Reflecting on NaNoWriMo

In my last post, I wrote about being a closet writer.

Maybe it’s because I have no fellow writers in my personal life to cheer me on or to whom I can be accountable to, but I’ve always had trouble staying motivated throughout a story and finishing what I started. That changed when I first participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

I’d found out about NaNoWriMo when I was in high school, but I was always so swamped with assignments, not to mention not serious enough about writing that I didn’t ever think about participating. I don’t know what changed, maybe I finally realized that if I don’t start writing these stories, I never will (and I’ll never put a dent in the millions of story ideas I have!) and so I signed up last October and started prepping.

Usually, I don’t put much thought into my stories. That sounds sloppy, but I mean that I may jot down a few notes as an outline, decide on the names of my characters, but that’s about it. The rest I usually let flow as it wants to. But I realized that this might not work out well when attempting to write 10,000 words within a month, I really wanted to succeed, so I decided I had to stop pantsing and be a planner.

It wasn’t easy overcoming the habit of working out the details before writing, and I wasn’t as thorough as many other participants who shared their process on Twitter, but I was trying. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun and definitely interesting to make a detailed outline, separate the plot points into chapters and everything else that came with preparing to write. It was even more fun socializing with other writers and participants on Twitter (I’d wager I spent more time tweeting with them than prepping,) see their process and get a look at how other writers plan their stories.

Turns out, all that planning worked like a charm, and I finished my first draft about two weeks into November. I guess fellow writers will know how it felt to write “The End” for the very first time, to feel the sense of pride and accomplishment at having finally finished a story (after over ten years of writing for me). I was giddy and excited and nervous, because while I’d managed to finish my first story ever, I didn’t know what to do with it (never finishing a story meant I’d never edited one either, so I was at a loss with how to begin) and I was not even close to the goal of 50K.

High as I was from finishing a first draft in two weeks, I decided I’d try for two novels in one month. I didn’t have as much time to plan this one, but as with most of my stories, they’re all written out in my head, so all I need to do is “just” write them down. But the lack of planning showed when, halfway through the story, my male protagonist suddenly had an older sister. I guess it’s a good thing that NaNoWriMo is about writing a first draft, not a good one 😛

All in all, NaNoWriMo 2014 was an experience that made me feel proud of myself as a writer for the first time, and of course, I decided that I’d participate in NaNoWriMo 2015 and come out with similar results. But that didn’t happen, for several reasons.

First of all, in 2014 I was still attending university. I was in my last year, so I only had two classes a week, which meant a lot of free time (including the two hours I spent in those classes not paying attention) to prep and write. I will also admit that, as there was no attendance list, I’d skip classes, especially in November, to write.

I started working full-time right after graduating early this year. It’s a desk job, so technically, I could sneak in a bit of writing here and there (case in point, I wrote part of this post at work) but actually, I was always way too busy or aware of people walking past my desk, to write comfortably. I remembered how much preparing my novel in advance helped to write it quickly last year, so I was going to spend all of October doing so.

The first problem was picking a story. I had several ideas that I liked, but in the end, I chose to write on a contemporary romance story, because it was easier and would require less research than writing a fantasy story. I was doing pretty well, but then I had to deal with an unexpected and devastating loss. I ended up not doing anything for two weeks, so I had to rely on the few notes I’d taken before.

Considering how bad the prepping phase went, I was actually surprised how well the first days went. I was on a roll, the words came easy and by the end of the first week, I was already at over 20,000 words and ahead of the target word count by five days. I figured, “hey, this is going really well, maybe I’ll cross over the 50K line after the second or the third week!”

But I forgot that being a university student in her last year and a full-time worker is a very different thing. I spend eight hours a day at the computer typing, and after a week of also spending my evenings and weekends in front of my computer at home, my eyes and head started hurting. The words wouldn’t flow naturally anymore, I lost motivation and after struggling for a couple of days, I realized that after spending so much time at a computer at work, the last thing I wanted to do was spend even more time looking at a bright screen at home, too. Around that time, I also got more assignments at work, which meant that I couldn’t secretly write during work hours without feeling bad. I had to set priorities, and since writing is still just a fun hobby to me and not something I do to get published someday, I ended up “quitting” NaNoWriMo after Day 12.

Do I regret it? Sure. It may not have been a difficult decision to make, but I still felt like I was giving up on myself, and that’s never a good feeling. Sometimes, I wish I’d held on and at least tried until the very end, but it was the best I could do at that time.

The good news is that I got about 80% through the story and the end is near. I’d had the ending planned out for a while, so once again, all I need to do is “just” put it into words and finish my fourth story. I haven’t written anything since quitting NaNoWriMo, but I won’t give up and I will get this story written soon!

I’m getting a bit less self-conscious with sharing my work these days and sometimes post a few lines of my novels on my Twitter account. I’ve been thinking about posting my stories online, either on FictionPress (a great site where a lot of my favorite stories are!) or on here. If the latter happens, I’ll be restricting access to those posts, because while my work probably isn’t worth it, I’m paranoid of people exploiting others as I’ve seen it happen many times. But I’ll have to figure that out first, not to mention edit those very rough first drafts, so who knows when that’ll happen? 😛

If you are interested in learning more about my writing projects, my two next posts will be about my NaNoWriMo projects from 2014 and 2015, as well as another WIP that I’ve been working on for a while. I’ll share those very amateurish covers that I made, as well as blurbs and maybe excerpts.

Hope to see you there!



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