This November, a few of my coworkers and I made the chaotic decision to try and do National Novel Writing Month — aka NaNoWriMo.
If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, you basically have to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Easy enough, right?!
What made you decide to do NaNoWriMo this year?
Natasha: As we’re working from home, the lack of commute/social life means I have a lot more free time. Plus, I’ve never finished a novel before.
Jen: Because if I let one more year go by where I thought that I’d really love to write a book someday and then did absolutely nothing about it, I would have been so mad at myself. Also, I’d started an online writing workshop that lined up perfectly timing-wise with NaNo this year.
Jamie: I’ve been wanting to rewrite a novel that I thought of when I was in high school, and I’d just run out of excuses for not writing when I have so much free time.
Have you ever done it before?
Natasha: No, first time!
Jen: No, this was my first time
Jamie: I’ve done NaNo since I was 16, so about seven years now. I’ve only finished it once, though.
What genre is your novel?
Natasha: Adult contemporary.
Jen: YA contemporary.
Jamie: YA contemporary.
How far did you get?
Natasha: I reached 50,005 words.
Jen: I reached 50,004.
Jamie: I reached 28,602.
What was your strategy?
Natasha: I woke up early every morning and wrote 1,667 words, with the exception of one day when I was moving.
Jen: My strategy was…being a bit of a chaotic mess? Ha!
I started Day 1 with 3,000 words, and then tried to hit my par of 1,667 every morning before work. Of course, then election week happened and I veered super off course. By the middle, I decided that there was no way I would actually hit the goal, but then I got a second wind and had a 5,000-word day on a Sunday that inspired me to keep going. Hitting the goal involved three 3,000-word days in a row over Thanksgiving break, which kind of sucked. But I finished on Nov. 29 because my husband’s birthday is Nov. 30, so that felt great.
Jamie: I wrote a bunch the first day, so I started with about 6,000 words. Then, I planned on writing about 1,000 words a day directly after work, making up the difference on the weekends. Unfortunately, halfway through the month, I got some bad personal news, which disrupted my process and was one of the main reasons I wasn’t able to reach my 50k goal.
What was the best part?
Natasha: The feeling of accomplishment I got from hitting the word counts every day.
Jen: Finishing! And seeing so many scenes and characters that were floating around in my head come to life.
Jamie: The best part was feeling like I was actually making progress on an idea I’ve had for almost a decade.
What was the hardest part?
Natasha: Keeping myself motivated around the ⅔ mark, when the excitement of starting had truly worn off.
Jen: Reminding myself to just keep writing and that this was a challenge about quantity. Generally I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I had to force myself not to instantly reread and revise everything I’d written.
Jamie: The hardest part was when I knew I had to fill in some scenes that I didn’t have a clear idea about, so I just felt like I was word-vomiting on the page to take up space and keep writing.
What did you learn?
Natasha: That a daily word count is both doable and a useful way of working for me! Also, I need to work on being creative with my sentence structures and not just start every line with, “character thought X…”
Jen: I learned to just power through and try and get this first vomit draft out. And that I can’t really write to any music other than classical. Who knew?
Jamie: I learned two things! First, although I didn’t finish and reach my 50k goal, I wrote almost 30k more than I wrote the rest of the entire year, so I really shouldn’t beat myself up about it. Even just writing 5k for NaNo would be more than I generally write, so every bit needs to be celebrated. Also, I learned that it’s okay to word-vomit at first and refine later.
What would you do differently next time?
Natasha: I would get more involved with the NaNo community and ideally find a writing buddy.
Jen: I would force myself to be really diligent about staying on par. Hindsight is obviously 20/20 (pun intended), but once I had 3,000-word goal days, I saw how attainable the 1,667 daily would have been for me if I’d only kept it up. I really wish I’d had more relaxation over Thanksgiving, but in retrospect I am so proud of myself for dedicating that time to finishing this goal.
Jamie: I’m not sure, honestly. I was really great with diligently writing until I got some bad personal news, which obviously took all the motivation right out of me. I’m still working on convincing myself that it was okay to take the time to myself and not force myself to write when I felt like I couldn’t emotionally do it. I think in the future, I would like to try to write smaller amounts, like 10k or 20k during a non-NaNo month — because as good as it is to write all 50k in one month, we have the other 11 months that I could also be productive for!
What tips would you give future NaNoWriMo-ers/novel speed-writers?
Natasha: Pick a story that allows you to add new characters and scenes easily. I had a huge problem when I tried to write a novel with only four characters in one location earlier this year.
Jen: Be kind to yourself, and remember that any word count is a massive success because it’s more words than you would have had before.
Jamie: Don’t worry about reaching the goal. The goal is there to motivate you to do your best, but literally writing anything is great. Writing even a few thousand words is more than you would have done before, and it’s all about personal growth and success. Don’t compare yourself to other writers who are experiencing different things in their life!
Natasha: My book is complete in the sense that there’s a beginning, middle, end — but it needs a serious edit. Then, sending it to friends!
Jen: I have about 8–10k more words before I can write those sweet, sweet words “The End” on Draft 1. Then I’m shoving it in a drawer until 2021 and on to revisions.
Jamie: Finishing up my book! I already knew that it would be probably closer to 80k than 50k, so I knew that even if I reached the goal I would have some more to do. It will need some thorough editing, and then I’ll send it on to some friends for review.