Why I did NaNoWriMo and why I’d do it again

I have been trying to get back into writing regularly for some time. When I got pregnant with my son last year, I lost interest in writing. I will not go into all the reasons why here, but I ended up losing track of my writing goals, my purpose, and my writing achievements (however small they have been). I felt confused and bitter about not writing. I was jealous of others’ continued successes with writing while meanwhile I wrote nothing. I didn’t have the desire to write at all, and so I gave it up. Some people take a year off to write; I took a year off from writing. I recommend choosing the former over the latter.

In March, when my son was about three months old, I found some part-time childcare, and I tried writing again. But between all of the duties of new motherhood, my constant state of sleep deprivation and some other factors, it was not until July or August of this year that was I able to find the motivation, time, and inspiration required to write. Even though I was writing, I found it hard to focus and get into a routine after so much time away from it and so many new distractions. And– ugh! — I couldn’t remember how to spell, my typing was atrocious, and the writing itself — awful. Stamina in front of the computer was nonexistent. I would write 200 words and call it a day. I was hard on myself for these things, but I told myself to keep going. I knew that I needed practice, and lots of it.

That’s why I decided to try NaNoWriMo again this year. I suspected that because of my obligations as a parent and my ongoing struggle to get enough sleep every night, I might not succeed in reaching 50,000 words, and I didn’t. I’m O.K. with that. I wrote 31,328 words. That’s 124 double spaced pages.

I’m not saying that everything I wrote is good, or that the novel flows well from one page to the next. It’s not and it doesn’t. There are holes in the plot, there are sections I had trouble writing and so to keep the momentum up, I just skipped on to another section. But, for all the holes and disarray, I think there are sections in which the writing is decent. There’s a whole chapter that could, with some rewriting, stand on its own as a short story. And I was surprised to find that my scrap of an idea got me as far as it did. There is a framework there, if, someday, I want to flesh out my novel.

None of that matters though, not really. Maybe I will return to the novel in a few months to see what I can salvage from it. Or maybe not. The point for me was to see how much I could write and to get into a rhythm with my writing. I discovered, to my surprise, that I had more time to write than I had thought, and that to be more prolific than I have been I need to protect that time — fight the urge to schedule something in it, or do household chores, play around on Facebook or Twitter, etc. I suspect that is true for most people who think they don’t have time to write. You do have the time, but there’s a sacrifice involved. Only you can decide what you can sacrifice to make it happen.

I read a lot of blog posts this month, many of them by published authors, titled “Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo” or something similar. One of the reasons that came up a lot was that cramming 50,000 words that probably wouldn’t be any good into one month was not how authors of said posts write best. I get it. I would normally put myself in that category too.  I’m a slow writer and I like to consider my words and sentences carefully. But the experience of trying to get a story out, with less concern for quality  — a necessity due to the time constraints — was a good one. I recommend it, even if you think you are too slow of a writer, and you might find it frustrating.  I admit, I found it frustrating on some days. I admit, sometimes it made me want to scrap the novel. But some days I looked back over what I had written and was surprised by both the quantity and the quality. Sometimes a deadline/some pressure can make you better at being you.

A lot of the anti-NaNoWriMo camp seemed to focus on the success of what one might write in a month. How could it be any good? So demoralizing! Of course I was not planning to emerge at the end of November with a publishable novel in hand. I don’t think most people expect to do that. Regardless of quality, 50,000 words is not considered a novel in the publishing world anyway. A novel is a novel at 75,000 and up. What one might come out of November with, if one was of the mind to publish someday,  is an idea, a beginning, a start, or a framework. Novelists write and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite. And rewrite again.

Another frown aimed at NaNoWriMo-ers was that we just want to say we’ve written a novel. So? If writing 50,000 words (or however many) or saying “I’m writing a novel in a month” provides the confidence for someone who’s not published to continue writing, or make writing a regular part of their week again, or simply to feel inspired, isn’t that a good thing?

So there you are. Would I participate in NaNoWriMo again? Yes. Yes, I would. It’s not something I want to do every month, or, even every year. But I appreciated the clarity it brought to my writing routine, and I was wowed by being able to dream up a plot and characters and a little world so fast, and by how much of that little world I was able to put into words so quickly. If I want to get a first draft of something out in the future, I might use NaNoWriMo as a platform. If I’m struggling with my writing routine, I might do NaNoWriMo in the future to help settle into one. For now, I’m going to use my newfound writing time and speed as I return to some short pieces I’m looking to send out soon.

Goodbye, November. And thank you.

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3 thoughts on “Why I did NaNoWriMo and why I’d do it again

  1. I really liked this post. I think you summed up a lot of the benefits NaNoWriMo can offer. Mainly that it is a structure that allows writers to push themselves in a new way. Especially going into it with a hopeful and open mind, as it seems you did, is key.

    anyway, congrats on the words! :)

  2. Pingback: News flash: Momentum is important. « Fog City Writer

  3. Pingback: How to revise (I think), Part I « Fog City Writer

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