Hands up everyone who is currently thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo in November.
For me it is the third year and this time I really hope to finish my novel. Yes, that is right, I did not finish my book after one Nano. To be honest, by now I just think I had to get used to the stress and also get more methodic about it. The first time around I managed 11 k, which isn’t shabby, considering I only wrote 1k every other weekend if I was in the mood before that. All in all I participated in two Nanos and four Camps so far. This kind of resulted in me only actively writing during the Nano months. Apart from that I only wrote a couple hundred words here and there. I failed three of four camps miserably. But looking back it all still encouraged me to write more and to get ahead. Another side effect was meeting a lot of other writers I wouldn’t have met otherwise, some of which I still see on a semi regular basis. And that is quite a lot coming from someone who spends more time behind screens than with friends. So let us go through each challenge and see how I did and what I learned and worked on.
This was the first year I ever regularly met up in a group to write. And it boosted my productivity overall, even if I was still one of the slowest people in the group and missed the goal by a long shot. 11 k was something I was proud of . Sure, of course I was disappointed I wasn’t gonna make it. I knew that two weeks into the challenge already. I kept going because at that point my main goal was to get words out. Get something done and at the end it did not matter that I had only come up with 1/5 of what the others had. Writing with a bunch of people and under a deadline gets you working, but it only works if you don’t think too much about it. I am a slow writer, because I put most of my work into the dialogues. If they don’t hit the nail on the head then the whole story collapses. So I do a tiny bit of editing while I am writing already. BUT if I take my notebook with me wherever I go then I can write loads on the train for example. Use waiting times. Otherwise you won’t get there. And you wouldn’t have used the time for anything else anyway.
- Deadlines and Peer Pressure can boost word quantity
- Every new word is cause for celebration
- Fast writing doesn’t work for everyone (so don’t compare)
- Use breaks and waiting times, write whenever possible
Camp NaNoWriMo April 2016
I chose to participate in Camp because I hadn’t achieved what I originally wanted in November. Same book, lower word count. This time I wanted to see if I could get 5 k out even though my month was packed. SPOILER ALERT: I could not. I only managed 1337 words. Still better than nothing. But it made me fall back into bad habits. Finding excuses not to write or to discard the whole NaNo system altogether. I was trying to convince myself that it just wasn’t my thing and that the others only made it because they had too low standards for quality. I still didn’t understand that quality is not what it is about.
- I repeat, every word is cause for celebration
- It’s comfortable to give in to outside stress and push your project aside, but grow some balls and push through. A lot of writers write in coffee shops. You’re at the source for the brown power juice. SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK! jk. I think.
- NaNo is meant to help you finish a story, not a bestseller. Quantity over Quality. There is a reason you have to pledge to edit your draft in January.
Camp NaNoWriMo July 2016
By July I got back into the saddle, still a bit cautious, but eager to work. Funnily enough, the result was similar to the last one. But this time it had a good reason. I had started writing a new story, so what I was working on was a new beginning. After the desaster that was my first camp was over I tried to go on and didn’t know what exactly was going wrong. Until I figured out that I was writing the wrong side of the story. Because I couldn’t get the access that I wanted to the main character. So I put the old story aside for later and turned the page. But the start didn’t come that easy. I had to get used to a whole other way of telling a story and a character that was the polar opposite to the last one. That is why my goal was 5 k again. I made it to 1449 words. It was alright with me though, because it felt like I was on the right track again. Btw, the project was actually that new that I didn’t even had a title for it at the time.
- Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right you need to do something about it.
- If you can’t find a way to fix it, maybe you can later on. Return to the story when you are ready.
- That does not mean that you should give into plot bunnies, but that if there is no way of fixing a thing that keeps you from writing and you feel like you are writing the wrong story then maybe you need to take a break from your current project.
When it was time to get my typing fingers ready for November I came prepared. I had worked through some of the pages in the workbook Ready, Set, Novel! that is available in the NaNo store and also made notes about where I wanted to take this project. If you are interested in the workbook, I made a review about it on youtube a while back. I didn’t use the whole book because I was never the type to prepare too much, or plan more than necessary. So I did some tasks that helped me keep my focus. That focus was another thing I lacked the first time around. I just wrote with a vague idea in mind and absolutely no sub plots. The change in preparation and company was just what I needed. By company I mean that I found a likeminded writer by attending a meet up in another city than before. With that person I texted daily, met up two to three times a week and just consequently wrote. My problem with the other writers was that they tended to chatter and just wanting to connect while I was looking for someone who pressured me into writing and didn’t distract me. Bonus points if they also can help out with questions and problems or help you decide about a way to phrase a sentence. Either way I had found someone who was just as keen on finishing those 50 k as me. And this time I did. Well, sort of. 10 k of what I wrote was just notes.
- Premade worksheets can make planning easier
- There is too little planning and there is too much planning. Find the right amount for you.
- Writing buddies don’t just fall from the sky, but if you have one don’t let them go.
Camp NaNoWriMo April & July 2017
This year’s camps made me more ambitious than ever. Both times I aimed for about 25 k. The first time around I didn’t make it, because once again the month was packed. What I did manage was 5 k, though. I was getting ahead again. Then, in July I made it work. well, almost. I lowered my goal once because something kept me from working for a day. But I don’t remember what exactly went on. Between those two camps I had a major setback when I deleted about 8 k when I noticed I had produced some completely useless chapters. All in all the book has about 42 k without notes. So in terms of nanowrimo, I couldn’t tell you if I was successful. I tend to count my notes and homework, too, because all of them need to get done. It’s something that motivates me. I want to be fair to myself. I work two jobs and I study and have loads of hobbies. Writing a book takes its time anyway. The plan is to wrap the story up in november. After two camps and two NaNos. I still think of me as a winner. You can fight me on this, but I created something that wasn’t there this time last year.
- Adapt your goals if need be
- Notes and homework are words you wrote. You can count them if you want to. Be a rebel.
- You don’t need to be done after 50 k, most books are longer than that.
I think the challenge is a good and useful thing. It’s not for everyone and winning can be judged different ways. Just see if it is compatible with your way of working. I know a lot of people who just can’t deal with writing in a quantity over quality mindset, no matter if they can edit all that later on. However it is a reason to write more than usual and commit time and effort for a thing you want to scratch from your bucket list. It’s a lifetime goal that you CAN achieve, and why not sooner than later.