Wow, I feel like a real writer now, writing a post about NaNoWrimo. It’s practically a prerequisite to being a writer, I’d say. Okay, not really, but the decision to finally start NaNoWriMo was one long in the making.
For those of you who don’t know (I don’t blame you) it’s a month long program in which anyone and everyone is encouraged to write a full-length novel. While you can set your own goals, the standard is 50,000 words for the month of November, a full-length novel. The amazing thing is- anyone can do it. Old or young, experienced in writing or brand new- anyone! Anyone can be a writer. NaNoWriMo is short for ‘National Novel Writing Month,’ and while it typically takes place in the month of November, you can take up the challenge at any time in the year. There’s an online community of writers through NaNoWriMo, everyone pushing each other to finish their novel. Technically, that’s about 1,667 words a day, which, on a google or word document, is about 4 pages.
I’ve wanted to participate since last year, but I told myself I would wait until November, the ‘official’ month, and do it. I made the final decision to commit to NaNoWriMo this month in late October.
So, if I’ve started NaNoWriMo, where am I, then? 21,667 words… should have been my word count today. If I had stayed on track, that should have been my word count. Instead, my word count is 7,548. I’m pretty close, right?
I severely underestimated the difficulty of achieving 50,000 words in 30 days. Severely. Sure, I was super excited about the book idea I had- beyond excited. After I decided on the initial idea, a rough idea that I’ve had for a few months, I completely developed it in a matter of a few days. It started off as hardly a nail to finish building a house, and somehow, in a few days, I had all the building blocks I needed. I think with that alone, I got overconfident in my ability to finish a novel in a month. Which, trust me, isn’t a common occurrence. But so overzealous that I was, I neglected to think of the challenge my goal would truly present me with. I was simply excited at the prospect of finally finishing a novel.
So, come the first week of November, and I’m loaded down with work. I mean, sure, that’s true, but the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to stop making excuses to stop writing and to actually start. Which, I very clearly didn’t. I didn’t make the time for writing, and I told myself I would catch up. Turns out, catching up on 6,000 words is a lot. Even more, when that 6,000 turns into 7,000, into 10,000… Turns out, that once you get behind, it’s very difficult to catch up. Shocker, I know! I was surprised too.
Besides making excuses, I had a bad case of writer’s block. The issue wasn’t that I couldn’t come with ideas, my novel is pretty planned out. The trouble wasn’t what to write, it was actually writing it. I felt my flow was all wrong, nothing was turning out how I wanted to, and I had poor writing day after poor writing day. Again, the point of NaNoWriMo is to just make a first draft. Just a first draft, riddled with mistakes and terrible writing. Even though I realized that, I still struggled to get words on the paper.
A lot of my problem stemmed from the fact that I was focusing on the word count rather than on the story. I would write what I felt was a lot, I would check my word count, and it wasn’t anything near what I wanted it to be. Instead of counting every word, I should have been focusing on really telling the story that I was so excited to tell. Still am so excited to tell.
Even though I’ve mentioned this before on my blog briefly, I’m going to say it again. How difficult is to write these blog posts, and to post them. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing these posts, and I love having a blog. It makes me feel like I have my own little corner of the internet. A little corner that’s just for me. But when I write, I write about real things, or a least things that are real to me. Things that matter to me. Doing that makes me feel hopelessly vulnerable- because, I mean, I’m putting my writing, my feelings, just out for anyone to see if they wanted to. How I’m failing at a goal that matters a lot to me. I write about people, moments, and things that matter to me. And although there’s a certain level of wariness that comes with that for me, I love it.
I love looking at my blog and knowing that I wanted to be a better writer, when I first created it. I wanted to work on my writing, and so I made a goal to aid me in that, and I did it. I made a blog. I know it’s not exactly normal for a teenage girl to have a writing blog- and I don’t really care, either. It used to make me self-conscious. Even telling people, ‘I have a blog,’ used to be so strange to me. Maybe it still sort of is strange for me. Now? I thrive in the vulnerability in my blog posts. It’s like screaming out, ‘this is me, these are my opinions,’ with reckless abandon- and there’s something so freeing in that. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not wary anymore, but it’s gotten so much easier. Even looking back at my first blog post, to now, I see tremendous strides in my own writing I hadn’t even realized. I see subtle changes in my writing that formed on their own. So, even if I don’t finish this novel, this month, I know I will. I will finish it, by next month. I’m not giving up, I’m just giving myself some more time. And I think that’s okay.
Wondering all of this about my own writing, and how it’s still difficult to feel so open in my writing, but, simultaneously freeing, made me think about authors. I wonder if authors feel the same way every time they publish a book. Something I’ve found about writing, is that there’s always going to be a little piece of the writer’s heart and soul inside. I think that’s just how it is with art, and I think writing is an art.
Even though NaNoWriMo hasn’t gone as I expected it, I’ve already learned so much from my setbacks. Anyone who’s participating in NaNoWriMo, how is that for you? Are you behind? On track? Ahead, even? How do you tackle writer’s block or insecurities in your writing? Are you a plotter, or a pantster? Is your novel taking you where you expected, or has it surprised you along the way? I’d love to hear about it! Happy writing, and, as always, thank you for reading!