This past Saturday, I finished the first draft of my NaNoWriMo novel. It’s rough — as a first draft often is — and there are some holes I need to fill in, but overall, I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and proud to say I cranked out a first draft in under a month.
Some days, it was hard to write. Just looking at my laptop made me want to crawl under my bed and scream (simultaneously). Some days, I sat down straight away after waking up and wrote 2,000+ words in under an hour when it felt I’d been sitting there for ten minutes.
There are several things I think we should all take away from NaNoWriMo, and this is one of them. Some days, it’ll be easy. You’re going to love what you’re writing, the characters cooperate, the story unrolls before you like a carpet. Other days, the carpet has been glued together and is a hefty, unwieldy lump. Doing anything with it is like, well, trying to drag a rolled carpet up a set of stairs. And then back down. And then up again.
Next, this isn’t a competition between you and other writers. This is a competition with yourself to see if you can write 50,000 words in a month. NaNoWriMo is about writing a shitty first draft for yourself because you want to accomplish this cool thing, not because you want to beat everyone else at it. Because guess what? Many of the people doing NaNoWriMo will surpass your word count. By a lot.
My first draft isn’t long (only 50,656 words), but I feel that I got out everything I needed to for this draft, and I’m happy with how it went. Most importantly, I’m not comparing my 50,000 words to someone else’s 80,000. I wrote what I wanted, and they wrote what they wanted. Everyone’s happy! (Also, I know how I edit: I’ll likely end up with an extra 20-30,000 words by the end of the last draft.)
Having said that, word count isn’t important. Sure, it would be cool to hit 50,000 words and see that little badge appear on your profile, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t. I’ve seen people lamenting the fact that they only got to 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 words — that’s still a huge chunk of a novel right there, and, with time, it’ll turn into your first draft, then your second, then your third. Time isn’t important, but finishing it eventually is (that’s the spirit of NaNo, isn’t it? Finishing the draft?)
Although this was my first NaNoWriMo, I’ve learned so much and connected with so many cool people. I’ve chatted with writers from all over, some with twelve published novels, some, like me, who have only written one or two. Despite this, every single one of them was kind, supportive, and a joy to talk with, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to meet so many cool, talented, ambitious people.
Where am I going from here? My NaNoWriMo novel will have to wait, because I’ve dedicated December to edit the third and final draft of my first novel (the one I wrote in July-August during my own self-imposed NaNoWriMo). If all goes well, that’ll be done before the end of December, and as soon as it is, draft number two of this novel will start.
A big thank you to everyone in my life, both online and off, who supported me through this, gave me words of encouragement, and expressed interest in reading my novels once they’re done. Y’all are lovely people, and I’m delighted I get to have you in my life.