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My NaNoWriMo Story

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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.

NaNoWriMo 2015

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.

  1. Deadlines and Peer Pressure can boost word quantity
  2. Every new word is cause for celebration
  3. Fast writing doesn’t work for everyone (so don’t compare)
  4. 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.

  1. I repeat, every word is cause for celebration
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right you need to do something about it.
  2. If you can’t find a way to fix it, maybe you can later on. Return to the story when you are ready.
  3. 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.

NaNoWriMo 2016

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.

  1. Premade worksheets can make planning easier
  2. There is too little planning and there is too much planning. Find the right amount for you.
  3. 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.

  1. Adapt your goals if need be
  2. Notes and homework are words you wrote. You can count them if you want to. Be a rebel.
  3. 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.

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