NaNoWriMo: How it went… and is still going.

Well, last night was the last night to update word counts and scramble in the last couple thou. I actually forgot about it—I was reorganising my bookshelf at the time. Was it in dire need of reorganising? No. But nor has it been any of the other five times I’ve completely reorganised it this pandemic, so them’s shakes. It’s just that when there’s no library to go to, and the view of your own bookshelf is what you spend most of your time looking at, you want it to be appealing. Maybe you’ll actually pick up one of those books you’ve been thinking about recently but haven’t yet gotten to because you have a story to write and you’re on the clock.

Has anyone else had the experience of suddenly needing to read a book right now, even though it’s been sitting on your shelf hardly even thought about for a year or more? I find that happens, particularly when you’re supposed to be writing your own book. Because what’s 100x easier than writing a story? Reading one that’s already written. I read two books and started a third while I was doing the challenge, and that was after a reading slump of several weeks before that. Amazing how that happens. I’d rather do anything except write, it seems.

But I’m here to talk about what I did actually write: which, while not adequate for finishing the challenge, was substantial.

I wrote ca. 5,000 words per day for the first three days. Which, while somewhat impressive, was only the bare minimum of what I figured I had to do to complete 50k by the end of the month. I started on November 20th so I didn’t think about it too hard and calculated that I had 10 days: 5,000 words a day times 10 days equals 50,000. Of course, by the time I had wracked my brain dry on the third day, limping to the 5,000 mark, I was ready to look for any loophole where I could get some reprieve. I found it when I realised I had 11 days: that was a whole day off writing! Or wiggle room for catching up if I didn’t quite reach my projected 5k word count.

I needed that by day 4. I strained and struggled and wrote words for the sake of writing words until I hit 4,000. Then I was done. I needed to do something else. I felt like I still wanted to do something creative, but I was completely tapped out for this particular project. I would have even considered working on writing a different story as a welcome breath of air. I always have multiple projects on the go, probably for that very reason, if I think about it. Instead, I picked up my sketchbook and did a quick drawing that was somewhat representative of how glum and done I felt. And then I wondered briefly why I didn’t draw hardly at all anymore… anyway.

On days 5, 6, and 7, my word count sank even further. Instead of doing the minimum 5k and the extra thou I ditched out on day 4, I did 2k per, and that was only so I could hit 25,000: the halfway mark. And, for me, the beginning of the end. I knew I was not going to be able to push myself to 50k in the last four days. And I realised, this challenge had quickly gotten me to a point where I was just writing meaningless words to fill space. Half of this stuff was going to get axed in editing. And it doesn’t matter how many words I get to in a day, if I can say with certainty that the majority of them are not going to make it in the final cut, I don’t feel good about the quantifiable “progress” I’ve made.

After getting to 25k, I took what would have been day 8 and wrote a big fat 0 words. I did housework and just casually took a much needed rest for my brain. But never fear, I did not just quit at that point. Because, regardless of what a bloated nightmare this challenge was starting to turn my manuscript into, the fact is, it was also responsible for getting me to write myself out of a slump in the first couple days. And that’s just what I needed.

I realised too, that I had left myself a consequence-free “out” in the event I couldn’t make the word count by November 30—I was just going to say “Sayonara” and leave the challenge behind. But that’s hardly motivation to keep writing once I knew I couldn’t make the deadline, is it? So, I decided to keep writing, see if I could hit a manageable goal in the last three days, like 30k, and then keep on writing into December until I hit my 50k. So I wrote another ca. 3k over the next three days. And was so completely unbothered by it last night that, like I said, I forgot to enter my (admittedly paltry) word count for the day and tally up my winnings.

I didn’t quite make it to 30k anyway. I could have pushed for it, but I think, if anything, this challenge has taught me to know when a push is needed and when it’s just violence against the creative process. I’m not a plotter, and I need time to mull over a scene and sit in it a while as I unravel it in my head. I plot while I write, which makes for tediously long writing sessions, but also makes for relatively clean first drafts that I usually don’t have trim a bunch of fat out of.

In conclusion, my score for NaNoWriMo this year, my first year of participation, is as follows: 67,104 words already in the manuscript at start date November 20. On Nov. 30, the manuscript was 95,542 words, 28,438 of which were added during NaNoWriMo.

And it’s not over yet. Like I said, I’m going to go on into December and try and hit 50k before 30 days since I started is over. This particular story, in various manifestations, has been in the works for about fifteen years—yes, I started it when I was still in grade school. It has, necessarily, gone through many evolutions, revolutions, and convolutions, even years of abandonment when I seriously considered dropping it as it was and leaving behind it as a relic of my early writing development. But I couldn’t leave it without trying to turn it into something decent. In the form it is now, I’ve been working on it for about two years. What’s another part of a month in the grand scheme of things?

Anyway, thank goodness that’s over. I’ll just finish the challenge for myself. Meanwhile, this blog will return to its usual, inconsistent programming.

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