Observations on #NaNoWriMo 2014

I wasn’t planning on doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Not because I thought I couldn’t win it, but because I was so deep in the editing of my manuscript I forgot it was coming up. Thankfully (I think), a coworker mentioned it on November third (yes, late), and thankfully I’d already thoroughly outlined my second book. So, a little consideration and a ‘What the heck?’ later, I put editing on hold and accepted the challenge.

Before I go on, a note on challenging yourself.

Do it. All the time.

OK, back to the story.

That night, on the train ride home, I fired-up Evernote and started reading through the outline. I noticed some problems – mainly references to things in the first book that had been changed – but nothing earth-shattering. A smile on my face, I resolved to start writing the next morning.

Almost four weeks, innumerable chai tea lattes (sorry, coffee addicts), the flu (I see what you tried to do, Universe, but you can’t beat me!), my girlfriend and friends questioning my sanity, thousands of CTRL+Ss, a complete plot reexamination, several 3,000+ word marathon days, and 50,158 verified words later, I’d won. And almost died.

OK, that last part is an exaggeration. I did lose my voice, though. Stupid sore throat.

So, here are my reflections on this ridiculous, wonderful, trying quest for a banner to gloat with on Twitter and Facebook (and a, you know, new novel).

The writing community is chockfull of friendly, supportive people.

OK, confession: I already knew that, but it was reinforced during NaNo. Especially on Twitter (which, by the way, is the arch nemesis of productivity, and particularly so when you have a crazy deadline like NaNo).

If you don’t write every day, you fall behind FAST.

For most of us, especially those with day jobs, a thousand words a day would be pretty friggin’ good under normal circumstances. With NaNo, you need to average 1,667 words a day, assuming you write every day. Start a day late, and that jumps to 1,724. Doesn’t sound bad? Miss the first two and you’re at 1,785. Missing the daily quota has an even more dramatic effect the further into the month you are. For instance, if you took the long Thanksgiving weekend off, even if you were on pace to that point, suddenly you were WAY behind.

For me, it wasn’t about hitting the daily quota, is was about staying ahead, doing more than the daily minimum to build up a buffer in case I had to skip any days (did I mention the flu?). And it was that completely-made-up-doesn’t-really-impact-anything-in-my-life deadline called NaNoWriMo that pushed me to do that. I was ahead for most of the month, fell behind in the last week, but was able to catch up. You don’t want to be that person on Twitter saying “I’ve got 3 days to do 20K words. I think I can do it!” Maybe you can, but it’s a lot easier to not-have to.

Use others as motivation (competition is good).

I stand by my statement that Twitter (and all social media) are bad for productivity. If you disagree, you’re doing social media wrong. Anyway, there is one advantage to popping on Twitter every now and then during NaNo: to see what kind of numbers others are putting up.

I’m a competitive person, but not the ‘I MUST WIN ALL THE THINGS!’ kind. I’m more the ‘If he/she can do it, so can I.’ kind. Seeing others post they were on pace or ahead kept me even more focused, even during those moments when all I wanted to do was give up and go back to editing, or give up and play Hearthstone, or give up and (insert anything other than NaNoWriMo writing here).

It’s also a good idea to encourage others, as well. People appreciate it, so throw folks a favorite or retweet here and there.

Finally, challenges are a great way to get back to something you’ve forgotten you love.

As previously mentioned, I’ve been deep in editing my MS. So deep, in fact, that the idea of writing something new wasn’t even on my radar. In fact, it felt like it was months away. NaNo forced me to stop editing and get back to writing, which, as it turns out, was kind of awesome.

Now, to be clear, I love editing. Yes, seriously. Making the story better than it was is a great feeling. I’m not trying to say it’s a slog or anything, because it’s not. It’s just that I love writing, too. Doing the editing kind of made me forget that, and NaNo reminded me. If nothing else, that was a win.

OK, that’s it, my #NaNoWriMo 2014 wrap up. If you didn’t participate, I recommend you consider doing it next year. Challenge, pressure, deadline, creativity, community, fun. Why not?

 

Thanks for reading,

{RDj}

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