NaNoWriMo: Looking back on the past month
(aka, how not to do NaNoWriMo)
It’s been a while since I posted here. As you might have guessed, especially if you’ve been reading for more than a year, this means that NaNoWriMo went badly. The amount of time that I had to dedicate purely to writing during November meant that there was simply no time left over for a blog update.
So, to get it out of the way right now, I did win (which simply means that I reached the goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days), but it was definitely an ungraceful win.
That brings the total of my wins up to five out of six years. And when people hear that, sometimes I get asked for advice on how to do NaNoWriMo successfully. Of course, I could give some tips by this point, but it’s mostly a case of “do as I say, do not do as I do”.
Last month, I basically did everything that I always warn new Wrimos against.
- I procrastinated a lot. I do mean a lot.
- I second-guessed myself and got so stuck on small details that I just didn’t make any progress.
- Instead of building momentum early in the month to have some reserves for when you get tired later in the month, I fell behind really early on. That means you are playing catch-up all month and it’s very demoralising.
- Finally, some days I just didn’t write. You don’t have to be a Wrimo to guess that this is an especially bad idea if you’re trying to reach a very high world goal.
In short, I wrote 25,000 words in nine days. Not out of choice, by the way. I had to, in order to finish in time. I’m not a quitter, in any situation, so when I realised how much trouble I was in there was only one option left: grit my teeth and soldier through.
On my tumblr I have all these hourly updates from the writing marathons I did over the weekends. It was an attempt to publicly shame myself if I failed and procrastinated again, and it was actually a very effective technique. Maybe I will do more of that. Something to look into for next year…
However, in all the years of NaNoWriMo I’ve done, I’ve still never achieved the coveted 5,000 words written in one day. I tried two or three times this year, but still fell just short. In week three, I broke my personal best of 4,400 words for 4,500 words. And then, in week 4, I decided that, as the whole month was just a fail, something good had to happen. The something good I picked was a 29-day win, so 50,000 words in 29 days rather than 30.
This meant that on the 29th I had to write 4700 words to achieve my goal. With ten minutes to spare, I made it. Still no 5,000 words, but 29 days equal my personal best time from 2012, so that’s still good. I’m sure I could have written the 5,000 words, but I needed a few extra minutes that the day simply didn’t have.
Oh well. Next year.
(My 18-year-old self who was extremely proud of the 2,800 words she wrote in one day during her very first NaNoWriMo is freaking out right now.)
Last year’s NaNoWriMo is still the worst year I’ve had, not counting 2013 when I didn’t win. I had so much trouble with my plot due to not planning properly. This year I was actually slightly further behind than last year, at one point, but it was easier to press on because I knew (more or less) where my plot was going. With no plot it’s a thousand times harder.
Be sure to check back next week as it’s time for Books Read in November. (I talked about myself far too much in this post, it’s time to talk about something else.)