Confession: it’s day 25 of National Novel Writing month, and I’ve only written 10,500 words–just a fifth of what I’m supposed to have done when it all ends early next week. If you’re judging by word count alone, then I’m not doing so hot. Am I fussed? Not a bit. And here’s why: I’m all about lowered expectations.
The first time I heard of NaNoWriMo was eight years ago on my friend Kim’s blog. Kim is legit; I’ve known her since 7th grade and even then, she could write. I mean write. (Seriously, check out her most recent post on Syrian refugees. And grab a hankie.)
So when she talked about penning a 50k-word novel in a single month, I thought, “Well, of course Kim could do that.” At the time, I was writing strictly poetry and the notion of cranking out an entire a novel in 30 days seemed beyond anything I could ever do.
Flash forward six years to 2013. I now had several years of NaPoWriMo under my belt–30 poems in 30 days, in case you were wondering–and the thought of doing insane amounts of creative writing in a compressed time frame seemed more attainable than before. I wanted a break from poetry and the juices of a story had been percolating in my sleep deprived brain. In a fit of insomnia, I’d written a prologue and a handful of chapters. I had a great idea, but after several months of being blocked, I was struggling to summon the momentum to move forward.
Then NaNoWriMo popped up on my radar again, and it was just what I needed to recommit. I’d already started the story, but I thought, “Why not? I don’t have to worry about writing a whole new book; I can just pick up where I left off.” Which is just what I did. By the end of November 2013, I’d pounded out an additional 19,000 words and was more than 2/3 of the way through my story. With that momentum, I pushed through and finally finished my first draft in mid-April of 2014–more than a year after I started–but still, I finished.
During last year’s NaNoWriMo, I started on the sequel to my first book and clocked in at just under 15K words. Then in June, I scrapped everything I’d written during the previous eight months and started over with a different idea for the sequel. All told, 2015 has been a challenging year for me and my kids with homeschool, and that’s cut into my writing time. Before November, I wrote the first seven chapters, and during the course of this month, I’ve written another six.
For NaNoWriMo 2015, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and gotten more active in my local WriMo community. I went to a local write-in at a coffee shop a couple weeks ago and was surprised by the boost I got from spending time with other WriMos–talking plot, research, and revisions–even though I got no writing done at all. Solidarity. It was exhilarating to come home feeling like I was part of something bigger than myself, since writing is usually such a solitary pursuit for me.
Between teaching and raising my kids (aged 12, 8, and 4), housekeeping, and some volunteer work I do in our church and community, I don’t have a lot of spare time. I do most of my writing at one end of the day or the other, when my kids are in bed, and it’s dark and quiet enough to think. I don’t have the luxury of hitting a 1,500 word par most days, and I’m okay with that. I make NaNoWriMo work for me because if I write 50K or 19K or even just 15K words during the month of November, it’s that many more than I had in October.
I just keep putting one word in front of the other until I have a page, a chapter, a first draft.
That’s why I NaNo.