I first participated in NaNoWriMo in 2014, when I decided to expand one of my short stories into a novel called The Last Dragon. I’d heard about NaNo for several years, but it was only last year that I decided to take the plunge and see if I could do it. I’m a “plotter” rather than a “pantser”, but even with my short story as a Chapter One and a finished outline, I didn’t make it to the goal line of 50,000 words by the end of November. With a family, a job, and a silly need for sleep, I just barely made it to 30,000 words.
But I didn’t view the experience as a failure. On the contrary, with a deadline and a word count looming, I learned to fit writing into my busy life. Besides my usual few hours of writing time each week, I squeezed in some scribbling in ten or fifteen minute increments. Instead of reading a book on my half hour lunch break, I wrote. Instead of reaching for ancient magazines at the doctor’s office, I wrote. While my daughter played on the computer on Sundays, I wrote. While water boiled for her macaroni and cheese, I wrote. Before my leaden eyes closed at bedtime, I wrote.
I learned to look at time differently, and to re-order my life around writing, instead of the other way around. And because time was precious, I learned to cut through the Editor and simply put words down, one after another, scene by scene. These are habits I continued throughout the rest of that winter, and by spring I had a sprawling, messy–but finished–first draft. I haven’t done anything with it since, but that sense of accomplishment I felt when I wrote The End did a lot for my confidence as a writer.
This November, I plan to join NaNo and work on my novel-in-progress, Wolf Dream. What? you say. You’re not starting a new novel from scratch? Isn’t that cheating? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m joining the madness anyway. I figure since I could only get 30,000 words last year, I wouldn’t do much better this year. But it would be enough to finish the novel I’m working on now. So why not? Reaching your goal–finishing your novel–is the point, right? So I’ll be spending the golden, blustery months of November reaching for that 50,000 word goal with thousands of other writers. Nano is about more than word count; it’s about community, something this mostly solitary writer needs more of.
What about you? Are you joining NaNo this year? Have you ever “won”? Leave a comment, and we’ll talk about it!