Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More Lessons From Failing NaNoWriMo

Last year, I tried to do NaNoWriMo. And I failed. And I wrote this post about the lessons I'd learned from failing.

This year, I decided to do Nano again, and I really had high hopes for what I could accomplish. After all, this time last year my husband and I had just bought our first home, and we were in the midst of getting inspections and picking out paint colors and packing up our entire lives. Now, a year later, we were settled into our home and I would have no other outside distractions...right?


Sort of.

The first week of November, I managed to stay mostly on pace. And I thought--foolishly--that it would be smooth sailing from then on, and now, in the beginning of December, I'd be sitting here with a finished novel and my editing pen in hand.

Turns out, making a room go from this to "man cave" takes a lot of work. 

But of course, then life got busy. We started finishing our basement. Coaching for swimming started. And life just kept getting in the way!

So, now here I am, and how many words did I write in November? About 12,000 altogether. Y'know, just a few thousand shy of 38,000 short.

But I did set some other November goals, back in this post.

My two, smaller-than-50,000-words goals were to:

1) Keep writing even if a point came when I knew I wouldn't make it to fifty thousand words.
2) To try my best to write three times a week.

In those goals, I did a little bit better. I didn't always write three times a week, but I definitely devoted more thought & energy to my writing than I had in past months. Which meant even when I knew there was no way I was going to hit 50,000, I kept working and I tried not to get discouraged.

Also, and perhaps most useful of all, I learned a lot about how I work best as a writer. I always prided myself on being a pantser. When I would send a chapter to the other members of the FNC, they'd email back and say, "What happens next?" and I'd go, "Oh, y'know, stuff...something exciting...or something..." because the truth was I didn't really know. I'd always had a beginning, a climactic moment and an ending in my head, but that was pretty much about it. Because it was about the journey! The excitement of figuring out what was happening as I went! Right?

It turns out...those plotters kind of have a point. I plotted out the last portion of my novel for Nano pretty meticulously--scene by scene, all the way from middle to the words The End.

And the crazy thing was that it made writing a lot easier, especially when I was crunched for time. I didn't have to spend nearly as much time re-reading my own work to remember where I was and what was going on when I stopped writing last time. And the fear that I had would come with planning--that the excitement of writing would diminish, that knowing exactly what was going on wouldn't be nearly as much fun--turned out to not be true at all. If anything, knowing what was going to happen made things more exciting because I could see the story growing my mind with more clarity and completeness than before.

So even though I didn't win Nano, or come close, I did learn some valuable lessons about goal-setting and plotting. Which is kind of a win in itself, if you think about it.

What about all of you? Did you win Nano by hitting 50k? Or win it in another way?

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