So, it’s December 2nd, and my crazy writing challenge has come to an end. Man, did November go fast!
My final word count was 73,005 words, which finished off my novel in a mere 29 days.
Today, however, I want to look back and see how far I’ve come since the beginning of November. Besides having a brand new novel, what did I get out of this experience?
1. Schedules are critical.
I was connected to many writers also doing this challenge, and many of them won NaNo (Yay!), but some didn’t. It broke my heart that some writers had unavoidable setbacks, ranging from unsupportive families to super busy schedules. I am so, so thankful that I didn’t have serious setbacks to pull me from success. But seeing those things happen to other people helped reinforce this idea: scheduling NaNo in is critical.
I wrote up a calendar for myself, setting weekly goals I had to hit. Visually seeing my goals helped me keep going – there’s definitely a difference between having a mental road map that no one can see and a calendar my whole family could view at any given time and compare to my current writing stage.
That being said, I think that I might just have an unnaturally determined personality. When I commit to something, I commit. I don’t allow myself to give up or waste time (in fact, procrastination makes me feel super guilty). I never dropped below my required word count, even if I was tired or bored with my story. I think this is why schedules work so well for me: it’s mathematically worked out for me and all I have to do is follow the predetermined path. There’s no emotional decision making – I viewed my schedule as the final draft, and that helped me win.
2. My desk chair is not very comfortable.
I think a lot of people focus on the actual goal and never give any thought to how to get there. We all want to go to college and get a degree, but we don’t think about all the assignments that come with those college courses. We all want to travel to our favorite city, but we don’t think about how to save up for that experience. After all, daily life is demanding enough, do we really have to think ahead too?
During NaNo, I had my outline, my laptop, and time in my schedule to write. I didn’t think about how much I hated the lighting in my room and how it casts a shadow over my desk. I didn’t realize how distracting rain was – I have this window right in front of my desk, and whenever it rained, I’d catch myself staring off into the outdoors rather than writing the embarrassing moment my character was supposed to go through (and based on all my prior calculations, I should have been pumped to write that scene). And yes, my desk chair cushion is not great – which I realized after forcing myself to sit in it every day for hours at a time.
None of these things are particularly emphasized in any NaNoWriMo prep lesson. Sure, they talk about how hard writing thousands of words everyday for a month will be. But we all look at that, in the beginning of the month, and shrug off the weight. It can’t possibly be that hard!
Well, it is hard when the details weren’t thought through. When the only chair you have to sit in is your least favorite chair in the whole house.
So lesson learned: next time, I’ll buy a lamp for my desk and a comfier chair. The rain though… I can’t really help that.
3. It’s not as exhilarating as I thought
It’s super exciting to start. And it’s super exciting to win. But the rest is kind of meh.
Sitting down to write everyday gets kind of monotonous. I’m thankful my past self had the good sense to make my story interesting enough so I never lost motivation, but there’s really no way to protect from literally having no words to say. I think back to certain chapters and my only response is: “That’s going to need some editing.”
Not all of my words were perfect. A few chapters in, it felt like I was using the same words over again. The thesaurus was permanently up on my screen so I could find ways to mix it up a bit.
I wish the process of writing a novel was as exciting as a football game – where every play, every chapter, was met with cheers or boos from the crowd. But novels are all about the product – readers cheer or boo over a finished book or the announcement of a new one. The middle part – where the writer actually has to write – that’s the slow part.
But I do like this whole write a novel in a month thing. I think back to my other stories, where it took months or years to complete, and wonder how I ever kept the momentum going. Writing a whole product in a month is definitely a more exciting process than I’ve ever experienced before – instead of multiple months of me and my screen in solitude, it was a mere few weeks.
4. I actually feel like my writing might go somewhere
I’ve always had this vague idea that I’ll get published one day – at first, it was before the end of middle school, then the end of high school, then the end of college. I always felt like I was kicking my dreams farther and farther down the road, waiting for the “perfect moment”.
But if NaNo could only teach me one thing, it’s that anything is possible. I may not get published by the end of my high school career (after all, there’s only six more months of it) and maybe not by the end of college, but I know that it will happen some day.
I wrote 73,005 of my own words to create a novel from scratch. And this isn’t even my first novel – it’s my third! Perhaps my writing still needs some work, but I am so much farther than I was a month ago, a year ago, and when I sat down to write my very first story in seventh grade.
I have had moments on my timeline when I thought I couldn’t write for the public. That I should just ditch writing all together because there were millions of authors out there, very few actually succeeding – and what were the chance one of those few would be me? And at some points, I told myself that writing was far too exhausting for me to pursue for the rest of my life.
Right now, I don’t believe any of that. Why should I worry about nationally succeeding when I don’t really control that – the major publishers do? Why should I worry about not being good enough – the people who do read my writing give me good feedback that help me grow. NaNoWriMo reminded my that my purpose was to tell stories, so I will press on, searching for any opportunities I can and making the most of what I have right now. I shouldn’t feel the need to worry about my future as a writer – I’m meant to tell stories, so I will do that in any capacity I can for the rest of my life.
Final Thoughts on NaNoWriMo
I didn’t think I could actually do this. But I did and it was the most rewarding experience of my life.
If everything was up to me, and there were no uncontrollable factors anywhere in my life, I would make solid plans to do NaNoWriMo next year. But I’ll be in college by next November, and my first priority is my mental health – I can’t add unnecessary stress if it’s not something I can reasonably manage.
For now, I plan to do NaNo next year too, and I’ve already started pondering what I should write about (I haven’t come up with anything good yet). This challenge has pushed me to do what I thought was impossible and connected me with others who also worked towards the impossible. This has been an amazingly valuable experience and I’m so glad I took this leap.
My novel isn’t finished yet. Yes, it’s completely written, but not done. I plan to take December easy – I’ll just be posting weekly on here and doing some short stories on the side for fun. But in January, I will be returning to that story to edit and make sure it actually makes sense. Then after I feel comfortable with how it looks, I’ll let other people read it and give me feedback. And after that, I’ll finalize the story and go line by line to make sure all the writing is up to scratch. This will be my first time ever seeing a novel through the full writing process.
And after I’m done with all that (which I’m hesitant to put a timeline on but may be finished by the time I graduate), I’ll print it and leave it alone. There are several reasons why I won’t self-publish this story, the main being it’s the third book in a series I’ve only written the first book of, but I see this whole process as a win.
After all, a writer’s goal is to continue getting better in order to tell better stories.