National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo. 30 days, 50 thousand words.
To put that into context, it is 185 pages written in Times New Roman, 12 point font and double-spaced.
Last year, this time, I hit that number early and kept flying. This year was a different story altogether.
Due to a number of things going on in my life, I was a little late to the game this year. I did not open my laptop until the 4th, the 5000-word mark. And when I did, I was only able to write about 400 words. I had to close the laptop and take some time for myself. So I took a break. And a couple days later I wrote some more, and then another break. and so it went until day 14.
Day 14 is the 23,333-word mark. When I opened my laptop that day my head was clear and all of these ideas were just popping out, left, right and center. It was as though they had been waiting in queue for me to open the gates. It was a wonderful feeling. By the end of that day, I had 6400 words! Along the way, I had found something else. I found my motivation and my drive to keep going.
At this point, I was not convinced I would make the 50k required to “win” Nanowrimo, but I was going to give it an honest try. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I had some time off that was perfectly timed to take on this challenge with as few distractions as possible – the old 9 to 5 being one of them. And with some sage advice given to me by a couple of friends, old and new, I set about to change my perspective on the challenge and to do the best I could do. And learn to be all right with that.
I was lucky enough to find that the story was flowing really well and with the cobwebs gone, I saw my word count soaring. It was a glorious feeling, I can’t deny that.
I knew that the tide had turned toward accomplishing this 50k goal by Day 22. My word count had exploded to 20,450 as I increased the time I was investing in completing the story. The momentum created by that increase in numbers lit a fire under me that I hadn’t experienced before and it was intoxicating.
The freedom to use my time as I needed in order to work more productively was liberating. It had become my 9 to 5 – minus the 9 to 5 structure, and a number of the other things I was not missing. Without the fluorescent overhead lights, ringing phones or a revolving door of clients I was able to settle into a routine that worked for me and it was lovely. I even switched up my playlists to be an appropriate soundtrack for the scene I happened to be writing.
There are ebbs and flows to everything in life, writing is no exception. By Day 29, word mark 48,333, I was tired my brain was crying for a moment’s peace. I ended that day by “winning” NaNoWriMo with 50,262 words. It was minutes to midnight and with it within my grasp, I knew I couldn’t sleep without posting the number and it felt soooo good when I did. On Day 30, the last day of the challenge, I added an additional 256 words just to satisfy my soul that I participated in the challenge every day that I felt capable.
This time around was a very different experience than last year’s challenge. It was frustrating and gruelling in its own way, but I feel I am a better writer for it.
The story that had been rattling around inside my head since February has finally begun to take shape. And I am very excited to see where it goes from here. The story is not complete, neither was my first novel this time last year, so I know there is a lot more time to invest going forward to complete the story and then the super fun rounds of editing that are crucial to tightening and brightening a story.
In this moment of reflection, to know that I was able to buckle down when the odds were not in my favour was really something that resonated deep inside me. If anything this go-round had taught me, it’s that persistence, determination and believing in myself can help get me through the challenges that come with this writer’s life.