Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IWSG: How I Got Through NaNoWriMo

It's IWSG day....thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for hosting this once-a-month blog hop where writers can blog about their writerly insecurities. Since NaNoWriMo just passed, I thought it would be fair to share in further detail about how things were going for me last month.  Although I had technically "won" NaNoWriMo, churning out 50,000 words in one month didn't come without challenges and reasons for me to feel insecure. 

For anyone who wants to do NaNoWriMo in the future, here are some general tips on how I got past the road blocks: 
Don't quit. NaNoWriMo got off to a rocky start for me because I didn't begin writing at 12 a.m. on November 1st, as many NaNoWriMo enthusiasts do.  I was still busy plotting and organizing and outlining after I came home from taking my kids out trick-or-treating. I'd thought skipping one night wasn't going to be a huge deal, but the delay in beginning my novel really set me back for the rest of the month. For roughly 50% of November, I was behind on the word count requirement to complete my novel by November 30. There were even days when the stats panel showed me, at the rate I was going, I wasn't going to finish my novel until December 3rd. For a couple of days here and there, I was super behind. But I kept working it like the Energizer Bunny wound up really really tight and then released into the wild to do its THUMP THUMP THUMP on the keyboard drums until I caught up.
Avoid re-reading what you'd written. Sometimes I'd cringe when I look back on something I'd written the day before. My spidey sense tells me I'm not going to win the Pulitzer Prize for the first draft of my WIP. Though I'm big on going back to edit things, eventually, I created a self-imposed policy of allowing myself to go back to edit content only if I intend to beef things up with further details for the sake of  boosting word count.  

Take breaks. I'm all about BIC writing sessions. At the same time, the world is bigger than my goal to write 50,000 words in 30 days and I need to keep reminding myself that. I don't subscribe to the notion that I need to block everyone out during NaNoWriMo. During my down time (and yes, it's okay to have down time during NaNoWriMo), I did other stuff. I watched TV with my husband. I responded to friends' emails. I went out. Earlier this week when I was about 10,000 words away from my goal,  I still made it a point to meet up with a friend for tea.

Be flexible. Writing, like life, won't always go according to the way you'd expect. I rolled with it when my plot and characters took on a life of their own. I rolled with it when I needed to write about a topic I hadn't researched thoroughly yet. And I rolled with it when, being at 25,000 words, I could see I was not yet close to the half-way mark I had planned for my novel. So I knew that even if I got to 50,000 words by the end of November, I'd still need to continue writing into part of December to get to the end of my novel....and this takes me to my last point...

...Consider life after NaNoWriMo. When I had writers' block or a dipping word count and I was mentally whipping myself to GET MOVING AND WRITE WRITE WRITE JUST DO IT DO IT DO IT, I would comfort myself with the notion that the month of November won't be breathing down my back forever. At the end of the month, I'd either reach my goal, or I won't. Either way, I'll move on.  

What challenges have you encountered while writing under pressure and how did you work through them?  


Mark Koopmans said...


Congrats on finishing NaNooooo! as I call it :)

Perhaps I'll give it a go next year... unless I am editing WIP#2 :)

Charmaine Clancy said...

I had lots of support for NaNo. Several times a week I'd head into the library and meet my NaNo buddy, we'd sit there for a couple of hours just writing. Helped me a lot.

Congrats on finishing :)

Laura S. said...

Congrats on finishing NaNo! It can be overwhelming sometimes, especially when you see some people have achieved 20,000 words after week 1. Yeesh! This was my fourth year participating, and I find that aiming for 2,000 words a day helps a lot because then I'm a little bit ahead or only slightly behind if I miss a couple days because of life.

Jennifer Lane said...

Sounds like you killed the NaNo beast! Well done. I've never tried it, mostly because my day job keeps me too busy during the week. And I'm majorly impressed at your perseverance!

Paul R. Hewlett said...

Great post! Sounds like NaNo was very difficult. I'm happy to read that you still found time to do other things. I agree that's very important. My main challenge while writing under pressure is figuring out where to start. For me, that's the hardest part. My remedy to that particular problem is writing longhand. Yes, I still put pen to paper and write. I find that things flow better for me. There's no auto correct, formatting, things like that to distract me. It's an extra step, but it hasn't failed me yet :)
Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm glad you "won" and survived it.
Paul R. Hewlett

Suzanne Furness said...

I admire those of you who have completed NaNo. I am not sure I could do it - not at this point in my life anyway. I think you are right though, it is important not to block out everything and everyone else to do it. Daily life still has to go on.

