I remember some years ago a well-meaning friend sent me a link to an article regarding National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I think she meant to encourage me to up my writing game. I clicked on the link, read the article and quickly dismissed it. Who can write a novel in a month?! Ok, maybe James Patterson. And yes, I am aware that there are writers and authors out there who can churn out 50,000+ words in a month but I took the better part of two years to wring out 60,000+ words for my novel! (No it’s not yet published. Yes, I am working towards getting it published. No, I have no clue when.) Fear also held me captive and kept me from taking on this mammoth challenge. I had a mental picture of Jack Nicholson in The Shining sitting at a typewriter everyday typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” (**shudders**). What if at the end I’ve only written the same sentence over and over again? This was turning into atychiphobia: fear of failing. And as with all phobias, it’s an irrational fear. I needed to break free. Fast forward a few years and the afternoon of November 1st found me pondering whether I should accept the challenge (cue Mission Impossible theme tune) or not. There I was, without an outline or any sort of preparation except for some ideas floating around my head like ethereal beings, actually considering signing up to the insanity of NaNoWriMo. I’m an eternal procrastinator when it comes to writing. The ideas come, but getting them on paper (or computer in my case) is a totally different story. I put it off till they eventually fall off the edge of memory. Should I? Or Shouldn’t I? I signed up. There’s no going back now.
Why I Signed Up
I’m a procrastinator (did I say that already?) but I also strive toward self improvement. Signing up to a month long writing challenge (yikes!) may just give me the boost I need to get started. Yes, I said “get started.” I’m also a realist. I am quite aware that come November 30th I may not have a full novel, but I damn sure will have more than what I started with on October 31st! I’ve read some negative reviews on the whole NaNoWriMo experience. The main one being that people get so caught up with the quest for word count, quality gets thrown out the window. Well, that all depends on the type of writer because lets face it, not everyone ALWAYS writes quality. As author Jodi Picoult said,“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” I think the idea behind writing a novel in 30 days is to get a writer writing; maybe push us out of our comfort zones. In the end we may find a resolve we never knew we had. That can’t be a bad thing in my book.
And did I mention I needed to break free of that fear?
The Journey So Far
I’m only 4 days in and I have already exceeded my expectations: I’ve written everyday! According to the word count validator stats on the NaNoWriMo website I’m averaging 1,400+ words per day. This may seem a measly total to some, but for me this is almost cause for me to go singing and dancing in the rain. Ok, maybe that’s taking it a tad too far, but it is cause for celebration. Before embarking on the challenge, I’d written zip, nil, diddly squat, towards my novel. Now I’m almost 6,000 words into the story!
I’m only 4 days in and I have no more fingernails left! I can feel a slight panic below the surface at the fear of writer’s block. I have no outline after all. What was I thinking?! But I signed up so I must see this through, one word at a time.
I cannot deny that there is excitement there as well. How will my story end? Actually, I already have the ending. It’s one of my Flash Fiction Friday stories and you can read it here. I’m intrigued as to how the characters will develop and who the other characters will be. They’ve begun to keep me up at night. Thank goodness for coffee!
Essential Tools For Success
Although I didn’t have an outline I do think that there are certain things that I need (and you may find these helpful too if you’ve accepted the challenge) to ensure success.
- Set realistic goals. I may not achieve the 50,000 words goal that was set by NaNoWriMo but I have set a goal of 30,000 words by the end of November. That’s 1000 words a day. That’s doable, right?
- Set aside a time for writing. It sounds so simple yet this is something I’ve always struggled with. My kids and family (and now my dog) always comes first. I get bogged down with life and responsibilities that by the time I’m ready to write, I’m too tired. Now I force myself to set a writing time when my brain power is at it’s optimal creative functioning.
- Ensure writing space is distraction free. That means turn off cell phone if you can’t resist the urge to constantly check social media!
- Have copious amounts of coffee on hand. Enough said.
- Find other writers/participants with similar goals. I’m normally a very private person when it comes to writing. I don’t like to be held accountable to anyone. But that maybe the procrastinator in me talking. I’ve now discovered the importance of having a writing partner. It’s like walking around with your own cheerleader!
Are you a NaNoWriMo 2016 participant? If you are and want to join me as a buddy I’m Kai Karolyn on their website. I would love to connect with you. Or you could just follow my journey there.
(sadly these words will not count towards my daily word count)