“If you want to write a novel, you should really try NaNo.”
That’s what someone from my local writing group told me last winter. One month, one novel – done. Camps and planning months during the year get you ready for the big event in November. Easy.
Worth a try, at least.
If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), this annual event takes place every November. Essentially, you sign up to their website and commit to write 50,000 words during those thirty days. It’s free (although you are encouraged to make a donation) and, by updating your word count on the website, along the way you will receive virtual badges to mark goals such as your first five-thousand words. Your 50K words could be either a new novel or part of something which you’ve already got on the go; for me, I saw it as motivation to continue work on the novel which I began in January 2018.
“Come on Kerrie,” I hear you say. “Stop stalling. How did you do?”
Grand total: 7,537 words!
Okay, okay, so I didn’t get to the grand target of 50K. If I’m honest with myself, I never really expected to. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t slightly disappointed to have finished on such a low number … I’d hoped to get halfway, at least. However, with two children under five and being in the midst of setting up my own business, it was an ambitious target from the start. November is always a bad month for us with illness and 2018 was no exception, with myself and all of my family coming down with a virus, followed by one of my children breaking their arm. These are the sort of things which you cannot plan for!
The thing is, NaNo (and the related social media pages) make it feel a little as if winning is everything. At the end of November, you are either a winner or a loser – and this year, I was a loser.
So when, exactly, does losing mean winning?
From January to October 2018, I had written 21,000 words – an average of less than 70 words per day. Slow going. In November 2018, I wrote 7,537 words – an average of 251 words per day. Despite all the personal setbacks and other things going on in my life, I managed to almost quadruple my output, and NaNo has given me a prediction of May 2019 for completion of my novel if I continue at this rate. Not too shabby! And, more than that, I am now approaching what I feel is the halfway point in my novel (having a combined total of nearly 30,000 words), and there is definitely some kind of mental motivation which comes along with that realisation.
Okay, so I didn’t reach the big goal. But when you really think about it, NaNo doesn’t have to be about those 50,000 rambling words.
Maybe it can be as simple as giving you a push to write just a little bit more than you would have done otherwise – and that’s always winning.