Another NaNoWriMo: I Did It… Kind Of

Another NaNoWriMo has come and gone. It was a trip, mostly because the past five weeks have been a trip. In October, I was ready and excited for this year’s National Novel Writing Month. I decided to loosen up the rules by allowing myself to work on any fiction project I had already started, which really gave me five options (you can read about that here). And I started out strong. For the first eight days not only did I write each and every day, but I had a nice lead so it looked like I would finish early. But then the Election happened and I didn’t – couldn’t – work on any fiction for more than a week. (Really closer to two weeks.)

I was still writing, a little, but it was more things for me – to keep me sane and try to heal, and figure things out. A few of these pieces were published, and others might still be while a few I decided to kill. But I couldn’t stand the thought of not finishing NaNoWriMo, so for the last eight days I tried to write a ridiculous amount (8,000 words was my daily best) and I realized in the last three days that I was killing myself trying to finish, and it was most definitely affecting my work. The whole point of me loosening the rules was to avoid that very thing. So, after taking a step back, I decided to do what a lot of other people have done and suggested I do in the past. I decided to count any credible writing.

It’s not like I counted love notes to my husband, or emails or card messages, but I counted the essays that I published or were being submitted for publication (all written in November), as well as published reviews I wrote in November and the few blogs I wrote in November. Those pieces made it so I made the goal of 50,000 words (my final word count was 50,080 words) on the evening of November 30 – so just in time.

Here is the breakdown of my final word counts:

Legitimate/Intended Novels

Project T – 5,117 Words (10.22%)

Project J – 28,193 Words (56.30%)

Other Work

Essays For Publication – 8,790 Words (five different essays – 17.56%)

Published Reviews – 4,103 Words (four different reviews – 8.195%)

Blogs – 3,867 Words (four different blogs – 7.725%)

All of the words I counted I wrote in November, so I at least followed that rule without “cheating”. I really hate that I had to go outside of my fiction to meet the word count, but I understand that this was an extraordinary situation (no one saw that Election coming) and the consequences, somewhat unexpected, were also a long time coming and I just had to deal with them. I’m still dealing with them, and will be for a while and that’s okay. It has to be. So this was about me cutting myself some slack. I hate it, wish I could have pulled it out with just the books I intended to work on, but at the same time I’m glad I’m not so rigid that I realized the work came first.

I could have made my goal and just worked on the two novels I focused on this month, but I was to the point where I was forcing the writing. And when you force a story, the writing, characters and everything else suffers for it. Who wants to write something just to have to write it all again because they’re not in the appropriate headspace? I don’t. So I made the decision and as much as I wished I didn’t have to make it, or wished the election and my own stuff beyond the election didn’t happen and therefore wasn’t something I needed to address/work on – it is, and I do, and I did. I stand by the decision as much as it pains me to say it.

Just like I said last month, it’s important to practice self-care. I’ve never been great at that, but I know I need to be better, and now I’m working to be better. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have backed down and I would have burned myself out, writing absolute crap just because the original goal was that manuscript. I’m glad I’ve grown enough as a writer, and as a person, to not be so stubborn, and obtuse!

Hopefully next year I’ll finally be happy with what I accomplish during NaNoWriMo. And hopefully I’ll be able to stick to fiction, and what I set out to do. Writing every day is key as is starting on time. But you have to have your head in the game. Because writing simply for the word counts, doesn’t serve anyone. The story, the characters – you as a writer, or your readers. For me the integrity of my work matters far more than the integrity of NaNoWriMo’s rules, rules that many people break anyway. Like I said hopefully next year will be different, but if I have to protect the integrity of my work, or myself through self-care, I won’t hesitate to make the same decision again. And that’s real progress!

-DMW

How did you do during NaNoWriMo? Did you meet your goals? Break the rules? I want to know, so leave me a comment here with your own NaNoWriMo experience!

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