On Nov. 30, I crossed the finish line of National Novel in a Month, “NaNo,” as writers call it. What began as a project of a few writers in San Francisco has become a world-wide challenge to complete a 50,000-word manuscript in thirty days.
On Nov. 1 I began by logging in and writing maybe 1,500 words. Somehow I missed the memo that I should’ve cranked out 1,667 words a day, so I was already in the hole. And then life got in the way. I was too tired, too busy, didn’t feel like writing. Before I knew it I was several thousand words short of where I needed to be, and as anyone knows, once you’re in the deficit, it’s tough to dig out. Just ask our legislators!
By mid-month, I crossed 20,000. Huffing and puffing, I hit 30,000. By the last week, 40,000 was in sight. Yes, I could do this. I would do this. I would overcome my slackness early on. And eventually, in the last hours of the challenge, I did it.
So what did I learn?
First, set a realistic goal. I knew the point was to write 50,000 words of new material last month. In fact, I had the story already in my mind. I assume most who did NaNo and succeeded are that far ahead of the game.
Second, keep going. No matter what. Period. Discipline is what this is all about.
Third, don’t assume that what you’re writing is polished and publishable. It’s not, but getting your thoughts, your words and sentences and paragraphs and pages down on a “page” is the first step toward being polished and publishable. Most of writing is revision. No news there.
Fourth, claim victory. On Friday, I was basking in exhilaration of success. I met the challenge and passed the test. I was a NaNo “winner.”
Finally, every writer should take this challenge. It is an exercise worth doing. If nothing else, you will learn if you’re cut out for the long haul, which novel writing is.
Will I do it next year? We’ll see.