I entered November having let myself off the 50k goal: my aim instead was to start up a proper writing routine, and to simply get the book done. I didn’t want to have to worry myself with desperate writing sessions, word sprints or daft writing prompts to keep the ideas flowing, and was going to use the challenge instead as a way to kick myself up the backside. Now, however, I’ve finished the end of the first week with a massive feeling of accomplishment and a genuine desire to not just hit the 50k but to sail right past it.
It’s day 8, and I’m writing to win now.
I have to admit, my story isn’t the most thrilling. It’s more an exploration of character than a plot-driven tale, and the joke is, my characters don’t even have any character. I’m struggling to decide how each name I create is going to act on the page. All characters so far have spoken in the same way and haven’t really deviated from their archetypes. I’m finding it difficult to think about designing characters when I’m working so hard at keeping the words flowing. (In that sense, I’m a useless pantser.)
But, I do like my novel! I like that the concept I thought up over the summer is finally being written, and while the quality right now is awful, in reality it’s turning out better than I could have imagined. I like that I’m at 13k now, when this time last year I was only at 5. I like that I’m waking up far too early and going to bed far too late because most of my spare time is spent thinking about or writing the novel.
I think I’m doing all right!
You know what, though? Over the weekend, I remembered the bittersweet detail about NaNoWriMo. I missed the target on Friday, had a busy day Saturday, and then spent the rest of the weekend catching up on 3,000 words. It was stressful and felt like total doom and gloom, simply because I was below the line and knew it would take a bit more effort to get back above it. If I hadn’t got back up to the line, I would have been behind all week. This challenge is fine when you stick to the daily wordcount, but as soon as you drop below, things start getting really tough. It’s both a challenge and a hindrance – on the one hand, the fear keeps you writing and hitting the goal each day. On the other, it really does feel like the end of the world when you fall below – and if you don’t catch up, it can leave a sour taste.
In previous years, I’ve fallen behind at some point in the month and then taken a very long time to pick myself up again. I mean, just look at my graph from last year: it’s so curved, so disappointing. What satisfaction is there in being behind for the whole month and then doing a sprint at the end? What’s the point in getting ahead early and then just… losing it? I’m definitely more keen on running the marathon this year: of keeping up a pace and ending the month having worked hard every day. So that’s what I’m going to do!
Doing NaNo with a full-time job has definitely changed the dynamic of writing, too. Whereas before I’d have a day of freedom stretched out in front of me with a couple of hours working between, now I have to grasp every minute I can and use it. I have been getting up far before six each morning, writing around 600-700 words; I’ve been cramming in half an hour of writing at lunch, hitting around 500 words each time; and then I’ve been finishing off the last few hundred words at home at the end of the day. Breaking the wordcount up into smaller bits has really, really helped. It can feel like there’s no hope, like there’s barely any time to write, but that alone is making me really determined to make the most of my time this year.
I hope I can keep this up (although I’m exhausted). I hope I can sail past 50k (although I’m barely hitting anything above the daily wordcount). And I hope my characters start to take shape a bit better soon (although I know they probably won’t). It’s the end of Week 1 and I’m so, so happy with my progress. And that, really, is what matters.
Now, if only this blog post could contribute to my daily wordcount…
Are you doing NaNo? How’s it going?