So like so many others, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month! This is my first attempt in literally years; I hit a stride of being reasonably productive every day (shoutout to 750words, which is the system that has worked for me) some time ago, and extenuating circumstances aside, I can usually average writing about 30K words in a month.
The first time I signed up to try NaNoWriMo was in college. I’d been making many many attempts to trying to breakthrough into writing original fiction regularly and consistently. (My external hard drive still contains the skeletons from that time. For one, I can’t convince myself to permanently trash them; for two, I think there’s some decent bone structures in that mess and someday I’ll sift through them for reworking.)
I made it, though just barely. I pumped that thing full of as much padding as possible for the sake of just one more word, and when November 30th rolled around I was drained and seriously questioning whether longform stories would ever be something I could write. At the same time, I was terribly proud of myself, because I’d just proven to myself that I could pull something like this off.
Riding that high, I signed up in subsequent years too. For four years, I participated in NaNoWriMo and succeeded, sometimes by the razor thin skin of my teeth. I never finished any of those pieces. I never went back to them. At the time, I prided myself on just managing 50K words in a month. Even now, that’s a lot!
The trouble, of course, lay in actually completing the story I frankenstein’d together and then editing it. That part didn’t happen.
After I graduated and began the dayjob, my writing honestly tanked in terms of sheer productivity. The excitement of a regular paycheck didn’t compensate for the adjustment period and the accompany exhaustion. I still wrote, just not consistently. I signed up for the monthly themes for a couple of webzines (The Book of Imaginary Beasts Shousetsu Bang*Bang), but I’d procrastinate until the last week or so and then hurriedly throw myself into putting something together asap. I finished things, but with no real regular progress and that frustrated me. I continued to sign up for NaNoWriMo, but I no longer managed anything even approaching the desired wordcount.
And I stopped. A couple of years after graduation and the steady dayjob, I stopped doing NaNoWriMo.
Every now and then I’d give the process another halfhearted jab. When Camp NaNoWriMo opened I thought that maybe a change of month would work better for me. And in some ways it did! It didn’t hurt that I’d finally found some equilibrium between the dayjob and my hobbies, and even if I still lacked consistency, at least my writing habits climbed out of the feast or famine stage.*
(* I do know that everyone has different ways to approach writing. Some people do just write a tiny amount in a day and leave it as good; some people write 10K words in a single day. I can only really speak to what works for me, and that definitely is consistently writing a minimum (and hopefully more!) amount of words a day.)
Camp NaNoWriMo helped me to some degree (though again, not as much as discovering 750words and making myself beholden to a daily writing streak counter), but my greatest success came from the times when I decided that the 50K words didn’t all have to be for the same story. Maybe that goes against the spirit of the whole National Novel Writing Month idea. Admittedly, of the stories I’ve gotten published, none of those actually break 50K words. I think that Ravenhearth could have easily, and given the chance I would definitely sit down and try to expand and flesh out things that I glossed over before. Of my current WIPs, two break the 50K mark, but both require some serious reworking and rewriting before they’re ready for any sort of submission.
At this point in my writing life, I know I can finish original stories. Longer stories! I am completely capable of writing a story of any length and seeing it through to its end as well as the lengthy editing process. In some ways, I feel like I’ve outgrown needing the spirit behind NaNoWriMo’s push: the gumption to just write. To get the story done and written, and whether it’s shared or not, at least it’s finished. I never succeeded there in all the previous attempts for NaNoWriMo that I attempted — in essence, I can’t do the sprint of a single month, but I can do the marathon.
For NaNoWriMo 2017, I’m going to work on the revisions that one of those aforementioned “needs vast amounts of rewriting” stories. The whole thing is finished, but comments from my betas have shown me that while the core of the story is good, there’s a lot more that I can do to improve it. And the best time for that is before I actually send it off to editors of any sort. It’s been working out pretty well! I’m also counting the words from the short weekly flash fiction pieces I’ve been writing (and been very bad about crossposting here, oops; they’re all available on my tumblr for sure, though), and I’m going to be trying to work on a self-indulgent sidepiece. On top of that, I have been kicking around the idea of a small twine game scenario after rereading Little Foolery’s A Good Wick (highly enjoyable!) and reminding myself how much I genuinely enjoy that sort of CYOA style story.
So we’ll see where this month takes me. I like to think that I can make 50K words happen just by pushing myself to write a little more on the things I’m already working on — things that I enjoy, and honestly could spend to put a little more time and effort into.
As of today, without any input from the work I’ve done already, my wordcount stands at 8,192. Not too shabby a start, so here’s to hoping my momentum continues with the month!