Debriefing NaNoWriMo 2011

1 Dec

I finished my NaNoWriMo novel with 56 words to spare at 11:20 EST on Sunday, November 27th.

It was a hard fought battle, but nowhere near the impossible nightmare I had imagined. So take heart, NaNoWriMo wannabes. This is definitely do-able. Like climbing a mountain. You only have to climb 1667 feet a day. That’s it. Don’t think about the enormity of what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s too scary. Just complete your daily word count and pour yourself a glass of wine. I would encourage anyone to try it.

Reaching my daily goal of 1667 words didn’t take as long as I thought. A couple of hours, tops. By mid month, it started to take longer. More hesitation at the keyboard, drumming up ways to lengthen the plot, more character development which had me staring off into space.

This process worked for two reasons.

1. Each morning  I could feel the collective weight of every one of those 1667 words. The weight didn’t lift until I got those words down. It was tempting to take a day off, but I didn’t dare. I knew I probably wouldn’t sleep under the burden of those 1667 words.

2. I didn’t spend all day writing. Like I said, usually a few hours. Sometimes when I know I have to write all day, doubt sets in. I panic. This way, once I had reached my word quota, I did something else. I went to work, walked the dogs, made dinner, visited friends, watched television. All the while, thinking about what came next in my story. I made sure that at the end of each day, I had a few ideas ready about what to write the next day.

This became crucial as the month wore on. My story was almost finished, and I’d only reached 35 K. I was rapidly running out of plot. This freaked me out a bit,  I don’t mind telling you. Most of my novels are between 70 and 90K.

I soldiered on, my anxiety growing. My biggest challenge during this experience was trying to figure out how to reach the 50K word count with an already finished skeleton of plot. So I gave the baby colic. I fired one of my characters from her job. Then re-hired her — it was a simple misunderstanding. I lengthened the love scenes. I lengthened the arguments. I wreaked havoc at my character’s son’s wedding by making the flowers pop off the boutonnieres and having the bakery add a thousand silver bullet candies to the cake by mistake.  (True stories, both of them.)

My safety net was 50 pages of previously written draft. Yeah, 12,500 extra words in case I had a bad day, or I got run over by a bus and needed to spend the night in a hospital. I know, technically that’s cheating, but thankfully nobody showed up at my door from the NaNoWriMo executive to yank me out of the competition. I didn’t want to use these pages until the end of the month.

I didn’t participate in any of my local NaNoWriMo events. I have enough distractions to keep me away from the keyboard, I certainly didn’t need anymore. But it was nice knowing there were other writers in my city who were trying to accomplish the same thing as me. Misery loves company.

On a larger scale, it was comforting to know there were thousands of other writers across the continent who were fighting the same war. I could almost hear their collective sighs and groans after a particularly grueling session.

I occasionally visited the NaNoWriMo forums, to lament or ask for advice. Somebody always responded.

But I especially appreciated all the good wishes and crossed fingers from my fellow twits and blogging buddies. Believe me, it made a difference. So thanks for your support and virtual cheerleading!

4 Responses to “Debriefing NaNoWriMo 2011”

  1. Selena Robins Musings December 1, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Congratulations, Nancy! So proud of you. I can’t wait to read this book.

  2. 4amWriter December 3, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    Congratulations for making it to the finish line! It’s always so much sweeter when you have that worry that you might not make it, and you show yourself that you are capable of doing more than you thought possible.

    Great job!!

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