Okay, “win” is a misleading word I suppose, but last night I hit the 50,000 required words for “winning” NaNoWriMo!! Yay me!
As I’ve said, this was my first year joining this seemingly insane challenge. I just wanted to see if I could do it. My book is in no way finished, there is probably another 30,000 words left to write, but I learned a few important things.
I learned that I CAN find time to write. I learned that I have NOT lost my enthusiasm from the years I spent not exercising my creative writing muscle. I learned that I can put what I want to do first (sometimes). I do have to say my daughter was a trooper these past couple weeks. She has done well with trying to be more independent.
I fear the hyperfocus that has driven me to write that many words in seventeen short days. At the same time, I LOVE the hyperfocus. For someone with ADHD that can be dangerous. It’s been a long time since I was so involved with something that I gave it unwavering devotion. I like that feeling, like I’m in “the zone”, but I also know that if I am not careful, bills will not get paid, dinner will not get cooked, pets will not get fed, I won’t care if I eat, and I certainly won’t sleep. It’s all too easy to open your eyes to discover that everything around you has fallen apart because you’ve spent the last several days, or weeks saying, “I’ll do that in just a minute, I have to do this first.” “I can’t stop right now, I’m in the middle of something important” and so on.
On the other hand, that hyperfocus is amazing. Sitting there, writing away like nothing can stop you feels AMAZING. You feel like, well, nothing can stop you. It’s like you are doing the most important thing you’ve ever done and you can’t WAIT to get to it every day. Everything else is annoying. You feel the passion, the drive, that intense pleasure that can only come from doing something you love.
Balance can be a problem. I know I have to find it..but right now, I just want to revel in the sensation of completing my first NaNo! I am interested to see how many more words I can add to my book before the end of November, but at the same time, no matter how many I add, I can feel accomplished in the fact that I completed the challenge. I didn’t know if I could do it, much less in seventeen days! The interesting thing was, when I made up my mind to write every single day, 50,000 words wasn’t even that hard to do. It gave me hope that if I sit my butt in the chair every day to write, and if I don’t keep going back and “fixing” every little thing, then I can actually finish projects instead of starting a hundred of them and never getting anywhere.
I’ve enjoyed the experience and I learned a few things that I will continue with long after November is over.
1. Write. Just Write. Don’t worry about what it is, don’t wait to be “in the mood.” Write.
2. Don’t go back. I keep index cards beside me and when I realize I made a mistake about something I write it down so I can change it later. If I change a characters name, or a year or an age, I just write it on the index card to worry about later.
3. I learned that I don’t have to have ALL my research complete before I begin the project. There is nothing wrong with not having all my information. I can fill in the blanks for something I may be missing later. I can also write a thousand words or so, and then devote a few minutes to some research if need be.
4. When I do my research I keep notes on index cards. These are handy to have beside me when I write so I can quickly check a fact or two when needed. I also keep a card for each character with information like age, and years that certain things happened to them. Like how old they were when they went to college, or got married or had a child, anything that I will need to remember as I write. I know that there is great software out there for writers with amazing things like timelines and a way to keep track of notes and all — sometimes I just like to do things the old fashioned way. It works for me.
5. When the words sound dry, or hollow, or aren’t conveying what you want them to — just keep writing. I can go back and work with the words and the way they sound.
6. Above all, I remembered that writing is fun. I remembered that I write because I am lost if I don’t. I learned that a first draft is messy, full of holes and the information might not always add up. It’s okay. That’s why it’s called FIRST. I learned that I do not have to work on one paragraph for two weeks to get it to sound “just right” before I move on. Later on there is time to patch the holes, double check the facts and shine up the words so that they are distinctly mine.
At the end of this month, what I hope to have, more than 50,000 random words on paper, is the basic structure for a book that I can work with until I am proud of it. I learned to enjoy the process and to stop over thinking. I’ve heard people say recently that they disliked NaNo because it gave people permission to write bad books. If someone is going to write a bad book, they don’t need permission to do it, or a special month to do it in. If someone is going to be unprofessional enough to try to send out something that they have not edited, then those people are going to do that whether or not there is such a thing as National Novel Writing Month. Anyone that grasps the true meaning of NaNo knows it is NOT about writing bad books, but challenging yourself to become a better writer. It serves to allay the fears and get out of our own heads and WRITE which is what we are all about anyway.