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Saturday, December 17, 2011

NanoWrimo 2011 - Crossing the Finish Line

180x180 NaNoWriMo 2011

We blogged about six weeks ago, telling you about our NanoWrimo plans; how we were feeling, how we planned to get it done, how scared and excited we were. So, we thought we'd come back and tell you how it went.

Today is December 14th. Exactly fourteen days ago, I finished NaNoWriMo. My final count was somewhere around 53,000 words. For those of you keeping track, yes, I wrote over 50,000 words in a month. It was incredible and draining. It was inspiring and soul crushing. It was a million other emotions I can't put into words. How did I do it? I'm not sure. There were several days I was beyond exhausted and couldn't fathom writing another word. I'd look at my word count ticker and wonder how I was going to make it. However, I did. The day I reached my goal, I cried and danced with my husband. Why was it such an emotional journey? Well, let me tell you…

Writers are artists. Like painters, we have a blank canvas, a palette of paints, and a vision. For writers, we have a blank page, a brain full of words, and a vision. No matter the medium of art, we all have to figure out how to make our vision come to life. Writers are notorious for writing and deleting (or erasing, however one rolls) while letting self-doubt to slowly leak into our brains, making the entire process come to a screeching halt. This is why NaNoWriMo is so great. There is no time for self-doubt. There is no room for deleting or self-loathing. You just have to do it. That is the difference, in my opinion, that makes people successful in winning NaNo or not.

Look. We all have busy lives. We work, either in or out of the home, have families, have bills, commitments, etc. These are all valid excuses, but if the hearts desire isn't there, it won't happen. I will say that there were days, several of them, when I was so behind, I thought giving up was my only option. I listened to people say, "Oh…You've done so good no matter what!" But you know what? That wasn't good enough for me. It wasn't good enough because if I didn't finish, if I didn't push myself when I thought there was nothing left for me to give, I wouldn't have known my full potential. I wouldn't have learned what it meant to commit to characters so near and dear to me, and watch them come to life, in just thirty days time. I wouldn't have known the virtual hugs and hand-holding, the over abundance of encouragement and support, not just from my WBP girls, but from an enormous community of writers I've found on the same journey. We lifted each other up, carried one another through, and celebrated at the finish line. I have felt no greater feeling in my life since giving birth to my son. That is how powerful of an experience this was. Seeing the culmination of something you created come to life, seeing it breathe the air and see the light of day, was nothing short of absolute bliss.

Where do I go from here? Well, I go right back in and finish this sucker. NaNoWriMo may claim you can write a novel in a month, but I beg to differ. I think what you have at the end of the month is a novel missing words, lacking in structure and a overall mess. Does that mean it’s garbage? No. It just means it needs some TLC and that is where editing comes in. This is where I am right now and will be for the months ahead. Rome wasn’t built in a day, or a month, and neither was a well-rounded novel.

You hear that people? It may not be perfect, but it’s mine. Every word was from my heart and now, I’m going to make them look as beautiful as I know they can be, but for now, I’m just going to relish the fact I won NaNo. I won, one agonizing word at a time, and I feel pretty freakin good about that.

Sometimes, things seem insurmountable. Because of that, those very things are intimidating, which is often all it takes to make people shy away from attempting them.

NaNoWriMo was not one of those things for me.

Maybe it makes me cocky, but I knew I could do it; it was simply a matter of putting my mind to the task and, of course, focusing on a plot and set of characters I could really sink my teeth into.

What NaNo taught me was that, when I am focused, I can write quickly and cleanly. It taught me that, when I want it to be, my focus can be sharp as a razorblade. It taught me that I can think on my feet.

Because, you see, I NaNo’d in 16 days.

51000 words in 16 days.

Honestly, I look back and I don’t quite know how I did it. The month of November is a blur of words, cramped hands, turkey, and the general craziness that is life. I do know that I set stretch goals for myself, and when I met them, I didn’t allow myself to slow down. I wrote. And wrote.

And then? Yep. You guessed it: I wrote some more.

