Another oldie but goodie!
I will admit up front that, for this NaNoWriMo event, I’m not having to do much preparation. This is because I decided to do the next book in my YA story, which I started for the August Camp NaNo (barely squeaking out a win, with 37 words to spare), rather than the WWII romance I’d originally planned. Because I left a huge cliffhanger, there’s not much work involved in figuring out where to start.
However, since this is my 5th NaNo event in the last year, I do have plenty of experience with the last week and its stresses, excitements, jitters and twitters. (Tweets?) Last year at this time, my mother had told me my plot was too complicated; my husband had told me there was no way I could finish a novel in a month (he was, strangely, okay with a 50,000 word goal, but not okay with double that); and I was frantically doing research on the Portuguese Spice Route. I was also trying to plan menus, clean the house, talk myself down off the ceiling, and wondering what in the world I would put down as my first few words.
As it turned out, the first few words were, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” thus starting the back story of Solomon’s Throne. I put all the research, plus many more hours of it during November, to good use, and managed to write a cohesive and cogent story out of the “too complicated” plot. (My mom has said every plot but one since was too complicated, but rather than being discouraged, I take it as a challenge!) But the week before I started my first ever NaNo, I had no idea what would happen.
How many hours would it take each day? I figured that, worst case scenario, it would be the equivalent of a full time job, or 40 hours a week. I was aiming at 4,000 words a day because I was estimating 15k words per location of my treasure hunt. I had no idea how long that would take since I’d never written a novel before. As it turned out, I wrote about 2-3 hrs a day on days that had heavy research, and 2 hrs a day on the days that didn’t. On the occasional “walking through cold molasses” day, I spent maybe 4 hours.
Would I have to write every single day for 30 days? I thought the answer to this was a resounding “yes,” because the task of finishing the novel seemed so daunting. What I didn’t count on was how tired being creative every single day would make me, both mentally and physically. Looking at my stickie note word count list from that event, here’s what I find:
- I had 2 days between the 1st and the 11th where I didn’t meet my word count goal, and 4 where I vastly exceeded it.
- I crossed 50k on November 12.
- I took November 18th, 19th, and 24th (Thanksgiving) off completely.
- I finished the book on November 25 with 88,651 words.
So now I know what to expect – but I had zero idea on October 24 of last year. And what I know now is that I cannot write that amount of creative words every single day without a break. So I just factor that in and enjoy the days off.
Would I become obsessed? There’s a lot of rumor that, during November, you can talk about nothing other than your novel. For me, the opposite is true; other than catching my family and Facebook friends up on my word count, I found that I actually craved talking about something else, anything else, than my novel. It is very engrossing and all-encompassing while you’re writing, but my brain needs a rest. When I take my mind off of the story, things are still going on at the subconscious level (apparently). The same thing happens on the days off. I need that break for my writing to be coherent the next day.
Would I have time for anything else? This was a worry about things like reading, exercising, cooking. What I found is that a) I don’t like to read in the genre that I’m writing in, but reading other things, especially at bedtime, went on; b) the early darkness in November is more of a hindrance to exercise than NaNo; and c) while I planned my menus to a meal, I didn’t need to. I had plenty of time for cooking. I tend to write in the late morning and early afternoon, so cooking was a good way to “come down” from all that.
Other things I learned as that first NaNo went on:
- I don’t do well writing at night. It’s hard for me to wind down and not have the story whizzing around in my head when I’m trying to go to sleep.
- Everybody wants to know your word count. Not everybody wants to know what’s going on in the story. Let them read it when it’s finished and edited.
- Posting your word count on Facebook is great for motivation – a few people will get invested in what you’re doing, and ask you if you don’t put it up one day. The NaNo site should be updated, but no one there is giving you peer pressure like your Facebook friends will.
- When you go back and read what you’ve written, you can’t tell the days where the writing was hard from the days the writing was easy. So just write.
How are you spending the last week? Don’t panic – it will be fine! Spend some time enjoying the lovely fall weather. Bake some muffins. Go to the movies. And remember, you can do it!
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