Patsy said...

Ah, I fell down on step 1. Well done for sticking with it.

David P. King said...

This is a great post for someone who hasn't done NaNo but would like to in the future (me). In a way, it's kinda like a marathon, something you have to work up and train for. Maybe I'm out of writer shape? Time to do some exercises! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you beat NaNo!
I participated in 2010 and it was just the kick I needed to work on my second book. I'm lazy and need motivation. But it showed me I could write that much and still function as a normal person. A normal writer anyway.

Jennie Bennett said...

Great tips! It's hard sometimes not to feel like the words you're churning out are crap, but it's easier to work with words that are there. Better to get it written. Congrats on your win!!

Tess Julia said...

I'm stressed out just READING your post! I don't think I would do well with that project although it might be good for me. Congratulations on succeeding :)

Nancy Thompson said...

I don't think I could ever do NaNo. It would feel like the Sword of Damocles. But I respect those who do.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Love these tips! I especially like the "Take Breaks" tip. It's so important to step back and refresh

Shannon Lawrence said...

Great tips, and I wholeheartedly agree! I don't go back and edit whether it's NaNo or something else; instead, I jot down what I'd like to attend to so I can hit it later. I have to employ the same sort of thing with cleaning, LOL. I'm too distractable.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Cynthia
I didn't do NaNo but I did have a writing goal. I fell short for two reasons. My daughter needed to use my computer to learn a new program for creating book covers and I got a tooth ache from another planet that won't go away. The last is a long story but it interfered.

Unknown said...

Hahahaha! I love your first tip. I did JuNoWriMo and that was my first thought, to just quit. But, I didn't. I finished the race and felt just as proud as if I'd finished the Boston Marathon. Great tips.

Elise Fallson said...

Congratulations on getting through NaNo! I've never participated, but I think I will give it a serious try next year. You've given some great advice and the biggest one I think I'll have to keep in mind is getting things (general outline, plot points etc)organized before NaNo starts.

Cherie Colyer said...

Congrats on making the word count for NaNo! That's wonderful. And thanks for sharing your experience and tips!

Jackie said...

Love your tips for NaNo. I've never participated, but I'm considering it for next year. :D
Congrats on finishing!!!

Doreen McGettigan said...

Congratulations on sticking with it! I could not participate this year:( but will remember these tips!!

Unknown said...

Great tips for surviving the crazy month that is NaNo. I hope one day to give it a try. Happy holidays!

Cynthia Heart Books said...

Mark: NaNoooo....that's pretty funny.

Charmaine: NaNo buddies are great, aren't they.

Laura: I know what you mean about seeing people with skyrocketing word counts after just a few days.

Jennifer: Thanks!!

Paul:...And you don't have to remember to keep saving or backing up your file!

Suzanne: I think it keeps us balanced to remember that daily life goes on in spite of what's going on in our writing life.

Patsy:When we fall down, we can also get back up. =)

David: Yes, it's like a marathon! For me, the "exercising" I did to prepare for this was just planning my novel about a month or so beforehand.

Alex: I'm glad NaNo gave you the "kick" for your second book!

J.A.: The beauty of writing under pressure is it makes us spit out what we need to say. There will be time for revisions later.

Cynthia Heart Books said...

Rose: It's actually not that bad once you get started. =D

Nancy: I never thought I could do NaNo either...and then I just decided to give it a try this year.

Lynda: It's indeed nice to refresh and recharge.

Shannon: I like the cleaning and revision analogy.

N.R.: Our children and our health come first.

Jenn: Glad you stuck it out! Didn't it feel great!?

Elise: Go for it! Planning ahead really helps.

Cherie: Thanks!

Jackie: Go for it!

Doreen: There's always next year.

Michael: Happy holidays to you too!

Ella said...

You rock! Congrats!!! :D @>------------

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Congrats! That is such an accomplishment! I envy anyone brave enough to enter and diligent enough to stick with it!

Jay Noel said...

Way to go! I did NaNo for the first time since I learned about this fun project 8 yrs ago. I'm glad I did it, as I was stuck in a big time rut.

The best thing I did was turn off my internal editor. Once I did that, 50,000 was pretty easy.

Cynthia Heart Books said...

Ella: Thanks! What a lovely rose.

Kimberly: Thanks! It got scary at times, but I kept on going.

Jay: We definitely need to turn off the editor while we do NaNo.

Nicole said...

Lots of good advice in this post. Way to go!

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