I took part in my first National Novel Writing Month in November of 2011 (it may have been 2012, but the years blur together now and I’m unsure). At the time I had a first chapter and some rough ideas for a noir fantasy novel featuring a character named Ben Templeton, set in the 1930’s in an alt earth where trolls and dwarves and elves are part of Great Depression society, and an outgrowth of a detective character I had played during RPG sessions many years before. So I diligently wrote every day and did my 50,000 words in the month of November that year and closed the book on my first novel. And you know what? It was total shit, absolutely fucking terrible, and I knew it was bad. I put it in a virtual drawer and let it sit for a few years.
I decided then that the pressure of trying to vomit 1,666 words a day on top of a full time job plus having kids was too much, so I’ve avoided any further attempts at a NaNoWriMo. So much to my surprise, as this past September wore on and I wrote and wrote and wrote every day, I began to realize I was getting close to doing a NaNoWriMo for September. So I decided to add a stretch goal to my yearly goal: turn September, 2016, into my NaNoWriMo.
Yesterday was the only day in September I didn’t crack at least 1,050 words for the day, and that was because I’d already passed the goal. I put down 51,002 words on the Summer story last month, averaging 1,700 words per day. On my best day I did 3,223 words, one of those days where the writing comes easily, you know where you’re going, know what you need to add next. That was a wonderful day, a day I felt like a real author for a change. It felt like I would expect to feel if writing novels was my day job and I was able to support my life with it. And that’s a feeling I definitely want to get back to eventually (and for reals).
I feel much better about this NaNoWriMo. I have a stronger idea for the story going on, knew the characters well, knew what their individual journeys were. It’ll still need work on the re-writes, but that’s down the road. Unlike that first novel, which went through very extensive re-writing (new focus character, Ben becomes a secondary, new setting, 80% new scenes), this one will require a bit less effort to smooth out and improve. 50,000 words is impressive, but there’s still lots more to write on this novel before its done.
I’m on the last legs of my yearly goal now. 310,000 words (and still going to write some more today), only 40,000 left to go. I hope to be done with the novel and my goal in early November, leaving me plenty of time to take a break for the holidays, start brainstorming story ideas for 2017. Writing every day, setting a word goal, has really opened up my writing and improved it a great deal, and I encourage others to give it some thought. Set your time aside and make it YOUR time, don’t give it up to distractions, to other people, to work. Grab it and cling to it with everything you have. And seriously… stop writing at night when you’re already tired from work and the kids. Get up earlier, write in the morning. You’ll find it MUCH less of a problem to get your goals done for the day if you do that. I get up at the insane hour of 3:30, but that gives me over two hours to write, drink coffee, and enjoy some of my favorite internet diversions before I have to get ready for work. I highly recommend it, though you may want to set a more rational time of 5:00 if that works for you.
This November I’ll be rooting on all the NaNoWriMo participants with the satisfaction of having already done mine. Keep up the great work, fellow writers!