You know how I can tell it’s November? I spend more time calculating hours, minutes, and words than actually writing; I wear a wrist brace to bed every night; and I’m picking up my prescription of Restasis tomorrow for my dry, strained eyes. I spend my days either in a half-dozed state, a lazy smile on my face as I think about my luminous word count, or running around frantically while wondering how I’ll ever write a single word when I’m not even going to be home before midnight.
There are a lot of ways to tell I’m NaNo-ing, but why I do it, or even how, are stories in and of themselves.
And as writers, we love stories, right? So let’s dive in…
Why I NaNo
To write a book! No, seriously, it’s much more than that. NaNoWriMo was originally started for fun, for the sake of being able to say you’ve written a book in a month—or written a book at all—but it’s so much more than that for me. I NaNo for numerous reasons: the community, the inspiration, the motivation, the sense of achievement. The list goes on and on.
As of now, a little over 20k words in, I can easily say that I’m in this for the long run. And not so much for the reasons I used to be, like getting a first draft down quick so I can edit the everloving life out of it later, or being able to boast that I’d finally written a (hopefully coherent) novel in a month. This time, I’m in it to make myself a better writer.
I’ve participated in NaNo three times before. I won in 2008, wrote 25k in 2010, and wrote 5k less than that in 2012. That was a whole (crappy) book the first year, and chunks of a still unfinished WIP the other two. In all three of those years, I pulled all kinds of dirty word count tricks you can find in the hypothetical NaNo book, from spelling out conjunctions to being unnecessarily wordy and descriptive. But this year, that hasn’t—and won’t be—the case.
I’m taking it step by step, trying to write as well as I can while still making the goal. Of course, I won’t stay stuck on a certain word or sentence or paragraph or idea for too long—I’ll eventually just write something, anything, that works and move on. But still, I’m doing my best, because I want this NaNo to really count.
And while trying to write an actually decent novel in a month is already nervewracking, on top of that, I’m writing a genre I’m not experienced in: Young Adult. So this is going to be (and has been) tough, but I think this is the most motivated I’ve ever been for a NaNoWriMo, so I’m pretty confident! Which brings me to…
How I NaNo
When I posted my Why I Sprint piece last month (which was a result of a complete deviation from my current writing topic during a sprint—for more on such creative detours during sprinting, see my post on the subject here), Taylor suggested we accompany our NaNoWriMo-themed posts with such personal pieces on Why and How we NaNo. It got me thinking, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer those. I’ve participated in NaNo three times and crossed the finish line once. How do I NaNo?
See all those little red boxes? It’s how I write, period. I’m not great at setting daily goals and deadlines. Never have been. Just ask Faye, the official founder of the Write Chain Challenge! And while I do try my best to meet the daily 1,667 minimum during NaNo, I don’t always succeed. Instead, I’ll write nothing for a day or two, then sit down and push out 5k in one sitting and get ahead. Then I might meet my daily goal for a week, then drop off for another two to three days.
It’s not the best tactic, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who already does well with daily goals, but it works for me—or, at least, it’s worked once. I’d like to tie my score this year with my second NaNoWriMo completed, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one!
During NaNoWriMo, I’m sure to keep my work in progress on me at all times to accommodate these random bursts of creativity. Whether I keep it on a flash drive or saved to a Gmail draft, or print out the last few pages and keep them with some scrap to jot down a few words in my spare time where no computer is available, I do my best to have my novel accessible at all times. My schedule is too hectic not to; especially since this will be my first year NaNo-ing with a full-time job.
Finally, when I do actually plan a sit-down writing session, I sprint. At home, from write-ins¸you name it. There’s just too little time and too many words to type at a lazy pace. I write much, much faster when I sprint because sprinting forces me to be “in the zone.” And with a record of about 1,300 per half hour sprint, I could easily demolish that daily goal and then some without spending hours harping over a scene!
What about you? How do you NaNo?