NaNoWriMo Update – Week 2

This week’s update is going to be a short one, mostly because I don’t have much ground to cover that I didn’t talk about last week.

First, I’d like to share my jubilation on yet another platform that holy shit I broke 20,000 words.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done 20k on a project, I’ll admit, but those other times were mostly fanfiction series or stabs at my opus that usually fizzled out shortly thereafter. This is the first time that I’ve looked at my word count and been seriously, incredibly proud of myself. And that’s less because of the milestone itself than the labor and preparation that went into it, as well as the fact that I’ve gotten this far and I still have the creative energy and a vision to keep going.

That is what’s new to me. That is what has me beyond pumped.

That said, I had a really bad day yesterday. I had some pretty severe pain in my right ear that turned out to be an infection that kept me fairly well distracted most of the day. Even after it subsided, I struggled hard with getting words out. After two and a half hours and a net word count of 580, I closed my laptop and went to sleep.

And you know what? I didn’t feel guilty about it.

Maybe a year ago or six months ago I would have tried to wring another thousand words out of the bone dry sponge that was my brain, but this time I looked at all the successes I’ve had in just two short weeks. I remembered just this past Saturday when I wrote 3800 without really even batting an eye. I told myself that even if I remain helplessly stuck in this scene, I have a 20 page outline I can fall back on to find a place where I can start fresh.

I tell you what, I slept like a baby.

Then, I woke up this morning, listened to some of my favorite podcasts, daydreamed about what it would be like to be a full-time writer one day, ate my breakfast sandwich, and got to work.

I think we all, at some point or another, forget that self-care has to be an integral part of our writing process. I know none of us want to burn ourselves out, or work ourselves into stress related illnesses. And so we have to allow ourselves the ability to say, “No, not today,” without getting down on ourselves about it.

It was a lesson I didn’t even realized I learned, but I am all the happier for it.

Until next week!

NaNoWriMo Update – Week 1

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had a hell of a week.

NaNo started this year on what I had previously considered a non-writing day. Wednesdays and Thursdays are the days that my kids spend at their dad’s, giving my partner and I some rare time alone. We try to spend that time on what we call “nerd dates” which really just translates to playing video games, table top games, or watching Star Trek in bed. In any case, that time is precious to me and is non-negotiable.

So, I did the math. If I wanted to take every Wednesday and Thursday off from writing, that meant there was only 21 writing days in November for me to achieve the 50k word goal. That translated to about 2500 a day. Steep, but, I thought, doable, especially if I snuck in writing during my work day on my non writing days, and did extra on the weekends.

I managed 1000 words on Thursday. Score! Ahead of the game! Friday I was determined to stay ahead and to get that 2500.

I did. But HOLY HELL was it exhausting. I spent four hours at my laptop in, what felt at the time, excruciating pain. Each sentence was a grind that made me want to throw up with how bad the words were. At 11 pm I finally closed the document, rolled over, and went to sleep.

It’s pretty much been lather, rinse, repeat since then. With poor mental health days, a sudden rash of cluster headaches, and the election, I didn’t have much energy for writing, nor did the process feel as joyous as I was hoping it would.

I am proud of myself for pushing myself and continuing to write every day, despite the struggles, and as of this writing, I’m only 400 words off the typical NaNo daily pace (aka 1667 words per day).

I’d heard that the second week of NaNoWriMo is when the most writers drop off as the elation of beginning has worn off and it has started to become a tiresome thing. But for me, I kind of feel like I’m experiencing the opposite effect.

It’s like… starting NaNo for me has been like starting to work out for the first time in a long time. When you first start the new routine, your body is sore for a while. It’s tiring, it’s painful, you’re out of practice and you’re asking why you’re even doing this to yourself. Is it really worth it?

But then, after the first couple of days the ache starts to subside. Or, maybe, the soreness even starts to feel good. The work out stops being something you dread and becomes just something you do. Eventually something you even look forward to.

I think we all tell ourselves that we must love writing, because otherwise why would we bother do something that is so taxing? But I think what is maybe more accurate is that we write because, for us, not writing just isn’t an option. It doesn’t always have to be an endeavor that we love. It can be something that we sometimes have to force ourselves to do. And that’s okay. It’s okay if you don’t love it all the time, or even most of the time. What matters is that you’re doing it at all.

So, yeah, I’m still tired. I’m still kinda looking at my penciled in writing time for this evening (after my partner goes to bed, nerd date is still on) and wondering how on earth am I supposed to eke out 1800 words. But, I’m dreading it less. I look forward to being able to really look forward to it.

Most importantly, I know that I can do it, even when there are tough days. And, really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

You’re Allowed to Suck

Happy Halloween all! Or, as many of us might think of it, NaNoWriMo Eve!

At this point I have to accept that I’ve done everything I can do. While my second draft of my outline is not yet complete, is full of holes and scene sequences that drag, the time has come to actually start the process. For better or worse.

Part of me is glad, because I definitely can see myself revising the outline until it has lost all meaning without ever actually doing the writing were it not for the pressure of NaNo. But, the part of me that wants perfection is screaming that I’m not ready, that anything born of this outline, this story, this idea is going to be completely dreadful, and why should I even bother trying if the end result is just a shitty book?

The thing I have to keep reminding myself, the thing I keep seeking out in advice columns, podcasts, pearls of wisdom on Twitter, the NaNo forums or elsewhere is… it’s okay to suck.

The first draft, ostensibly what most NaNoWriMo participants will be penning during November, is allowed to be awful. It’s not just permissible for it to be full of plot holes, extraneous fluff, and duller than dirt characters, it’s kind of… expected.

Personally, I can’t be told this enough. For me, the worst feeling in the world is being in the middle of a draft and realizing how terrible it is. In the past, it has been so easy to let that disappointment swallow up the creative motivation, of succumbing to that inner voice that is always asking, “What’s the point?”

So this time around, I’m doing everything I can to be mentally prepared.

It’s okay if I don’t have the best words. It’s okay if my sentence structure is sometimes a little wonky. It’s okay if I go way overboard on the adverbs. It’s okay if my chapter breaks feel awkward.

It’s okay if there are boring parts, and it’s okay if there are sections that are way too busy.

It’s okay if a character is under utilized. It’s okay if another one’s motivations don’t make perfect sense yet.

Say it with me everyone:

It’s okay for the first draft to suck.

The whole purpose of this month is to get it done.

As Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo said, “You can edit a terrible book into a great book, but you can’t edit a blank page into anything but a blank page.”

Good luck everyone!