Well, NaNoWriMo is coming to a close for 2014. This was my first year actually officially participating, and as an amateur trying to get his name and work out there, especially as someone who has never written a complete novel before, I had a lot of hesitations going into it: Would I actually be able to write every single day when it wasn’t my habit? Would I be able to hit the 1667 daily word goal every day on average? What if I got busy and didn’t have time to write? What if I got stuck and couldn’t figure out where to take the story next? What if I fell behind and couldn’t get caught up?
Do you see all those “would I’s” and “what if’s”? These are the same things that have prevented me from really devoting myself to my writing in the past. I’m a perfectionist by nature, so if I don’t think I can do a thing right the first time, then I won’t even attempt it. If I don’t have everything in place before beginning, then I’ll never start. Which is starkly at odds with my seat-of-my-pants approach to writing. Any wonder why I’ve never finished a piece longer than about 12,000 words?
But in the end, I did write every single day. I made the time, no matter how busy I was. I lost a lot of sleep over the last month, but it was worth it. I didn’t blog as much as I had originally intended, but hitting those 1667 words every day was my priority, and sometimes I was up writing until well past midnight or 1 a.m., despite having to work the next day most days.
On average, I did hit my daily word goal; some days it was harder, but some days I blew it away. I was never more than a few hundred words behind, nothing that couldn’t be caught up by devoting a little extra time over the next writing session or two. In fact, the last several days of the challenge, I was a full day ahead of where I needed to be, and that felt good. I did get stuck a few times, but I wrote something, anything, and eventually I found that by listening to my characters and trusting them (and myself), I was able to push past it every time.
I hit 50,000 words sometime around 1:00 a.m. on November 30th after about a 3 hour writing session. I was determined to hit it that night. I closed out the chapter I was working on with a total of about 50,500 words. Today, I didn’t add any new content to that, although Melanie went through the last week and a half’s worth of work and suggested some edits. After everything is said and done, I’m sitting at nearly 51,000 words. And I’m ecstatic.
I worked my tail off this last month and made it a point to write every single day for the 30 days straight (and yes, I count going through edits as writing). I wrote even when I didn’t feel like it, even when I didn’t know what was coming next in the story, even when things in my life felt out of control, even when I had to help take care of my mother because of complications with her cancer, even when I hadn’t slept, even when I was depressed, even when I had other obligations, even when I had other demands on my time, even though it meant sacrificing other things that I love doing and giving up time with Melanie.
It’s the longest story I’ve written to date (and it’s not even finished yet) and it’s the most I’ve ever written at one time, at least as much as I’ve written in the last year combined, and I know for a fact it’s more than I’d written in the previous 5 years.
I don’t say it to brag. I say it because for me, it’s a huge personal accomplishment. NaNoWriMo has forced me to face some of my fears and anxieties about writing and helped me break through some of the barriers that have been holding me back for years. I never allowed myself the time to question what I was doing or why. I dove in and just did it. I let the characters tell me their stories and I trusted them and the process both. And, like I said, it’s not even finished yet. I estimate that by the time it’s all said and done, it’ll be somewhere around 75,000 to 80,000 words total (although there’s a definite possibility I might be underestimating). But in the meantime, I’m ecstatic that I was able to accomplish something that I never really believed I’d be able to do. And for the first time, I actually feel confident that I’ll be able to see a project like this through to the end, even though I foresee it being multiple volumes. And best of all, I have the first 51,000 words of what I think is a great start to a story that I’ll be proud to pass on to my children and hopefully others as well.