So as I wrote on here I decided fairly last minute to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I took part in it for the first time last year and won, you can read about that win here, so I did feel some pressure to do the same this year.
Now the thing that I have realised about NaNo is that you learn a lot about yourself doing it. Last year I surprised myself, I had absolutely zero confidence in myself as a writer and the fact that I was able to write 100 words surprised me. The win boosted my confidence, but I didn’t realise how much until I started NaNo this year.
Unfortunately I haven’t completed my book from last year, in fact since finishing NaNo last year I think that I have only written a few thousand more words which is a real shame. But I think that the problem with that book is that my lack of planning came to bite me, I just didn’t know where to go with the story next.
My book for this year was totally different to last years, a completely different genre and feel, and in many ways a far more complicated story. As I wrote on here when I started the idea of this book came from a competition that I wanted to enter (you can read that here) and when I started I really did have only the vaguest idea of what the story might be about.
Yet I found it so easy to write compared to my book last year and I think partly that was because I had less anxiety and doubt, I wrote knowing that I could always change it later so it didn’t really matter how good it was now. That really took the pressure off me and allowed me to just write, I even changed the tense that I was writing in after 12,000 words (blooming annoying now though that I did!).
Something that I really struggled with last year was writing conversations. Early in the book, the conversations that characters had were very short with one or maybe two sentences being spoken at a time. I hated writing it and it felt awkward to write and so no doubt it would feel awkward to read. This year writing conversations has been easy, I was a good way in before I even remembered how difficult it had been last year as that just wasn’t the case this year. Why? Well I’m not totally sure but I expect that part of it is that I didn’t worry about it too much and so that let it flow. And what it really showed me was that I learnt from last year and it made this year easier, perhaps once this book is finished I might go back and revisit the first one.
I have discovered that I am quite a fast writer, at least I think that I am but I really don’t have much to compare to, but I easily reached the daily word count of 1,667 words that you need to complete NaNo in the month of November. Currently my average words per day for the month of November is 3,500, so significantly higher. I guess that’s kind of that for the post then, as that is how I wrote 50,000 words in fourteen days, I made sure that my word count was much more than it needed to be.
Now in a way I’m lucky in that I have absolutely no social life, so I never go out and so can write morning, afternoon and evening if I want to. I am a single parent to twins though and that is definitely not easy but they really got behind me with NaNo this year, clearly proud of what I was doing and keen for me to win and ‘beat others’, they couldn’t understand that NaNo is not a competition where you try to beat others, everyone who gets to the 50K words wins, as long as they do it in November. But their support helped, it meant that they often told me to write more and so would leave me in relative peace to do so. Sure they have watched more television than normal but hopefully they have also been inspired watching their Mum do something like this. One day at school the teacher asked all the children who their favourite authors were, as you can imagine in a room full of six and seven year olds, most of them said Julia Donaldson, probably because she’s an author that people know the names of. But when it got to my son he said ‘my Mummy’ which really made me smile.
Something that I really learnt about myself this year doing NaNo is that I am competitive and that I hate failure. This spurred me on to write more. But there are other reasons that pushed me to write more and get NaNo completed as fast as I could. Firstly the reason that I was writing this book in the first place, I have to get 5,000 words looking ship shape and ready to impress for the competition by the 4th of December and I had that playing on my mind.
The other thing playing on my mind has been cake. Not eating cake, although that would be nice, but making cake. I am not a baker and I am most definitely not a cake decorator, yet I am going to attempt to be both. My children turn seven next week and have requested two cakes. One cake they want to be of our dog, Dotty. Um, ok. And cake number two they want a tree with the three of us sitting under it, with the dog too obviously. Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t sound very easy.
So I’ve been on Pinterest which has given me many ideas for the dog cake. Too many ideas really. Do I do a dog shaped cake, a cake with a sugarpaste dog on top, or a round cake that is the dogs face? Of course there are many other options too on Pinterest but I have discounted them. I haven’t even thought about the tree cake which will be worse in many ways as that will be eaten by adults, the dog one is for children and they are a far easier to please. But that has been pushing me to finish NaNo. There’s no way that I can make two cakes next week while doing NaNo. Nope, not going to happen.
So if you want my advice on how to complete NaNo in fourteen days I would suggest the following:
- Have a huge pressure towards the end of the month. Something that will be challenging and stressful and no doubt exhausting (a child’s birthday is always exhausting for the parent/s, doubly so when there are two children involved).
- Decide to learn a new skill with a huge deadline towards the end of the month that if you miss will mean that your children will stop believing that you can do anything.
- Have something really important that you need to be completed at the start of the next month, something that will take a lot of time and scare the hell out of you (show people my writing?!!! AAGGGHHHHHHHH)
- Just write. Don’t worry about what you’re writing and how good it is, just get the words done.
- Don’t worry too much about minor details. Last year I spent a crazy amount of time trawling names websites looking for the perfect name for my characters, this year I gave them whatever name came to mind. If it doesn’t fit then I can change it (there is currently only one name that I am going to change, I just haven’t thought what to yet, but I’m not stressing about it).
- Google is your friend, just hope that no one goes looking at your search history!
- Join Facebook groups, or just one group, where others are also doing NaNo. Support from others going through it is priceless.
- Get some NaNo buddies, it’s fun (and motivating) to check others wordcounts.
- Post your daily wordcounts somewhere, Twitter is good for this if you want it to be a bit more anonymous, Facebook if you want to get your friends behind this.
- Use your friends. If someone that you know knows something about what you’re writing then ask them if they will help, or post on Facebook and wait for the responses. One of my characters was going to Greece, I have never been so I posted asking for people who have been to give me tips and suggestions and things that would only be known by someone who had been. Twenty minutes later I had more information than I could possibly need. Who knew so many people had been to Athens?!
I think that NaNoWriMo is brilliant and if you want to write but need some extra motivation then it’s the perfect time to give it a go. Sure. it really isn’t easy but whether you end up winning or not, you will have learnt a lot.
Since I got my 50,000 words I have kept writing, I’m now on 58,640 words, my pace has slowed but I have written every day, today I have only done 780 words but yesterday I did over 5,000. I am really enjoying it and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to my characters, I love how they show me the way.