Well Done You Made It
Getting to the end of Nano is an achievement in itself. Even if you didn’t hit the 50k and ‘win’, just writing more than you have done in the past is a massive step forward for any one who wants to be a writer. Doing it for one month shows your inner doubter that you CAN write most days. They can’t argue against it because you’ve done it and you can do it again.
So what now for your nano novel?
Well, some people like to put theirs away, forget about it for a month or two. Or longer.
Others want to keep at it and finish the thing. Keep that momentum going
My approach was to stop, put it away and come back to it in January, with a clear head and fresh eyes. I felt like I’d written a pile of rubbish, and yes, some of it was pretty bad. But in with the bad and downright ‘what was I thinking’ rubbish, there were glimmers of where my story might go, what my character might actually be like. There were also some new ideas that I liked and others that i immediately binned. But that is why I did NaNo – to clear out the crap and get some fresh ideas.
Returning in January meant that I could see past the words and into the story. I could start to build on it, removing the crap and adding to the better stuff. My original NaNo novel is now on its second version and it’s totally different to what i started back then. My hope is that in the future I can get the initial stages better and faster, and not have to take so long over it.
I didn’t do NaNo last year, and I didn’t join it this year either. The three years I did it were enough to show me that I CAN write when i want to and I CAN get past the mind moneys and gremlins. I know that I can write daily, that I DO have more ideas and most importantly, stories do CHANGE and shift as you go.
I have learned that even though it has taken me a few years, by sticking with it, (and even by going off to work on other ideas such as other novels and publishing short stories, before coming back to the first novel), I have formed a better story. I have grown as a writer, I have published non fiction and short stories. Will that first idea ever get published? Well, I intend to publish it, whether ‘traditionally’ or independently, it doesn’t matter.
I started the book 3 years ago, without that first Nano i wouldn’t have got past the first attempt because I needed to push past the barriers, both within the story and in my own head about whether I could finish a novel or not. And that is what Nano does, it shows you that you can write. And if you already know you can write, then it shows you can write more, or better, or different. It is a great way to try a new idea, chuck it all out and see if you actually like it.
I haven’t done NaNo this year or last year, but that’s not saying I’d never do it again, or a version of it at least. Because…why not!
Just imagine, sometime in the future, someone is reading YOUR book. The one you started for NaNoWriMo 2017.
For now, wear you t shirt, post your banners on social media, you are a winner!
You are a writer!
This is Nano month so I’ve been looking at the experience of doing this challenge. Last week’s blog looked at how to survive the month. This week I’m looking at the experience in general- the highs and lows.
Join the Club
The first time you do NaNoWriMo it can feel daunting, exciting, scary, and a little bit like you are joining some strange club with this month of writing as a sort of initiation ritual/test. if you make it to the end, and get the winner t shirt, you are in!
The thing with any challenge is that the first time you do it, you simply can’t know what it is going to be like for you. Other people can tell you their experiences and where they faltered or fell, or perhaps, where they flew and amazed themselves. But that doesn’t mean you will do the same, or at least not at the same times as they did. You will have your own highs and lows.
People who have done it before might be cynical, based on their own failure to finish. Or they will be overly enthusiastic because they wrote more than 50000 words. What they don’t tell you is that their writing will never see the light of day because it was 50000 shades of sh*te. This is the ‘bad’ of Nanowrimo, that it can feed people’s self doubt, ‘if I can’t do Nano, am I really a writer?’ (yes you are), or that so much of what is written is just plain bad, and it doesn’t ever become a novel, or even a short story.
You can get to the end with 50000 words or more on your computer, all safely backed up and ready to be played with. This years winner t-shirt proudly worn and you might feel great. Yes! You did it! Or you might look at the document and wonder whether it was all worth it? It doesn’t seem very…..well, good? This is when you swear you’ll never do that again, what a stressful waste of time. But chances are you will because if you didn’t hit the 50000 this time, then you will want to next time, and if you did hit it, then you will want to do it again, or a version of it at least. It is a bit like a drug – just one more, just a little bit.
Then, if you do it again, your past experience will influence your approach. You may prepare better. This time you will have that second back up device. You might even decide to do your own nano, (whisper it but people sometimes set their own word goals), you might go lower or higher. Some people decide to go off and be alone for part of the month, really taking it seriously. Others decide they want to finish what they started the previous year having not looked at it ever since. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.
Coming to it for a second or even a third time will be a different experience to that first, exciting time. If this is your first Nano and you are struggling, don’t worry, you can do this again. In fact you could do it any month of the year. Maybe November isn’t such a good pick for you, maybe January works better? Get together with some writer friends and have your own nano event. Set your own rules, your own rewards.
The good of nano, is that it shows you that you can write more than you thought. It introduces you to new thinking about yourself and your writing. It may have made you some new writer friends. You might even end up with the beginnings of a novel, or finish one you’d already started. Maybe you have come up with a whole new idea, a whole new genre even!
The 1667 Words
Whatever you do in November, you will end up with words. Probably more words than you have ever written in a month before (unless you have done Nano before obviously). So even if you didn’t hit the 50k goal, you have still achieved more words, and also proved to yourself that you can do this. You can write more than you ever thought you could.
One thing is for sure, it will have changed you as a person and as a writer.
You can put on that t shirt, post the winner badge on your blog and know that you ‘won’ NaNoWriMo and you are a writer.
Now go write!
Over the last few blogs I’ve been writing about routines and habits, which should hopefully help with your approach to this month and Nanowrimo if you’re doing it.
