color-coordinated underwear, then this point is simply about stuff you already know. Plus, I may envy you a tad, but let’s forget that for a sec and focus on the positive: This month I learned that my way of doing things, which is often by the seat of my pants on a schedule I create, doesn’t work to produce the amount of material I would like to see come out in a year. The simple yet helpful tools on the NaNo site MADE me accountable for daily check-ins and word count updates. I wanted to earn my badges and be a winner, whatever that meant. Checking in online once a week with my writer friends was not giving me an immediate sense of accomplishment, because like I said, I was entering a Dark Zone not long ago. NaNo helped pull me out of that and show me how easy it is to hit my goals with the right tools, including some I already have on hand. I did not become a planner overnight, but I did learn that adjusting my preferences might help me in the long run.
#4 Don’t compare, admire
NaNo was not about rushing to the finish line before my other writer friends, it was about racing against myself. Can I do this? Should I do this? Will I do this? Every time I saw a status update from a fellow NaNo participant, I cheered them on – because that’s what we should be doing. I did not return to my computer and curse myself for only getting in 500 words for my first sprint of the day. No one wins anything by comparing themselves to others. It’s a dangerous and slippery slope that us authors tend to fall on our asses while climbing, because guess what, we are all different and unique. Some of us have experienced luck, some have not. Some of us have tremendous talent, some are still learning. NaNo is not about beating everyone else. If you win, it’s because YOU made it to the 50,000 mark and YOU deserve a pat on the back for your hard work. When I hit the mark on my 17th day, I hadn’t thought it would be possible. And yes, I printed out the Winner certificate because I’m a nerd and for me, it was kind of a big deal.
#5 It’s totally possible
So. I won NaNoWriMo 2016. Thousands of other people did as well. Thousands more may not have hit the 50,000 mark, but life happens, and their goals may have been different, and they are just as amazing at the NaNo ‘winners’. In my mind, all those who participated and put in an effort are winners. Y’all rock. What I learned last night at 11:54 when I was rushing to get my final sprint of November in so I could tally up the 99,600+ words I’d written in 30 days, is that the word count itself was not the prize – the way I feel is. I have an almost complete book, IN ONE MONTH. I did it. Despite being married to a busy retail manager who just opened up a new store in town, two children who need to be ferried about throughout the week for school and SPED appts, three dogs and a cat who was an asshole two nights ago because he wanted to go outside in the middle of the night in the blustery air to stare at the stars, I was able to forgo some of my Netflix binge-watching and video game playing and chores, to reach my daily goal, which quadrupled on my good days. That’s how it happened, folks, there was no secret. I did what ‘they’ say, and I wrote. Editing through the first round might suck big time, but the first draft is only mere hours away from completion – thanks to NaNoWriMo. If I can do this, with my crazy and funky schedule and part sloth-like lifestyle, I know that so many others who doubt themselves can do it too. Bonus: I didn’t OD on chocolate or wine. The kids are both alive, as are all the animals. My laundry looks about the same today as it did one month ago, and six months before that. Writing is not about the numbers, but a number can be the goal. So, set your long term goal and your daily goal, set your mind right, and just do it. Nike has created an entire brand off this logo, and guess what, it gets shit done. 😉
I cannot wait to finish this book and share it with my readers. It was a fun ride, and working on it in such a quick amount of time made me closer to my characters, if that’s even possible. If you want to know more about the world I’ve been lost in over the last month, check out my FIND ME SERIES – hey, the first book is free, so you lose nothing but the time it takes to read it. I hope you find it more entertaining than the back of a toilet paper package. 😀