Well guys, I made it! I set out to write 50,000 words in the month of November 2019, and I made my goal! It has taken me the first full week of December to recover, and I’m not honestly sure if the words in my manuscript are going to make sense at this point. I’m pretty sure during the last 10 days of November, I forgot how to pull together a coherent sentence. Frankly, I’m a little worried about this post as well, which is entirely why it didn’t post yesterday, but ever onward!
So, #NaNoWriMo is not for the faint-of-heart. And unless you are a seasoned and prolific writer in the ranks of Stephen King or Nora Roberts, chances are you don’t have a daily habit of cranking out over 2,000 a words a day, which is about what you will need to get a 50,000 word count by the end of a month. I am certainly not a daily writing habit kind of gal, you know, life. But, I did commit to that habit in November for this event and here are some things I learned along the way:
It’s okay to Bribe yourself!
Okay I know that sounds bad, but hear me out. Sometimes you just have to play games with yourself, and sometimes something silly, like the digital badges that you earn during Nano, can be just the thing to keep your motivation level high. It’s okay to promise yourself a walk, or an extra cup of cocoa, or even a hand massage. If those things are what gets you to the finish line, I say do it. Because the alternative is not obtaining your goal, and that is never fun for anyone. Besides, who doesn’t like treats? Yes, I used those also. It is amazing how many words you can produce when chocolate is on the line!
I told myself that if I wrote every day for two weeks, I would buy myself a gift. I had no idea what it would be, I figured that it would make itself known when the time came. I set the goal, but then I attended a book signing on November 5th for Lyssa Kay Adams. It was conveniently at a book store, and I knew in my heart I would make my goal, so not only did I get a copy of her new book “The Bromance Book Club,” but I also purchased a book that I had been eyeing for quite some time. Even though I jumped the gun on the purchase, I didn’t allow myself to read either it until I reached my final goal of 50,000 words, which was motivation as well since I was really excited to dive into them both. I have already gotten through the first book, which was a fabulous read if you like mythology. It was a fun take on the life of the Goddess of Witchcraft – “Circe” by Madeline Miller. Joining the Bromance Club next!
Early Bird gets the Worm!
I committed to getting up at 4:45 a.m. each morning, and let me just tell you, I am NOT a morning person! This photo was taken after the words, shower, and morning caffeine. You definitely don’t want to see the glamorous get-up I had on for the writing session! Getting up that early was HARD and maintaining that schedule was even harder, but I did manage it for pretty much the entire month. There were times I woke up late, but for the most part I always managed to get some kind of count in in the wee hours.
What I learned was, that while I don’t particularly care for waking up before the birds do, I am much more productive creatively at that time. It was when I was able to more effectively “download” what was working on from the day before and organize my thoughts. It was when my characters spoke more freely, and showed me things about the world I was writing about that I hadn’t even considered. (Can I just say here… Ents.) It wasn’t always pretty, and there were days that I couldn’t quite pull together a sentence, but the AM was the best time for me to work on that kind of stuff. It also put me in a really good frame of mind for the balance of the day.
And I want to also mention here for other writers who might be considering this process, the words weren’t always in story form. Sometimes they were thoughts, notes, character studies, etc. At one point at the end of the month, I was completely stumped and wasn’t sure where I was heading. The word count I logged that day included Goal, Motivation and Conflict for each of my characters, and I can tell you it really helped! I was able to get the train back on the track in no time!
Willpower is sometimes not enough!
Remember what I said about getting up? Well, this is where my writer friends come in! There were times, more than I would like to admit, when I was cozy under my cover and the posts with the screaming lady and sassy cat were way more compelling than the manuscript I promised to finish by December. But then, I would see a post from my Nano Rogues group and it would put a fire under my fanny.
You see, I had thought it would be fun to post my daily shenanigans on Facebook and Twitter, without the slightest thought that someone would actually being listening to me. So, when I was a few weeks in and I wasn’t feeling the motivation, I saw comments on my post that turned it around for me. Folks were invested in my journey and rooting for me! I remember one morning in particular where someone had thanked me for inspiring their morning habit, and I realized that by not getting up, I was not only letting myself down, but also the friends I had made along the way. Did I get my ass out of bed? Hell yes I did! And I pumped out over 1,000 words that day!
I highly recommend being part of a group, either virtual or in real life, that can help you through the hard times. And there will be lots of them, hard times that is, not only during Nano, but for your entire writing journey. Having someone else going through the same things you are, or that understands your concerns, always seems to lighten the load. The posts through the NaNoWriMo Facebook group were extremely helpful on the days I was feeling sorry for myself. And I also made sure to pay it forward by congratulating those who had made their goals, or who were struggling with their manuscript. It made a huge difference to me to feel like I was connected to something larger than myself.
Editing? What is that?
This was, by far, the hardest thing to avoid during NaNo! I like to clean up and polish as I go, mainly because I write in spurts, some days no words, others a ton. Without a daily writing habit, I need to read what I wrote before I work on a new piece. It helps me to get my head back into the story. This habit is so ingrained in me, that when I am writing every day, I have to fight myself to keep the words coming and to not correct what I just wrote.
I have found that training yourself to “sprint” really helps with this. When you set a timer and give yourself 20 minutes of focused writing time, I find that it trains your brain to get down to business. I practiced this last year doing sprints, mainly when I wrote with my friends at coffee shops or at their homebound write-ins. I have even done virtual sprints if I have seen someone on Facebook that is doing one. However, the sprint writing is intense as you are trying to get as many words down in the shortest amount of time. While I did manage to focus my energy on my task each morning, I found that sprinting every day was draining from a creative standpoint.
The best way I found to handle this, was to keep my AM writing time for the creative stuff, then every week or so, I would find some time during the evening when I could read through what I had written and polish it up. That way, my stress of worrying about what I would have to work with at the end of the month was eliminated, and it kept me in the story enough that I was able to be more effective during my sprints. Win Win!
I had a ton of fun doing NaNoWriMo and challenging myself to try something new. I highly recommend giving yourself permission to make your writing a priority, you will be so glad you did! For anyone interested in seeing a play by play of my #NaNoWriMo2019 Shenanigans, you can find my Twitter thread at SarayBooksDA at the following shortened link or by clicking below: https://bit.ly/2s3mNCX.
So now I have a manuscript that I can push over the finish line by the end of December, and plan to do so in the next couple of days. Only a few more chapters to go and I can close the book on the Power of Four series. I wonder what new adventures I will find in 2020? I am excited to see what the future brings!
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo in 2019? If so, how did you do? Would love to know in the comments below! If not, is it something you might consider for 2020? If so, you can find more information at their site: http://www.nanowrimo.org. In the meantime, happy writing! XO