It was this insane thing; never had I written with such fervor in my life. There just wasn’t time to treat it any other way.

I began this novel on November 1st, and by about 11:45 on November 16th, I crossed the NaNo threshold and basically danced my way around my living room for about half an hour (to the sounds of Robyn, in case you were wondering). I couldn’t sleep; all I wanted to do was tweak and edit and add and then dance some more.

I think the most valuable thing I gleaned from NaNo came in the form of a reminder:

Writing is like air for me. I need it, and when I don’t have it, I become about as pleasant to be around as a teething toddler - petulant and whiny and generally grumpy. It’s like there’s a lifeline between my fingertips and the keyboard, and if I ignore it for any period of time, it begins to scratch and poke at me until I give it the attention it deserves. It reminded me of how badly I want to be an author.

And for that reminder, NaNoWriMo 2011 was worth every ounce of stress and every minute of missed sleep I sacrificed.

If I tell you a secret about my Nano experience, do you promisepromise, pinky swear, cross your heart and hope to die, that you won’t tell anyone? Crossies do NOT count.

Okay. Here’s my secret.

I went into Nano with no expectation of finishing. None. I even set up a list of reasons why I wouldn’t be able to finish. I was ready to fail.

I think, in some ways, I was looking to fail.

It’s amazing. When you are looking to fail, you will find a million different ways in which to fail to the epic degree. And guys, I found a boatload.

On day 3, I went back and read what I’d written. Consumed with how little it had in common with the story in my head, how downright terrible it was, I almost threw in the towel.


So, I took a few days off. And when I came back, I took everything I’d written so far, stuck it in another doc, and started again.

On day 10(ish), I realized that I was writing with no specific story in mind, just random bits that weren’t going to fit anywhere. I started to wonder why I was ‘wasting’ a month writing these bits, so I almost threw in the towel again.


I soldiered on, trying not to delete words, trying to get comfy with the idea of the (really) shitty first draft. I had my girls with me, cheering me on and sending me blog posts to give me perspective. Then, I decided to read The Hunger Games. And Catching Fire. And Mockingjay. And then I needed time to process the massive amount of amazing/heartbreaking/perfect/awful that I’d just read.

On day 26, I blogged. I had 33,000 words. I hadn’t written in four days. And I was right on the verge of fulfilling my initial expectation of not finishing. Some people were right there, about to finish. Some people had finished days ago. *looks up at Ang* And here I was, 17K words from the goal with five days. So, I’m sure you can guess, I almost threw in the towel again.


But, I had this vision that if I could just hit 40K, I could make it. I busted hump to hit 40K. Then busted hump some more. Then I verified my word count on the Nano site, only to realize I had lost over 1,000 words. So, I almost... whatever, you know what I almost.
In the two days that followed, I literally wrote like my fingers were on fire. Some of it is crap. Hell, most of it is crap. But, around 2:00 AM on 11/29, I hit 50,084 words. I won NanoWrimo.

I’m going to chime in with Mel here. 50K words and one month does not make a book. In fact, it makes one hell of a mess. But it gave me a really good start to my first novel, a story that has been through so many changes, it no longer resembles its initial idea in any way. A story that, over the course of twenty eight days and many, many cups of coffee, refused to let me give up on it.

What used to live only in my brain, now lives on a page. It’s full of plot holes and typos and things that will never see the light of day. Would I call it a book? Well no, but...


We did it! We all won NanoWrimo 2011! And it feels amazing. We want to say thank you to those that helped us achieve our goals; we couldn't have done it without you. Also, our congratulations go out to all of our fellow Nano-ers. Whether you hit 50,000 words or not, you are winners to us. Even if you opted not to Nano, because you were already in editing mode, or you knew this wasn't a process that would work for you, or because you realized that November is a cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs month to try and write a novel, we love you and think you're awesome.

What's next? Well, as our fellow writers know....

So we're editing. And writing. And drinking coffee. And we'll keep doing that, not because it's what we do, but because it's who we are.


LightStarDusting said...

You girls are all incredibly awesome! :)

Becci said...

You're awesome, Mer!! Thank you!