Well, it’s December 1st and those of us who participated in NaNo, likely are taking a collective breath and saying, “I can’t believe I did the whole thing.”
Technically, I was a ‘winner’ because I hit the 50K mark, although the draft wasn’t finished at that point. In fact, I wrote over 3,000 words yesterday but forgot to post it, so even my word count is off. Still, it was an experience and something I can now cross off my bucket list. And you can too.
Why I did it
A lot of people may wonder why any writer would try to write a novel in 30 days. For a long time, I did too. But this time around, I had a few reasons:
- I’d tried before and failed, so I wanted to see if I could do it.
- I was writing a novel anyway, so what could it hurt?
- I hoped to connect with other writers.
- I thought the deadline would serve as extra motivation.
What was good?
The good things that came out of NaNo for me were:
I met the target. This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people but setting a goal and accomplishing it is good for your ego. And it was good for mine.
I met two lovely writers. I ‘buddied up’ with two other writers for sounding board stuff and encouragement. Both writers were kind, intelligent, and fun. And I hope to stay in touch with them.
It made writing a priority for me. While I am always writing because I make my living that way, I don’t always work on my stuff. The non-client stuff. NaNo changed that because I had a deadline and was forced to make my novel a priority.
The time limit made my internal editor shut the heck up. One of the things that writers go through is endless conversations/arguments with their internal editor. And it can be a real sticking point and stop you dead in your tracks if the dialogue gets out of hand. Because of the finite time period I had in which to meet my goal, I had to force my internal editor into silence. The good thing about this is that I learned I could do it.
What was not so good?
That’s right, at least for me, NaNo is not all sunshine and unicorns. It presented a few problems for me which I didn’t expect:
The external pressure seemed a little artificial and unnatural. I have no problem with deadlines – actually in my line of work they are a way of life. But the arbitrary deadline of x number of words within x number of days felt a little forced. And it created an unnecessary anxiety in me. Like somebody was peering over my shoulder, ruler in hand, waiting for me to crap out.
I went out of touch with friends, family, and colleagues. Participating something like NaNo requires tremendous focus. You have to make choices and usually those choices have to do with cutting everything that isn’t absolutely necessary out of your life temporarily. So, I didn’t chat with friends on the phone, barely took a minute for the holiday, and my social media buds probably think I’m dead.
It stressed me out. Even though I participated in NaNo willingly – the tight deadline and the volume demanded stressed me out. I dreamed about writing. I barely left my desk and I was pretty grumpy throughout. Oddly, it reminded me of working a regular ‘job’ where someone else was in charge of my time and energy.
It forced me to decide. Now, making decisions is not a bad thing. However, again because of the pressure and short deadline I was forced to make decisions about the story that had I had more time to consider might not have made. I had to ignore glaring outpoints in the storyline and plot and gloss over a lot, which I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I can fix those things during the editing/revision stage in subsequent drafts, so it’s not permanent. However, in some ways I wonder if I ended up making more work for myself than I otherwise would have.
What didn’t matter?
NaNo has evolved quite a bit since its humble beginnings and there are a lot of non-writing activities offered, as well as other things. Most of them, unnecessary in my opinion:
The write-ins. I didn’t do any travel to do any IRL write-ins but I tried a virtual one. After about ten minutes I logged off because it wasn’t conducive to writing for me. Mostly it was a couple of cute guys who liked to giggle a lot, giving timed exercises to the participants. I could see how that might’ve helped other writers but it did nothing for me.
The offers, sponsored products, and freebies. I didn’t decide to participate in NaNo so I could receive discounted products or freebies. It’s nice that they offer such things but I already have 25 books on writing, structure, marketing and so forth that I haven’t yet read so more wouldn’t have helped any. And who had time? Also, I’m pretty old school, a simple word processing program works just fine for me when I write.
All in all, I’m glad that I participated in NaNo and can now check that off on my bucket list. It was an experience and I did get a pleasant little high when I reached the 50K mark, and met a couple of people who I otherwise probably wouldn’t. And by the end of the day my draft will be complete. So, yay. And thank you NaNo for being there.
What about you? Did you participate? Did you love it or hate it? Did you finish? Did it change the way you write or your process? Was it a help or a hindrance? Regale us with your NaNo experiences in the comments.
In the meantime, write on brothas and sistahs.