Well, that was an experience. My first NaNoWriMo. I didn’t quite make it to the end, but I did give it a red hot go for 25 days out of 30 and achieved 41, 750 words.
This (aside from the fact I didn’t achieve the ultimate goal of 50K) is a wonderful thing. It’s certainly more words than I’ve produced in a month before, and although it hasn’t brought me to the end of the story, I’m definitely a whole lot closer.
Where NaNo worked for me
I’m someone who responds to tracking and accountability. Entering my daily word-count into the NaNo web site, examining my statistics, and keeping track of my fellow writing buddies’ progress was all the incentive I needed. That and a desire to ‘win’ a challenge.
NaNoWriMo gave me the framework I needed to be more disciplined than normal. I wrote when I didn’t feel like it (mostly). I wrote on the evenings when all I wanted to do was watch TV, or read a book. I even wrote late in the evenings after I’d been out — and in the hair salon. I had my word quota to reach, dammit! There were a couple of days when I gave myself a break, but those were all factored in.
As for the whole ‘dismiss your inner editor’ aspect of NaNoWriMo… I found this liberating in some ways. I tried to adopt the attitude that it didn’t matter how the words came out, that all that mattered was the story itself. And even if the story went off the rails a little, which it did from time to time, I could just ignore the bits that hadn’t worked and recalibrate in the next scene. This helped me keep ploughing ahead without going back to rewrite and edit… a somewhat alien concept for me.
Where it didn’t work so well
The hardest thing about NaNoWriMo for me was coming up with scene after scene after scene… As I said in an earlier post, I usually take a little longer to mull over what specifically should happen next. The relentless pace of NaNoWriMo really challenged me in this regard, and was ultimately what defeated me in the end: Last Sunday I reached a point in the story where I felt I needed to start pulling all the strands together to work up to the climax — and for that I needed (need!) reflection time.
Maybe I could have gone on anyway, just to see what my subconscious dragged up. Maybe I could have gone back to insert some scenes from other POV characters I’ve been skimming over… Maybe.
But I didn’t. I just felt I needed to stop, think, mull. Ah well, nearly 42K words is not so bad!
Would I do it again?
Whether or not I officially participate in NaNoWriMo again, I might very well tackle something similar on my own terms. It’s certainly been effective for me, at least while I’m embracing this ‘rough first draft’ philosophy… It’s not something to be undertaken all the time, but for pounding out that rough first draft it’s been good — up to a point.
But maybe it’s enough to know that I can force the wordslinging upon myself for a week or two at a time, and in future I can take it from there. It’s certainly given me a new process to consider. Perhaps going forward I can set myself timelines that might have once seemed unrealistic, but which now are achievable through adopting some of these new found techniques.
When it comes to redrafting and editing though, that’ll be a whole new ball game. That’s when the novel will truly begin to come alive, and that’s what will take all the time.
And that’s actually the part I am looking forward to. I think there are two fundamental kinds of authors: 1) those who feel the thrill of raw storytelling, who love discovering what happens and therefore love the first-draft process and the editing not so much; 2) those who feel the thrill of making a story come to life, through the perfect balance of setting, emotion, character, conflict etc, and therefore live for redrafting, editing and polishing.
I’m the latter. Definitely.
So in that respect, NaNoWriMo could be considered a damn good thing to force me through that first draft process!