My journey to 50K
Like many other writers in November, I accepted the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge to write 50,000 words in one month. I had been thinking about my YA sci-fi manuscript for a bit over a year, and had only managed to get around 20,000 words down, so the appeal of NaNoWriMo was to finish this manuscript, adding 50,000 words to my current word count and finishing on 30 November at 70,000 words.
On day one, 1,667 words per day seemed very achievable, easy, so I thought! For those who have entered data through the NaNoWriMo website, you know there is a graph tracking your actual word count against the target. I stayed on target for the first seven days. Then, life happened.
From day seven, my word count graph plateaued until day 16. There was a bout of sickness in our family, birthday parties, my husband traveling, playgroup craft preparation (rocket ships take a loooooot of prep time), exhaustion… As well as committing to writing I am a full-time Mum to two very energetic (some may say ‘wild’) kids. On day 16, I had 12,010 words down, and the graph showed I should have been on 26,666. Less than half the number of words than that target line predicted, and over half way through November. I had seven zero-word days. An easy point to give up!
From day 17, I had to write significantly more words per day to reach the finish line. My best writing day was 5,500 words- and that was between 8:30pm and 2:00am after the kids went to sleep! (And no, they both don’t sleep through the night, so add a few wake-ups and re-settles in there). I participated in Twitter NaNoWriMo sprints, I tried to write while kids napped, I slept a whole lot less…!
At lunchtime of day 30, the final day of the NaNoWriMo challenge, I did it. I finished my 50,000 words, bringing my manuscript’s total to 70,000 words. It felt incredible, I know why they call it ‘winning’, not just ‘completing’ or ‘finishing’. I did feel like a winner! November felt like a marathon AND a sprint at the same time, but it was so worthwhile for me.
What I learnt
- MAKING WRITING THE PRIORITY
The biggest thing I will take away from NaNoWriMo is how to make writing a priority in my life. I will always be busy, everyone is. Kids, family, playgroup, study, housework, friends, down-time, husband-time. But when I shifted my priority to writing in November (after kids that always come first, of course), I achieved my goal. I left the dishes until the next day, didn’t watch TV or procrastinate, and as soon as the kids closed their eyes I pulled out my laptop and sprinted hard. I couldn’t continue to do it every day like I did in November, but if I made writing the priority even a few nights a week, I would make a lot of progress.
- THE WRITING COMMUNITY IS VERY SUPPORTIVE
I had been reluctant in joining Twitter and Instagram, I’m not into social media in my personal life, but I’m so glad I did join and interact. The writing community is amazingly supportive, encouraging, hilarious, and wonderful! In a world where people are tearing each other down online, the writing community seems to be nothing but positive. People were encouraging others no matter what their journey. Cheering those on for achieving their goals, supporting those who didn’t meet their goals, building each other up.
At the end of NaNoWriMo I was genuinely impressed by all the love given to those that achieved and didn’t achieve the 50K. I was inspired by writers abandoning their manuscripts half way through November and changing ideas, inspired by those that didn’t make it to the 50K but found the positives: they were becoming more disciplined at writing, they had written more than they otherwise would have, they got most of the way towards their goal and would continue into December. Other writers sharing their journeys was very powerful and inspiring to me.
What I would do differently
No regrets, this was my first NaNoWriMo experience, and I’m proud of it. But when I do this again in 2019, I will:
- PLAN MORE
Part of the reason I lost traction after a week was that I really didn’t know where I was going with the story. I had to sit down with a whole bunch of post-it notes and figure out the scenes, the incidents, character development, what I had written and what needed to be written. I would spend more of October prepping, ‘Preptober’ as they call it, so I didn’t encounter such a big roadblock early on.
- AIM HIGHER EARLIER
In the first week, I aimed to get to 1,667 words per day. I didn’t factor into the equation zero-word days, family events or getting sick. If I aimed for 2,000-2,500 words per day earlier on, I wouldn’t have gotten so far behind and had a buffer for days where writing couldn’t happen. The Twitter sprints were very motivating and I only found these in the last week, so I’d be doing sprinting earlier.
Overall, NaNoWriMo was a wild ride. A month of sleeplessness and anxiety at falling behind, but a lot of motivation, great connections with the writing world and a fantastic feeling on 30 November, I did it- I achieved my goal and I’ve written a novel in a month. A DRAFT novel in a month. Now on to editing this beast of a manuscript…
Thank you to my wonderful family, particularly my husband and Mum for their support during this crazy month. Thanks for believing in me and supporting my dream chasing!
Did you attempt NaNoWriMo?
If you did attempt NaNoWriMo, good on you! If you ‘won’, congratulations. If you didn’t, congratulations! You made progress; you may have increased your word count, thought more or done some planning on your story, decided it wasn’t for you (I saw some writers reference quantity vs. quality which is a great point) or even abandoned the manuscript and thought of a better idea. Either way, I think experiencing NaNoWriMo had a purpose for all of us.
I’d love to hear from you, what your experience was, and what you learnt from your experience. Comment below!