This post, by Lea, originally appeared on the Hundreds of Characters blog on 12/5/11.
I have a really bad habit of forgetting about my blog, of writing few and far between. So I’m going to play catch-up: a couple different posts that I’ve been meaning to write but just never got around to. So I apologize for the slightly out-of-date nature of these couple blog posts, but hopefully the messages will still be relevant.
When I first decided to write this particular post, it was to be titled “Why I Didn’t Win NaNoWriMo, and Why That’s Okay.” Instead, it’s “Even Though I Won NaNoWriMo, It Would Have Been Okay If I Didn’t.” Let’s look at why.
At its heart, NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing a novel in thirty days. Be realistic. You’re not going to write a masterpiece in that long. Not to mention, NaNoWriMo has you write 50,000 words. While that’s an admirable feat, the only books that are 50k words long are MG, middle grade. Most teen fiction is at least 70k, and adult novels even longer. My manuscript, currently on its second draft, is just around 70k and, in my opinion, not long enough. But that’s another topic all together.
So if any of you think about participating in NaNo in another ten months, don’t go into it expecting to come out with a sell-able novel on the other side. What you can expect to come out with, though, is a renewed vigour in daily writing limits.
I know that this sort of thing has been talked about ad nauseam on other writing blogs: the topic of daily word goals, of setting word counts, of things to work towards. But bear with me as I briefly discuss my own experiences, and how my first time participating in NaNoWriMo actually made me feel more like a real writer than ever before.
I had heard, long before I took my first NaNo steps, that telling an agent that your book was written during NaNoWriMo was cause for an immediate dismissal. But I don’t think that has to be the case. What I found, with NaNo, was that I was given a deadline – and for me, that’s always a good motivator. I had thirty days to reach 50,000 words; I had thirty days to reach somewhere between a third and a half of my latest WIP. I started my WIP a couple weeks before November since I was so excited to start. I kept the 15k words I wrote in October on a separate Word document so that that count didn’t interfere with my NaNo count. And then I got writing.
It was fantastic to have a writing goal. I found time in the most unlikely of places to pull out my notebook and get writing. I had a forty-minute train ride from suburbia to work in downtown Toronto every day, and I came to relish those forty minutes as a pretty easy way to hit at least 1300 words. And I’d pull out my notebook again while doing an intern duty of covering reception or on lunch. I’d easily hit 1700, 2000 on those days. And at the end of the day, I’d come home and type out what I had handwritten over the course of the day. It gave me a chance to review what I had written, to make sure that everything flowed, and to do some very small edits.