I did it! I wrote over 50,000 words for my novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In NaNoWriMo, you are declared a winner by finishing 50,000 words, but I felt like a winner after the first week. As I said in my first NaNoWriMo post at the beginning of the month, this was a challenge to find out what I could accomplish with focused effort. I know that my novel needs more work and lots of revision, but it feels great to have started.
Some of the lessons I learned are:
- I’m glad that I wrote at about twice the suggested pace during the first week. This meant that I had “words in the bank”, which was helpful since I knew that due to travel and Thanksgiving, there would be days later in the month when I could not write as much.
- Writing so much the first week meant that I knew what I was capable of when I had to push this last week. I think I might have been overwhelmed if I didn’t already know that I could increase my pace when I had to.
- Writing fiction, when I normally write nonfiction, was a tremendous stretch for me. I enjoyed creating the characters, their speech, mannerisms, habits, clothing and quirks. I used a real location, but I could develop the story in a way that sticking to the facts would not have permitted.
- It is true that you get to know your characters by writing them. I had a very broad outline and list of characters and scenes that I wanted to write. This changed as I wrote, and it will be interesting to see how much I revise the book once I have a solid first draft.
- Anne Lamott, who wrote in Bird by Bird about how it is important to allow yourself to write first drafts that are far from perfect, had it right. This draft is nowhere near ready to submit, but submission was not the point. I’ll finish the first draft, then set it aside for a while, work on other projects, and then pick it up again when I am ready to wrestle and coax it into shape. This could take months, or years. But the main thing is that I started.
This writing process can apply to other areas of life—spirituality, health, making a career or life change, financial goals, creating art—defining the goal or intention, breaking it down into small, but significant steps, being open to the need to change course, and then being persistent, while making time for the work on a regular basis. As the end of the year approaches, this process just might help me with a couple of projects I am working on.
Thank you to everyone who encouraged me, I am off to celebrate my “win.”