I did it.
After several years of cowering in fear at the very thought, I successfully completed my very first #NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in 30 days. Yes, you read that right. 50,000 ever-loving words in 30 stressful, sleep-less days.
You know when you’re either really distracted or really tired, and you have to go somewhere so you do it….and when you arrive, you can’t even remember driving there? Like, obviously you’re here, keys in hand. You must have somehow started the car, stopped at the stop lights, turned where you were supposed to turn, braked when you were supposed to brake…but you don’t remember consciously doing any of it. Stepping out of the car with that feeling that teeters between panic and thrill.
Yeah, #NaNoWriMo was like that.
It normally takes me around six months to get a finished first draft. Now I have one that’s 3/4 of the way completed in just 30 days. And I have no idea how I got there.
To me, #NaNo took away a lot of the ease and flexibility I enjoy about writing. I love being able to stop and wrestle with one sentence for an hour if I have to in order to get it just right. I enjoy some days writing 4,000 words and other days writing nothing at all. I love being able to put writing aside if I need to in order to simply be present in my life and the lives of my kids. The pressure of reaching that word count every. single. day. was intense, especially during a month in which my kids were out of school for a substantial amount of time, my husband was away on business, and out-of-town relatives popped by for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was…a lot.
But it wasn’t all bad. As I said, I now have a 3/4 completed first draft of a new novel, which is amazing considering on November 1, I barely even had an outline. This was the first story in which I didn’t have a definite picture of my characters or my plot. I simply wrote and got to know my characters as I went along. I let them lead me on their journeys. It was extremely freeing (and, yes, frustrating at times). I was able to fall in love with these characters organically, rather than mapping them out like robots and filling in the details later, which I’m hoping will make for less “why in the world did they do that?” questions during editing.
More importantly, #NaNo got me back into the writing habit. I’ve been focused on querying and editing this year (not to mention moving to a new state and, you know, living life), which left me extremely little time for drafting. Those first few days of #NaNo, I felt like I had almost forgotten how! Being forced to meet a certain word count goal each day made me focus on writing again. The sheer joy of taking the characters and scenes floating around in my brain and putting them down on paper, giving them life. It’s hard work and it’s frustrating and it’s not for the faint of heart, but #NaNo made me remember something: I really love to write.
And, in the end, win or lose, isn’t that what #NaNoWriMo all about?