Monday, December 8, 2014

Adventures in NaNoWriMo

Something happened this past month that I thought I was safe from. I took every precaution. I’d fallen victim to it in the past, I’d been weak, but I wouldn’t fall for it again. That’s what I told myself, but sadly, I couldn’t hold firm to my convictions.

That’s right, friends. I let myself get talked into doing NaNoWriMo.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The premise is simple: write a 50,000-word novel from November 1 to November 30. At a steady pace, that means roughly 1,667 words a day.

I did it in 2013 and won; it was my first win, and such a rush! I was so ecstatic that I planned to do it this year as well, but of course life got in the way. November’s a truly horrible month to schedule anything that requires more than half-hearted dedication. As November approached, I saw my free time dwindling, and I made the decision to bow out this year.

From elementary school, we all learn the dangers of peer pressure. You’d think I’d know better by now. But my friend was sneaky, you see. Take note, dear readers: friends can be sneaky, but writer friends are the sneakiest. This friend reminded me that when we became Writing Buddies on the NaNo site, we had never met and lived 2,700 miles from one another. Then I moved across the country, and when I glanced at my Buddies list in 2013, I was shocked to notice the name of my coworker! That's right, folks: my virtual Writing Buddy serendipitously became my real life Office Buddy.

This year, she persuaded me to join her in the NaNo madness. “We started as strangers, we end as friends!” she declared. How could anyone say no to that?

And so, I embarked on 30 days of heeeeeeell!

Actually, it wasn’t so bad. Keeping up in NaNoWriMo is all about pacing. You’ve got to start strong and maintain a manageable pace throughout the month. Missing a day here and there is fine, but dangerous: your necessary word count goes nowhere as the days tick on. It becomes a mountain, and the higher it gets, the more discouraging it can become to press on.

When I do NaNo, my goal is always 2,000 words a day—a few hundred over the recommended number. That way I’m building up a buffer, and if I do have to miss a day, there’s little damage. But I knew going in that this was going to be a crazy month. Not only was I getting started on upcoming end-of-year projects, but I was exhibiting at an art event the weekend before Thanksgiving. Writing 2k words a day AND keeping up with my art was no easy task.

In fact, the week of the event, I slid. I really slid. By the time I was ready to look at NaNo again, I was 12,000 words behind with only three days left! I really had to book it. When I got home on November 28, I sat my butt in my computer chair and began writing.

And I reeeeeally didn’t want to. I was so tired! But I was so close, and my friend was just 5k away from the end! Man oh man, if she hadn’t gotten me into this mess..!

But, she was the very thing that kept me going. The reason I like NaNoWriMo is that it fosters community. There’s something about knowing you’re struggling alongside like-minded individuals that keeps you motivated… and also a little too scared of failure to give into it. You want everyone else to get to the finish line, but you want to be right there with them. It’s not so much competitiveness as it is camaraderie.

So when I saw my friend cross the finish line, I sucked it up and dug in. By Saturday, I had less than 8,000 words to go. I stayed inside all day and kept my fingers over the keyboard.

How did I do? Well...

Pretty good, I think.

Though my NaNo adventure was a little (well, very) unexpected, I'm glad I did it. I was hoping to get rolling on a rewrite of this manuscript before the end of the year, but the way things were going, I was pretty sure I wouldn't make my goal. Now the manuscript is over halfway done! It's a grueling pace, but I've found NaNo to be a great way to make progress on early drafts.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm still catching up on my beauty sleep.



Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Yeah, buddy! I love NaNo. All of my published novels were NaNo babies.

Leandra Wallace said...

Whoa! You really came back from being behind. Awesome will power! And how cool that you two ended up working together? Life takes some neat turns sometimes. Congrats on winning NaNo!!

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I love NaNo for the community building too, but I have never won. Congrats on winning! 50K words is an accomplishment.

Brianna Lebrecht said...

Wow! That's an amazing finish! I'm always jealous to read stories like this because I'd love to participate in NaNoWriMo, but life hasn't made it work out for me. Next time I just need to suck it up and tell life where to go so I can write.

Carrie Beckort said...

Congrats, Nilah! I'm impressed - and inspired (and secretly jealous). Way to get it back on track!

Christine Rains said...

Woo-hoo! Congratulations! I've done NaNo for ten years, and there were a few years I had that last word sprint.

Jonathan Schramm said...

Congrats, Nilah! I won NaNoWriDe recently, does that count too?:)

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