I’m having a love-hate relationship with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.
Initially, I wasn’t sure I wanted to participate in the annual novel writing challenge during the month of November to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or an average of 1,666 words a day.
The love part is I’m doing it, while the hate part is I have to do it. I told my family and friends about my challenge goal, plus announced it on Facebook and in my blog. I don’t want to report at the end of the month that “Oh yeah, I just didn’t feel like writing after all.”
On the first day of the challenge on Friday, Nov. 1, I had a bit of a head start with a 3,250-word short story that I plan to expand into a 60,000- to 70,000-word young adult novel, a genre I haven’t tried before.
The first three days went perfectly, when I wrote 1,300 words the first day and another 1,300 words the second day, followed by 2,500 on day 3.
I turned off the self-editor and simply wrote, knowing I had a goal of 1,666 words, even if I didn’t reach it initially. I got absorbed in telling the story, developing my characters and carrying along the plot I briefly had sketched out, thinking, “This is a really good book that I’m writing.”
On Day 4 I had excuses for not writing: 1 million errands to do, a day with my mom and a birthday dinner with my brother; plus, I felt too tired to open up my laptop after a dozen hours of constant moving.
Day 5 was better. I wrote 1,800 words, feeling the vibe of my continual writing flow. There wasn’t any time lapse between writing episodes (like a few days or weeks filled with excuses, as is my normal routine), so I had my plot, characters and setting forefront in my mind. I wrote fast in two hours and felt quite proud.
And then on Day 6, I wondered if what I was writing actually was crap. Did I really understand how a 15-year-old thinks, and did I know how being a teenager has changed over the years? Why was I working in a genre I hadn’t studied seriously enough, only reading a few young adult books and being a reporter in schools, but only occasionally?
I still wrote anyway, because I had 1,666 words to write. I wrote 1,800 because I wanted to finish the scene I somehow had developed. I closed my computer, hoping that what I wrote wasn’t really awful.
I kept on writing through the rest of the week, logging in a total of 17,348 words for days 1-9. I figured I had started, so I wasn’t going to stop because of a few insecurities.
After one week and a couple of days, I get the purpose of NaNoWriMo. It’s about discipline and just doing it, not worrying about the final draft when it’s a rough draft with lots of potential. Writing daily, or nearly every day, allows the story to unfold more organically, one scene leading to the next as you let the subconscious and your speedy fingers take over.
Because it’s all about the numbers after all. And, of course, the words.