NaNoWriMo 2011

This November was the busiest month I’ve had in a looong time. I’m talking years, here. And it wasn’t the oh-my-god-I-can’t-cope-and-just-want-to-go-to-bed-and-sleep-forever kind of busy, but rather the good kind of busy where you feel like you’re achieving something and making progress in your life.

For most of October leading up to the event, I was convinced I wouldn’t have time for NaNoWriMo this year and would have to give it a miss. But something made me do it. You know, that little voice inside your head saying “You can do it, you crazy-ass lunatic!” So I listened to it. And with less than a week to go before November 1st, I came up with the shell of a main character and a vague plot (or something like a plot, anyway), and decided I’d just have to wing it for the rest. She’ll me right, mate. How hard can it really be?

Umm… Well, short answer: Really Damn Hard. it was definitely the hardest of the three years I’ve participated. The month was super busy, sure, but finding the time to write was the least of my worries. The main issue I had was with the story itself. It was my first attempt at tackling fantasy (a genre I rarely read to begin with), I wasn’t sure which point of view I should stick with (so I wrote in a whole bunch of different ones to try to figure that out), and I didn’t have anything that remotely resembled a plan for my novel. Plus, I began to resent my characters, many of which turned out to have the personality of a doormat.

I got stuck in a rut so many times that I often had to stop with the scene I was currently writing and write something else entirely, like a flashback scene, or something to flesh out my protagonist a bit. But I always wrote my way out of those ruts, and that’s something to be proud of. To continue writing when your creative well has long run dry is a skill to be acquired, after all.

As for finding the time to write, it’s funny how much more conscious you become of your leisure time and how you spend it when you suddenly introduce another time-consuming activity into your life. I wrote a lot in the mornings before work, often getting my word count in for the day over breakfast. There were a lot of days I didn’t write at all which meant I fell behind on more than one occasion. But I always tried to make up for those words when I could, and somehow I managed to stay on target for most of November. I’m still not quite sure how, but I think it’s got something to do with being consistent and forming habits. 1,667 words a day is a pretty simple affair when you make sure to do it every day, instead of letting it build up and become this horrible, hideous monster of a thing that you pretend doesn’t exist just so you don’t have to deal with it.

I think I learnt more about myself and about writing this year than I did in either of the previous two years. So, yeah, it was hard, and I had to postpone a few activities that I really love to do, and brush off a few social gatherings with friends. But, damn, was NaNoWriMo worth my time this year. I discovered that I can cram more stuff onto my plate than I ever thought possible (and without going bat shit insane.) I discovered that writing dialogue comes quite naturally to me (and that writing exposition is something that I reeeally need to work at). And most importantly, I discovered that my writing turns to a steaming pile of donkey poo when I don’t have some sort of plan to work from. Lesson learned.

The best part? As soon as I’d hit the 50,000 word finish line, my brain was eager to start work on some ideas I’ve had for other writing projects. Honestly, I think it’d had enough of my cardboard characters and couldn’t wait to be rid of them. But I see it as a good sign; that I’ve formed some habits, and still enjoy writing despite some of the hard days this November when my muse seemed to have abandoned me for another galaxy entirely. I soldiered on. I crossed the finish line with 50,007 words. And I’m damn proud of that, even if my novel turned out to be a mile-high dung heap and my worst book yet. No, especially because of it. There’s at least a handful of great ideas in there that I can re-use for future projects. At least a handful.

Can’t wait to steal those ideas from myself and put them into a brand new book that I can write considerably slower than the crazy pace of NaNoWriMo. After a well-deserved break, that is. In the mean time I have about a bzillion video games to catch up on that I missed out on during November. Finishing them all is going to be a harder task than NaNoWriMo ever was, but that little voice is saying “You can do it, you crazy-ass lunatic!”. So I’ll be damned if I don’t at least try. 😉