Friday, November 29, 2013

Guest Post by Kristen Strassel: Standing on the Sidelines During NaNoWriMo

I didn’t Nano. But I still learned something standing on the sidelines.
Hi, everyone!  I’m Kristen and I’m stepping in for Andrea for a couple of posts.  This site offers such good, real, in the trenches advice and I hope you’ll all get something out of what I have to say! I’m currently writing my third book in a series, and I’m always amazed how no three books are ever alike. Even if I wrote all three of them.
Sometime around mid-October, I could feel the anticipation and anxiety level of my writing friends rise. It was time to hunker down and get ready for Nanowrimo.
I never had any intentions of participating. I was already ankle deep into my current manuscript. I was under the impression that all Nano projects had to be started from scratch, even though I did see a few authors use it to accelerate what they were working on. Plus, I know myself. As much as I fantasize about 50,000 words in a month, that’s what it is for me. A fantasy.  I edit a lot as I write, I need time to visualize my next scene. While I have a number I like to hit each time I sit down to write, I knew all those added up over the month of November would never equal 50,000.  
For me, I knew stressing over a number would make my writing suffer. But I decided to keep track of what I did for the month anyway, just to see how I stacked up.  I found out that numbers do matter. I still wanted to keep up with the Joneses. There were days I could have pushed off writing that I sat down and cranked out a couple thousand words.  So far this month, I’ve hit about 25,000. Having a monthly goal in addition to a daily goal for me did make a difference. 
So many people woke up in the middle of the night to write, worked tirelessly on their manuscripts on their days off, and made those words happen!  That’s amazing. But watching some of the extreme things writers did to get those words reminded me of a crash diet. Sure, they’ll get 50,000 words in November, but what’s going to happen in December? That’s a tough pace to keep up forever. Like dieting, everything in moderation works for me.  I know I can commit to 1500 to 2000 words a day, minimum. Life doesn’t let me write every day, but I have to write every day life lets me. 
During Nano, you are instructed to go forward and create words. Don’t look back. I saw one author won Nano while still calling a character “Name?” That gave me a panic attack!  Before I write a manuscript with new characters, I need to draw up a character profile. When I sit down each day to write, to get into the mood, I review my last session. These are things that work for me. I’m not willing to give them up and that’s okay. We’re all different. As long as each one of us eventually types “the end,” we’re all doing it right. 

I’m so impressed with everyone who’s hitting that 50,000 word mark.  Finishing anything you set out to do is a huge accomplishment.  Even if you don’t “win,” if you love your project and got anything out of National Novel Writing Month, you still “won” as far as I’m concerned. 

Want more of Kristen? You can check out her book, BECAUSE THE NIGHT, right over here and follow her on Twitter for extra awesome! 

1 secret replies:

  1. Great post. I tried Nanowrimo once and I hated it because like you, I need time while writing. Thinking things through, deciding I don't like the way the story is going and needs changing before writing on, etc. This year I wanted to do something in the spirit of Nanowrimo without actually participating, so a writing friend and I set a goal of 22,500 words, which is an average of 750 words a day. I was on track for the first half of the month, but I wasn't enjoying my writing. I was just writing to get the words down and I hated it. Meanwhile, my recently "finished" novel kept distracting me... I've been querying agents with it, but no luck so far, and then last week I suddenly had a brainwave which could make it much more marketable, without compromising the story itself.
    Anyway... long story short, Nanowrimo, even with less than half the number of words, just isn't for me. It's not how I work, plus my busy dayjob makes writing 50K words in a month impossible. It's a good skill to have, being able to sit down and just write, but I need more than just wordcount to stay motivated.