Oh wow, it has been forever since I’ve last updated here about the books I’ve read, but it was for the best of reasons! 🙂 Today I won National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo! This was the first win for me, yay! For those who have no idea what this is, long story short: the point is to attempt to write 50 000 words of your novel in the month of November. Which is a lot. For me it required this quiet year to be able to finally pull this off. And if this horrible year has given us something, it’s certainly extra time at home.
In October (Preptober as the NaNoWriMo community calls it) I decided that since I had taken the effort to plot a novel idea during summer, I’d try to finally win NaNoWriMo for the first time. For the first time ever there was endless time ahead, a quiet November due to all the restrictions and social distancing, so this really was the time to focus on my writing hobby and push myself to write more than ever.
I have to say that it feels simply amazing. 😀 I feel tired, accomplished and excited and so happy that I was able to show myself that I could do it with consistency. By showing up every evening, and more during the weekends, I slowly but steadily chipped away at the huge mountain of 50 000 words. I am not a professional writer, writing is just a dear hobby of mine, so 50 000 words in (less than) a month is not something that is somehow automatic for me. And the story or novel isn’t actually even finished yet, oh no. Most novels are longer than 50k words anyway, and I’m at the moment still missing a couple of the first and last chapters. And after writing those out, the real bulk of the work begins: the editing.
NaNoWriMo is really about writing the very first draft of your story, so it’s really just word vomit: hastily done and without any editing. It’s quantity over quality and there is a point to this. NaNoWriMo’s schedule forces you to just pour the words out and if you want to hit the target you can’t stop to edit or procrastinate too much (if at all). You just type, make notes for later edits, and keep going. Everything can be edited and thought of later, now it’s just about getting that bulk of words out of you so there is something to edit at the end of it.
NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for everyone as an encouragement, it didn’t work for me in the previous years either, but here’s what I did this year to make it happen:
- Prepare. I had to have my story idea moulded into a first version of a plot. I also needed characters and a few locations planned however thinly. I did most of the plotting during my summer vacation and continued during October, once I had made the decision of wanting to participate in NaNoWriMo.
- Writing Sprints. The single most important learning for me was that I needed a way to focus and so many other NaNoWriMo participants spoke highly of writing sprints. So I tried those and was amazed of how much the dedicated, short focus time did for my productivity. Writing sprints basically use the Pomodoro Technique where you set an alarm for a suitable, relatively short amount of time during which you focus on the task alone. The time is short to get your focus maximised and to help you also have regular breaks. I did mostly 20 minute writing sprints and I usually got anything between 500 to 700 hundred words in that time. During an evening I was often doing 3 of these sprints and during the weekend days some more.
- Show up every day. If possible, commit to opening your document and writing something every day or at least write some thoughts or notes about the story. I really think this helped me not to lose my connection with my story. I had a few days where the word count was quite low, but I had no zero days in my word count tracker. In previous years I wrote less consistently, and at some point the story would just slowly escape my interest and focus.
- Get inspired. I have been a happy member of the Writers’ HQ community for a few years. They have great writing courses there, and a supportive community of writers from all levels in their forums. I updated my word counts there regularly with the others and found support when the days got harder. Also, I got inspired by author Sarra Cannon’s blog and Youtube channel Heart Breathings about writing. She really gives all her knowledge of writing to the rest of us, and inspires us with the honest videos of author life. Thank you Sarra, you were great support in my NaNoWriMo journey this year!
- Connect with someone for all the obvious reasons but also accountability. I have a friend with whom we agreed to cheer each other on with writing overall, and her support has been great to push me forward with NaNoWriMo. It’s nice to speak and connect about a hobby that you mostly do alone. When you speak of your project to others, there is immediately some added accountability which can really help get you going when things get difficult. 🙂
So what’s next? I will continue my now daily habit of writing until the first draft is done (hopefully before the Christmas holidays). And then I will take a deep breath and dive into editing and really dig into the skeleton of the story to figure out what parts of the first draft can be used, and what needs to be rewritten or just completely removed and reshuffled. Really looking forward to learning that whole process too!
And yes, this month and all the writing has taken a toll on my reading and the reading challenges I’m trying to complete this year but now that the pressure is off with NaNoWriMo, I can again divide my focus back to reading and commenting about the books here.
Oh and what’s my story about? At the moment it’s fantasy mixed with romance. Let’s see after all the editing what it’ll end up being. 🙂