I think I mentioned in a previous post that, because I have no regard for my sanity, I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo this November.
What is it?
For those of you who don’t know: NaNoWriMo is, essentially, a mad dash to get 50,000 words of something written in November. Now, I’m not someone who needs external motivation to write. I don’t need rewards or deadlines in order to produce a body of work in a short period of time (although I recognize that many people to, and that’s perfectly fine). I do, however, love a good challenge, and any reason to write is good enough for me.
That’s why NaNoWriMo caught my interest. Other than that, I’m doing it because A. I love writing, B. It seems like a fun way to get to know other writers, and C. I have about thirty novel ideas floating around in my brain, and if I don’t start writing them down, they’re going to dominate my mind (not that they don’t already).
This is my first year participating, and even before starting, I can already tell it’s going to become a tradition. In the month leading up to the start of NaNoWriMo, I’ve found so many writers I can talk with for hours about story structure, character, plot devices; people who understand what it’s like to write your first 1,000 words, people who understand what it’s like to stay up until 2 a.m. because you just can’t stop writing. Although my friends and family are supportive, I’m sure they’re glad I’ve found a group of like-minded people and won’t be yelling about plot holes to them anymore.
Word counts shouldn’t be scary
However, I did have some reservations about doing NaNoWriMo at first. It’s not that I’m worried about having to write 50,000 words in a month (I wrote the first draft of my first novel in 21 days). It’s that I’m one of those people who impose strange, unnecessary, or overwhelming deadlines and expectation on themselves, and then get angry with themselves if they don’t meet those expectations.
If you’re like me and tend toward feeling like a failure if you don’t meet your expectations, the key is to remember that 50,000 words is the goal. It’s not a deadline at work – NaNoWriMo is about having fun and pushing your limits. Internally screaming at yourself because you miss a day or two of writing is, decidedly, not fun.
In order to hit the 50,000 word mark by the end of November, that means writing a minimum of 1,667 words per day. I can write about 2,000 words in less than an hour, if the juices are flowing and I don’t have any distractions. And really, I already write that many words a day – in journal entries, in articles for the paper – what’s another 2,000 words?
This only comes from years of practice though, and learning not to edit as I write, which, in my opinion, is extremely important. Shitty first drafts are essential – they allow you to get all your thoughts word vomited onto the page, without worrying about whether it sounds pretty or nice. That’s what second (and third) drafts are for, when you actually create a coherent story.
The plan (or lack thereof)
People often ask me, are you a gardener or architect? As with everything else in my life, I’m a bit of both. I’m a sucker for spreadsheets, bullet journals, calendars, and bright pens, but I also love winging it, pushing the envelope, and seeing what will happen. With NaNoWriMo, I’m going in with a list of characters, as well as some basic plot points the novel will follow. But, if a character suddenly wants to move to France or buy a costume shop, I don’t question it. I say “sure,” and see where it’ll take us.
In short, I’m excited. I’m excited to see where my novel will go, I’m excited to chat with like-minded people, and I’m excited to be able to say I completed my very first NaNoWriMo. So, if you want to be my writing buddy or follow my progress, you can add me on NaNoWriMo’s website (search CatFriesen), or follow me on Instagram for updates. I’m looking forward to hearing your progress, learning about your stories, and being a part of NaNoWriMo for 2018 and years to come!
PS. For those of you who have asked: the first novel is in its third draft, but has been tabled until NaNoWriMo is over. If all goes well, the third draft should be doneskies in December. Thanks for expressing your interest – it means a lot!