It’s the last day of NaNoWriMo today—or National Novel Writing Month, for those unfamiliar with the abbreviation. In my post about writer’s block, which I know was SO LONG AGO in Internet time, I announced my intention to participate despite experiencing a frustrating dry spell in my writing.
I’m pleased to say that I did not regret this decision! I’ve done NaNoWriMo once before (in 2008), so maybe that helped prepare me this time around. I still didn’t do any outlining or anything (I am not an organized writer (I hate the term “pantser”)), but holding onto the idea for ~3 months instead of writing scenes as they came to me worked in my favor. I’m glad I waited, because when I finally sat down to write this novel, the words would not stop coming.
And after a dry spell, that is not something I was expecting. Even when my writing is going well, it’s rarely as exhilarating as I found it to be on this project. I’m not sure why that is yet—maybe it’s BECAUSE all this productivity came after a month or so of frustration, where every word I did manage to write in that time felt like a chore. Or maybe it’s because this is the first time I’ve really had a novel-length story that’s been ready to be told in its entirety.
In 2008 I had some scenes in my head for that novel already but not much of a plot, so I spent a lot of time writing filler. This time, pretty much each scene had a purpose that I knew beforehand, and even though I didn’t outline, I had pivotal plot moments clear in my head. The rest fell into place.
All of this is to say, I kicked NaNoWriMo’s ass this year. I hit 50,000 on November 21st. And it felt great the whole way. I’m glad November 1 was on a Sunday; I was able to spend almost all day writing to give myself a cushion—I wrote 4K that first day. I thought I would have trouble hitting the daily minimum (1,667 words) during the work week, but that didn’t end up being a problem most days. I used my lunch hour, and the words poured out. Most of the time I surpassed the minimum.
This is astonishing to me because it was unexpected. I thought I’d start out strong, as most people do, and then my motivation or the story would start to lose steam. Neither happened. I would plunge in for that hour during the weekdays and struggle to extricate myself and return to work. On weekends I would spend almost all day in the story. I usually wrote 4K, sometimes 5K, each weekend day.
I will admit that almost without fail, the first 1K or so was a bit of a struggle, even on the days when I knew exactly what needed to happen. That first stretch often took me the longest to write. Then somewhere around the 1,500 mark, I would get into a groove, and when I next looked up I would have 2K, or 4K. On the weekends I forced myself to stop at that point so I would know exactly where to start the next day—but most the time I could have kept going!
Right now my word count is ~57K, and I’m about to wrap up the story. I recently decided it probably needs a sequel, actually, so the ending is going to be a little different than I first intended. I think I’ll probably be adding more words when I start editing the draft because it’s a fantasy—I know it needs better world building, and the magic system needs more defined rules.
For the record: I hit 50K at 4:35 PM today. I am continuing after a brief happy dance because the story isn’t done. #NaNoWriMo2015 📝📝🎉🎊🎉🎊🎆🎇
— Nicole DeGennaro (@N_DeGennaro) November 21, 2015
But I have it. I have a first draft of a novel, in a year when I didn’t think I was going to be particularly productive. The best part is that unlike my 2008 novel (which I PROBABLY should just rewrite from scratch at this point but that thought makes me recoil in despair), I really think this one is worth querying once I edit it. I’m thrilled with the idea and how this first draft came out, even if the quality of the writing isn’t great right now. That’s a first for me as well.
And I missed the enjoyment of writing so much, the thrill of how the story and characters change as you put it on paper. A romance bloomed where I hadn’t intended one; a key part of the climax AND resolution changed (even before I decided on a sequel). Other characters popped into existence and became essential to the story’s progression. I loved every moment.
— Nicole DeGennaro (@N_DeGennaro) November 18, 2015
I tweeted a lot during this whole process, and I’m grateful to everyone who showed their support either on the NaNo website, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. It really did help me maintain my excitement and motivation for this story; it’s always nice to have people cheering you on.
And special shout-outs to the music I listened to during this process: the Hamilton OBCR, to try and channel Alexander Hamilton’s insane productivity (it worked!); and Florence + The Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which helped keep me in a good emotional mindset for my story.*
Have you participated in NaNo (either this year or another year)? How did it go for you? I’d love to hear about your experience!
*I linked to these albums on Amazon because they are great and I think everyone should buy them; I don’t get any money should you choose to purchase them!