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Writing: NaNoWriMo, The First Week

Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong. -Jeffrey A. Carver

So here we are, my friends, in the first week of NaNoWriMo. Truthfully, NaNo is only three days old, but these posts go up on Fridays, so I assume we can forgive the inexactness of the first week check in.

November 1st hit me like a freight train. I’ve been excitedly anticipating doing this year’s NaNo for months. I planned write ins with the local library so far in advance they’ve been advertising them in the community calendar and sending them out in “upcoming events” newsletters. I put my Retro Recaps on hold. I alerted my place of employment I’d be leaving work early (or what normal people might call “at a reasonable hour”) to do “volunteer work” throughout the month. I downloaded Scrivener and set my templates up. In the last four days, I managed to solidify an idea for a story, sketch out a few outlines, and rolled the idea around in my head enough that I’m fairly sure it’ll sustain my attention for a whole month.  I was ready to go.

But I forgot to factor in my distractions.

I’m not talking about my serious life partner, television.  We already came to the understanding that The Walking Dead, Revenge, and American Horror Story were to be my only dalliances for the next four weeks. No, my distractions are both more tangible and blood related ““ I have an entire houseful of guests.  Apparently, when people come to visit with you, they want to do things like “eat dinner” and “spend time together” and “talk about stuff.” They do not want to see your backside as you retreat to your office after a ten hour work day. They support your writing efforts, but don’t understand what could take so long to knock out 1667 words because you’ve always been so smart and so creative, and writing is just so easy.

To put things another way, my word count is pretty anemic.

Here’s the thing though ““ I am totally not freaking out about this. NaNoWriMo is a high stress month for a number of reasons, and not just because 50,000 words in 30 days is an ambitious goal. Writing, like any other creative pursuit, gets tangled up in ego and doubts. We judge ourselves. We really judge the originality of our ideas and the execution there of. We freak out so much that we bring all our lofty ambitions crashing to the ground as we wrestle with our own self-doubt.  That’s the whole point of NaNo ““ giving yourself an end goal that is achievable only with focused effort, so that in order to meet it you can’t indulge in days of beating yourself up if you want to cross the winner’s circle on the 30th.

But during the course of this month, life is going to happen to you. My family may come camping at your house. Work might need some extra attention. Maybe a cold takes you out for a day. That’s OK. Part of this exercise is learning to roll with the punches. Anticipate that you might, will, or have not been able to hit your daily word count. Don’t let it make you feel guilty ““ not hitting your word count is not a moral failing. It’s just a number.  Just don’t give up on it. Take a breath, check your calendar, and adjust your daily numbers to make up for it. Keep moving forward.

So now that everyone knows how my first three days of NaNoing have gone, how are you doing?

Bonus Tracks: Actual, tangible novels that began life as a NaNoWriMo project.

By [E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com.

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

14 replies on “Writing: NaNoWriMo, The First Week”

I’m surprisingly kind of ahead… I have about 11,500 words right now. It doesn’t help because I don’t feel very confident about my words, my main characters WON’T STOP TALKING SOMETIMES.

But I’m actually having fun WRITING, which is the important thing.

Also, Slay Belle, not to be creepy or anything but I saw on the website announcements list you are hosting the write ins at my local public library! The internet is a small world.

I left about 6 years ago, but I worked there for the 5 before that. I’m going to put in a plug that I also run the community book group there if you’d have any interest in joining. It’s a great, diverse group of people and we end up with some interesting titles to read. We’re doing ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ this month.

Oof. The website was working against me so I couldn’t update my word count and that was strangely un-motivating. I’m still collecting ideas for along the road and try to just keep going instead of thinking about “today another 1629 words before I’m finished”.

I got kind of a late start, as in, I wrote my first 1,700 words today. My delay was due to a combination of packing and crying my eyes out about moving in with my parents and getting a rejection letter from a job I applied to. Moving should be over on Tuesday, so if I can keep afloat until then, I can start making up my lost time. This morning, I went to a local coffee shop to write, and sitting there, just writing something that wasn’t an argument or a brief was pretty much the best thing I have done for myself in a really, painfully long time. And looking over my work today, I feel pretty good. Not because it’s brilliant (it isn’t) but because I sat down and wrote it. I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the discipline I knew I would need to get back into writing. Even though a lot of life stuff started to convince me I didn’t need to do this right now, my session this morning let me know I’m doing the right thing.

just writing something that wasn’t an argument or a brief was pretty much the best thing I have done for myself in a really, painfully long time.

That’s so awesome. This is on the reasons I’m such a big supporter of the NaNo program. Good luck on your word count!

These are the very reasons I always put off taking part in Nanowrimo — every year, something would come up, first ‘finals before graduation’, then ‘job hunt’, then ‘new job’, then ‘job hunt again’. I really need to get over my excuses!

I am on target for the first three days, but there is an hour left in this one and nothing written yet. I’m planning to make tomorrow a bonanza day. Love that so many of us on here are doing it.

PSA (repeated): Back your shit up, yo. Scrivener had a shit fit on me last night and erased almost everything I had – happily it was backed up to Dropbox and I lost nothing, and the lovely people at the Scrivener forums also helped, but it’s worth repeating that Scrivener for Windows is in Beta, so expect bugs like this.

I’m a bit behind as I’ve gotten whalloped by a cold this week.  But I’m not freaking.  The weekend is coming — the blessed time when I sit on my couch with my blankie and knock it out for hours and hours.  NaNoWriMo (or any writing enterprise that’s not like quick-blogging, say) is a marathon, not a sprint.  Thinking of it that way can help when you feel behind and defeated.

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