For those that don’t know, Nanowrimo is a writing challenge for the month of November. The challenge is to write 50000 words.
Yup, you read that right – 50k words in one month.
For some people that sounds easy, and for others it sounds like an impossible mountain. Both are right, and both are wrong.
And believe me, because I have done Nano several times, during the month of Nano, you will feel all the emotions that are possible to feel around the idea of writing 50 thousand words.
All the emotions. (you know, like in the film Inside Out, except MORE emotions)
This is something that gets missed in all the ‘prepare for nano’ advice which usually revolves around plots, pens, computers, copious supplies of coffee and chocolate etc. Which is all true, but they fail to mention the highs and lows, the fury, the tears, the laughter, the joy at an easy day, followed by the doom laden angst whenyou can barely get 5 words on the screen. My pre-Nano advice was – make sure you have chocolate, coffee, paper, pens, your computer is functioning and not likely to run out of battery/blow up (it happens!) in the middle. Which wouldn’t matter to you anyway because you have a hard drive to back up to. DON”T YOU?
Please for the love of all the cute puppies and kittens – Don’t forget to back up! All you need is a USB stick.
But also – warn your loved ones, your friends and co workers to expect emotions from you. Anger, grumpiness, laughter, joy, singing, crying, despair….possibly all within one day, or even one hour.
So if you are doing Nano this year you are already one week in.
How are you doing?
Feeling good? On track?
Or maybe you’re already starting to feel a bit lost, little voices are whispering to you that it’s all pointless, you can’t do this, why did you ever think you could do this? Give up and go and eat cake…go on it’s all you’re good for….
Nano has this effect on people, it’s a weird, wonderful thing to do, and one that can have profound impacts on your life both personally and as a writer.
It can also be hell. Which leads me to –
People do it for the same reasons that other people run marathons, or ‘tough mudder’ type obstacle races. Non runners are either in awe or completely baffled as to why anyone would do that.
We writers get the same responses. Either ‘Well done’, or ‘Why?’
So, firstly, don’t try to explain to the people that say ‘why’, just ignore them for the month of November, in fact try not to see them during this period. Surround yourself with positive vibes, people that will help you, even if they think you’re a bit nuts to try this, they will support you in some way.
There a a ton of reasons why you might be doing NaNo – It is a challenge; you might want to finally get a decent amount of words down; you might just be curious about this thing you keep hearing about; or you might enjoy pain.
I don’t know your reasons. MY reasons for doing it were to get the words out my head and to see if I could actually write over 1500 words every day. I had always set myself goals of 500 words a day in the past and not really stuck to it, so it was a case of go bigger or go home.
Since we are a week in, you will already be seeing results. You might be feeling pretty good if you’ve stuck to the words count. You’ve got this, its actually easy!
But, be prepared for the next 2 weeks, when the slump can happen. Life starts to get in the way. One week was easy to reschedule, avoid or ignore things. But week 2 and week 3 things get harder. This is the challenge, not the words per day. Of course you can sit and write 1600 words a day. If you give yourself the time and space to do it.
Also, and this is key – DO NOT THINK ABOUT QUALITY.
Nano is NOT about writing the best ever novel, or even a good novel. It is about the idea of a novel, the roughest of rough drafts. I thought of it as draft 0. Not even first draft. Just a story that was in my head and getting it out of my head and on to the screen. So that it could then be worked in to a first draft.
If you approach it with that attitude then you won’t stop to question what you are writing, because it doesn’t matter if you are writing a book about a jilted lover and it morphs into a zombie story you didn’t even know you wanted to write. ONE of those ideas will be your novel, or maybe a zombie chick lit will be the result. Who knows. That is the key if Nano, it is an adventure into the unknown. You may plan and plot your idea but that may not be the one you write and that is fine.
Top 10 Tips for Surviving NaNo –
1. Don’t expect to write a good novel. Just be happy if there are glimmers within the pile of slush.
2. Do use it to tell yourself the story, don’t worry about quality or plot making sense. That’s for the next draft.
3. Do write more than if you are having a good day and give yourself space for the bad days.
4. Do Celebrate milestones. Chocolate, booze, cake, green smoothie….whatever feels like a reward to you.
5. Don’t sweat falling behind. You can catch up. The online tracker at ‘Write track’ shows you how many words you still need to do per day (it does the sum for you so youdon’t need to tax your frazzled writer brain)
6. Do attend the meet ups in person or online to meet other Nano folk and get some support. There are groups all over the world. See them on the Nano website
7. Do plan your time. Set aside writing time in your day. How fast can you type? Do you need 30 minutes to write 1600 words or hours? If you want to get faster, Chris Fox’s book on 5000 words per hour has useful strategies .Divide up your time if that is easier for you. So you could write 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes at lunchtime, 20 minutes in the evening. You may have to forgo lunch with friends, tv programmes and so on. But that is what catch up tv and binge watching in December will be for!
8. Do avoid the naysayers and let people know this is important to you, and you need support.
9. Do BACKUP! Invest in a second backup, something like this one
10. Breathe! Since I am all about wellbeing for creativity, I can’t forget the self care. Make sure you take some time away from the desk, to breathe, to stretch to jump about, whatever. It helps the creative flow, honest!
*Some of the links in this are affiliate links, which means I get a few pence if you buy through them. I only recommend things I use myself and they are only suggestions, other products are available.
Next week, more Nano chat and what my own experience taught me.