Reflections on NaNoWriMo

Whew! I got my 50, 620 words submitted to NaNoWriMo and validated at 11:59 on 11/30/14 – just seconds before the deadline!! But, I wasn’t done with the story. So, three days later, still working at the pace I had set for myself during November, I was able to put a nice big check mark next to number 1 on my To Do List: Get that novel done!

Yes, folks, Rushing Silence is officially complete. It ended up with 30 chapters and 55, 527 words. That is approximately 155 pages of normal margin Word Doc formatting. Not too big a book, but I feel the story is complete. Although, I am sure I can always flesh it out more, and, indeed, plan to do so before ‘officially’ publishing it.

My thoughts on the NaNoWriMo experience:

1. Not as hard as I had convinced myself it would be.

I had almost talked myself out of participating, mostly because I thought there would be no way I could make enough time to get my word count done for each day. But, with the encouragement of my writers group – THANK YOU, THISTLES!!! – I decided to give it a go. I am SO glad that I did. I found that long baths in the evenings were my best place and time to write. I once got so in the groove of writing that I had to heat up my bath water TWICE before I would concede that maybe, just maybe, I should stop writing and shower off.

My lunch break at work was another golden opportunity to get words out. I would average 600-1000 words in a single 1-hour lunch break, depending on how into the scene I was or if I had to stop to do some fact-checking.

2. A lot more fun than I expected.

When I wrote my first book, Indiscriminate, I labored over every scene. I delved deep into personality quizzes and profiles to thoroughly shape each and every character’s personality. It took me four years and five drafts – some drastically different than the original and the final versions – before I thought it was decent enough to self-publish. Not that taking time like this is a bad thing, but there is something about just diving in and discovering the character’s personalities along the way that was like getting to know real people in a natural relational way. I thought I knew my characters fairly well at the start, but now they continued to surprise me, growing and fleshing out as real people along their journeys.

3. I work better with a deadline.

It’s true! I think most people will say the same thing, as being held accountable is a great motivator for meeting a goal. If you don’t ever participate in NaNoWriMo itself, I would still wholeheartedly recommend having a daily word goal and a definite end date for whatever project you work on. It also helps to share those goals and deadlines with as many people as who will listen – they will hold you to your word and encourage you when you want to give up. (Thank you again, my fellow Thistles!)

4. Sometimes what I ‘vomited’ out was actually better than what I could have carefully crafted. And it’s all God’s doing.

I prayed before each writing session for God to give me the words to tell this story in a way that glorified Him. And then I just went for it. For those of you who caught it, there was a reference to the movie The Princess Bride in my book. I love that movie beyond words. And, since we’re all such good friends by now, I’ll let you in on a little secret – call it a glimpse into the strange lands inside my head: My prayer was usually worded as “Thank you for this day and for this opportunity to write again. Please, Lord, guide my sword. Amen.”

“Guide my sword” was my code for “Give me the words to tell your story.” Again, a reference to that movie. Just thought I would share 🙂

Occasionally I would hesitate and try to force an image or turn of phrase, but it never turned out as well as when I would just stop and say, “Okay, God, what am I supposed to say here?” And whatever popped into my mind then is what I slapped down on the page. And you know what? It was always infinitely better.

5. It forces you learn to roll with the punches.

I started November with a nice, nearly complete chapter-by-chapter outline, which I had written by mid-October. And while I used this outline as a frame to hang my story on, new characters, places, scenes and plot elements I hadn’t known would show up showed up, and I had to do something with them. Sometimes a plot point wouldn’t work like I had planned, and I had to either abandon it completely, or create one of the aforementioned surprise guests to make it work.

This was something I was and wasn’t used to. It was, in the sense that any time you write a story, new elements will introduce themselves as you go along. It wasn’t, in the sense that I had never worked from a full outline like the one I had before, and thought that all of those surprises were worked out in the outline phase. Wow, how wrong I was. But now I know that it pays to just make a decision and roll on, rather than spending too much time deliberating and ‘over-thinking it,’ because that can simply bog you down to the point of immobility – not something you can afford during NaNoWriMo.

6. I hate saying “NaNoWriMo.”

Seriously, I love the challenge and I know that the abbreviation is better than saying the whole thing every time you talk about your novel and why you have no time to talk about your novel the way you’d like during this uber-crazy phenomenon in which you are taking part, but I started to cringe every time someone asked me why I was writing away like a lunatic. Na.No.Wri.Mo. I’m sorry, but that is an annoying word. I guess I’ll just have to start calling it something else.

Like…

hmm…

…Wow, I guess all my creativity was depleted during NaNoWriMo. ARGHH!

Oh well, I’m sure I’m going to do it all again next year! 🙂

Thanks for sharing this roller coaster ride with me. It’s been fun, kids! Stay tuned for updates on the editing process for Rushing Silence, including when the final final product will be available from your local cyber mart. Cheers!

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