Last Thursday, I began writing a novel as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, here’s a quick synopsis: thousands of other crazy people write at least 50,000 words of a novel in the month.
I’ve been writing almost my entire life, but I barely knew what NaNoWriMo was before a few months ago. But once I learned a little more about the challenge, I knew it was for me.
Here’s my writing story: I’ve started dozens of novels and not finished them. I feel like writing fiction is my calling in life (in addition to being a mom and a wifey), but I often lose interest in my story or don’t know enough about what’s supposed to happen in the story to finish it.
So my stories sit on my computer until I’m feeling nostalgic and I read through them, and I get excited again. Maybe I’ll even type out a few pages, and then the story sits again.
But I committed to take part in NaNoWriMo this year and let a bunch of people know (p.s. this is probably the key to not backing out of something).
I thought about my story for a couple of months, planned and prepared for it, and then decided the week before NaNoWriMo that I wanted to write something else. So many of my stories have stewed around in my mind for years, including the one I was planning to write. I felt like I needed to start with a fresh idea.
I’m seven days into writing my book for NaNoWriMo, and here are a few things I’ve learned:
- Writing a novel isn’t impossible. Although it’s always been a dream of mine to complete a novel, it felt out of reach. I didn’t ever look into making a plan on how to finish a book; I figured it was something I’d do when my kids go to school someday, and I somehow have more time in the day. But guess what? It’s not impossible. Okay, I know I’m only a week into writing my first novel, but I’ve seen that it’s possible to write and not give up on every other aspect of my life. I can still write fiction and change my baby’s diapers, take a shower, make dinner, pick up a prescription from the store, and so much more.
- It’s possible to write a lot when you focus. I’ve written more of my story in the last week than I have in my entire life. Um, that is unless you count the novel I wrote when I was fourteen, which I don’t. As of this morning, I’ve written 21,821 words of my novel, which equals about 41 single-spaced pages written in Times New Roman font.
- Writing doesn’t take have to take too long. I read 5000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox before I began NaNoWriMo, and it encouraged me to focus more during my writing time. I haven’t been able to do this every day, but when I can, I sit down, set my timer for 1 hour, and write as quickly as I can. When I feel stuck, I try to keep going, and it has worked. I’ve been surprised because I can’t count all the times I’ve stopped writing because I felt stuck. I’m only able to sit down and focus entirely on my writing if my kids are asleep or my husband is taking care of them. During this time, I don’t check email, I don’t go to the bathroom, and I don’t get up. I sit and write. And sip on my water. When I do this, I’m about to write about 2,200 words in an hour. I’m hoping to increase that number.
- There will always be an obstacle. My very first day of NaNoWriMo, I was able to wake up early and get 2,600 words out before I heard a peep from my kids. But then a few days later was Daylight Savings (don’t get me started), and ever since then, my three-year-old daughter starts screeching from her bedroom the second I sit at my computer. Literally, right when I sit down, which doesn’t make any sense. It’s not like I’m writing on an ancient typewriter that can be heard through walls. Also, we randomly decided to go to my husband’s parents’ house over the weekend, and it ended up being very busy while we were there. I was only about to write about 100 words while there, but luckily I had written about 5,000 the day before. There will always be something that comes up, but I try not to let it thwart me in any way.
- Doing a bunch of planning may not be for everyone. I was determined to plan my novel ahead of time carefully, but when I switched my idea, I didn’t have enough time. I prepared for a few days and got an idea of who my characters were (I wish I’d done a little more of this) and where I wanted the story to go. However, as I’ve been writing, I’ve remembered how the story seems to come together as I write fiction. I know this probably doesn’t make sense to people who are big planners, but I don’t think that creating a detailed outline would be best for me. You have to decide what works best for you as a writer by judging how you write your best and what has stopped you in the past.
- A break is good. I don’t write on Sundays, so that means my daily word count goal is 2,000. It’s so easy to just up the word count a little bit and take a break to refresh. I would recommend taking one day off each week—hopefully it will help you avoid a writer’s burnout.
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I’d love to hear how it’s going! Comment below with any obstacles or victories you’ve had or any lessons you’ve learned.