NaNoWriMo and What I Learned Attempting It

If you’ve been following my blog for the past few weeks, you know the following:

1) I signed up for NaNoWriMo and got off to a pretty good start.

2) Then came the week-long migraine of DOOM.

3) Then came the family drama of DOOM.

4) Then I gave up, because I was just too behind at that point and my brain was whimpering from all the DOOM.

But I promised a retrospective of sorts, because while my participation in NaNoWriMo was short and limited, I actually learned a lot about how to participate in the future, so I thought I’d share those thoughts here, so that I can actually, yanno, remember them for the future and also in case they might help others.

So, what did I learn?

1) I picked the wrong project: while I was excited jump-start Ghostcatcher and really sink my teeth into the project, the project itself was unique for me, in that I didn’t have a clear direction. I call ALL of my first drafts “discovery drafts,” but this was more discovery than most, as it’s the first truly character-driven novel I’ve worked on, which means I need the freedom to putter around with it, write scenes as they come to me and out of order, and that sort of thing. And this is not a bad way of writing, maybe not even for NaNoWriMo. The problem? I didn’t have the forward momentum that I usually have when I’m writing linearly and I know which plot points I’m working towards. So that means….

2) I should have prepared more. I don’t mean a straight-up outline, though if I could trust that writing an outline in advance wouldn’t rob me of the thrill of writing to begin with, that would’ve been great. But by preparation I mean knowing what those main plot points are going to be, even if it means they may change once I start writing. By preparation, I mean I need to do some brainstorming on character, setting, world-building, and the like, so I’m not spending hours of NaNoWriMo writing time doing research or racking my brain for the right name. Which makes me think that….

3) If I participate in NaNoWriMo in the future, I should probably write a novel set in one of my existing universes where I already have most of that shit figured out. Last year, when I wrote the yet-to-be-named LB Prequel (which is the prequel to my SHU thesis novel codenamed Telepathic Soulmates), it went by REALLY quickly once I got rolling, because I knew the characters (they had supporting roles in the thesis novel), I knew my world, I knew the rules, so I was just telling THEIR story. And in the process of writing that, I realized I have at least one more, maybe even two, prequels under my belt, as well as at least two SEQUELS for the thesis novel. That’s a lot of material, material that would be easy to grab on to and run with, should I decide to try NaNoWriMo again and life actually, yanno, cooperates.

All of that being said, I realized something else: writing 1,700 words daily is not my speed right now. That’s not to say I can’t: I’ve been tempted to go through the November files of the past two years to see what my actual output was during a NaNoWriMo month, just for giggles, but my process from the past two years seems to fit better in my mind. That process? One double-spaced page a day. That’s it. And it’s not to say I can’t write more. In fact, I often do. But if I’m having a DAY and I’m tired or there’s so much going on, making myself sit down for just a single page isn’t nearly as intimidating as NaNoWriMo’s daily goal of 1,700 words. AND, if for whatever reason I do need a break that day, catch-up isn’t that bad, if I’m not already caught up from previous days where I went over my minimum.

I do wish, though, that life had cooperated. From the days I did participate, I managed to draft a killer scene, one I’m really excited to use. And I’m still excited about Ghostcatcher, despite my brain going NOPE-NOPE-NOPE when it comes to writing. Then again, my brain is saying the same thing to pretty much everything else: nope to my morning elliptical routine, which has been the case for the past month now, and nope to my physical therapy. Nope to my stack of comics, and a grudging maybe to whatever book is at hand. The only thing my brain’s happy with right now is sleep, food, and whatever television show/movie is on Netflix or Hulu Plus when work is over.

I don’t call this depression. I call this the result of too much stress in too short of time. I call this sheer exhaustion from the overall draining, trying, and difficult year 2014 has been. I call this recuperation for the future, because while I look forward to 2014 being OVER and a new year kicking it to the curb, I’m aware that some things may not improve: they may, indeed, get worse. And my brain wants all the rest it can get.

That doesn’t mean things are bad. It just means I don’t know if I’m in the calm before yet another storm, or if the calm is going to last a while. I do know I look forward to putting words on the page again, because 2015 is a rather important, mile-marking year for me.

But that’s a post for another day. So, in the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who’s celebrating it!

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo and What I Learned Attempting It

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes you need to do exactly what you’ve done here. Accept that there’s a lot of stress in your life and protect your brain instead of demanding more things from it. I hope things get less stressful for you in the future. 🙂


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