What I Got Out of my First #NaNoWriMo Experience
I started prepping for my first National Novel Writing Month in mid-October by gathering research and summarizing my chapters and scenes. A little here, a little there, until I had a 38-page word doc outline to run with come November 1st.
I wanted to participate by the rules 100%:
- Writing Everyday
- Logging in and recording my progress
- Earning my badges for participation as I go
- Tweeting regularly on the #NaNoWriMo hashtag on Twitter @brookeewayne
- And keeping to the Nov 1st as word-one rule
In the end, it took me twenty-three days to write a 53,838-word novel, sticking to my outline about 95% of the time.
I found it difficult to get started even though I had everything in place. The words just wouldn’t flow at times as easily as I had hoped despite all the prepping I had done to keep that from happening.
LESSON LEARNED: That setback reinforced my belief that no matter what, no matter when, if the inspiration strikes and the words begin to flow, WRITE THEM DOWN! Don’t let the moment pass believing it will return when the ‘time is right’. It won’t.
The pressure of meeting a deadline of 50,000 words in 30 days wore on my nerves harder than I thought it would at first. As soon as I passed the 50K threshold, I could literally feel my shoulders relax when I was typing. Weird.
LESSON LEARNED: When I’m faced with publishing deadlines someday, I need to brace myself for the inevitable psyching-out that will occur. Cue husbandry duties of nightly back massages…happy wife-happy life.
When I rounded the halfway point, I found my stride.
LESSON LEARNED: Keep moving forward, fighting, clawing, and forcing the words out like you’re digging out of your own grave because you will break through.
I also fought the urge to go back and edit, delete, revamp, and mess with the story every step of the way. I even forced myself to wait until the end to run spell check. Yeah, that took a good twenty minutes of my life away.
LESSON LEARNED: I need to go back. I just do. I have to fuss with the way things are written a little before moving on. Not major editing, just, you know, getting that voice down that drives the story. Every word should matter, right? Not doing that along the way made moments of writing forward feel like I was walking on broken glass.
In the end, a story that had begun as an Adult Rom-Com spoof on an 80s throwback story pieced together from actual events in my HS days emerged as a viable YA novel that I am definitely going to polish after it marinades for a couple of months. And I will pitch it alongside the Adult MS I have out now still surviving in the trenches of querying-round-one.
Between now and the revision period, I’m continuing the practice of writing everyday–specifically, I am going to write a sequel to my queried MS. My “break” from writing yesterday that I allotted myself still yielded three sentences to that story already underway just to keep to my promise.
I am proud that I pushed myself to write a second full MS and even more proud that I wrote it through NaNoWriMo, challenging myself when life was ridiculously cluttered with progress reports, parent-teacher conferences, a sinus infection piggybacking the cough & cold flu, while others in my family were tossing their cookies with the stomach flu, and even adding an afterschool club I had decided to run two days a week.
Of all the lessons learned, I discovered I could handle a lot in a short amount of time without going completely crazy.
Writing a novel is like strapping yourself into the first cart on a roller coaster, knowing damn well what you’re getting yourself into, but screaming your head off anyway as you rise and fall, spin around, hold back the urge to puke, and finally squee with excitement from the thrill of it all.
Then, as soon as your ride’s over, you run *with arms flailing* and jump right back in line to do it again.
I’m once again returning to my work in progress. I’m revisiting the WIP outline to shake things up a bit (and what I mean by that is switch scenes around on my outline).
The plot has the potential to be a sequel or even a second in a series if I opt to highlight secondary characters instead of continue with the love story from my first novel, and I could even squeeze out the back story paragraph in the first chapter, change the names, alter the initial location a tad bit, and voilà, have myself another stand-alone project to work on. How I managed to pull off a secondary plot that is so flexible is beyond me, but I’ll own it because, shuh, it’s that unique. (Borrowing my MC’s voice ;-)) But no matter what I end up doing, I’m only making adjustments to notes.
Then I’m going to set it aside again. Yep, you heard me right.
Before I go all roller coaster on it, I am going to wait out the verdict on my first round of querying (ever!) that I began this weekend. I’m holding off doing any actual writing for the WIP in the event I land a fabulous agent, and that person has a vision I can share in for the future of my first novel that will impact what comes next, (see all the possibilities above). I’m flexible like that, and so is the novel’s concept.
With NaNoWriMo coming up in November, I’m then going to switch gears and start prepping for the event over the next six weeks. I’ll be reviewing and adding to my concept notes on a different novel I plan to write, which is intentionally designed to be the first in an adult contemporary series, and I’ll also begin building an outline for another novel I am aching to pen but is in another category (YA, R) other than my focus (Adult, CR). I’m leaning heavily on working with the Young Adult novel for NaNoWriMo because, in the end, it’ll need to be shorter in word count than my usual category, and it’ll definitely be a stand-alone, and, after completing it, I will be able to polish it quickly because it’s a much simpler plot than I’m used to constructing while the verdict is out on my first round of querying (and hopefully my only round).
Whether I go for the first in a series or the YA stand alone, I’m definitely mounting that roller coaster again and gearing up to squee as NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Who’s with me?