National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) ended last night, on 30 November. As I wrote at the end of October, I was expecting to find the goal of writing 50,000 words of fiction in one month a tall order.
The first week was very encouraging, with my daily word count suggesting I would surpass 50,000 words before the month was out. Then it all went pear-shaped.
After that first week, I struggled to get anything written. Days passed when I added nothing at all to my novel. On the better days, it was often a battle to get even a few hundred words down. My motivation had disappeared. The story no longer inspired me and I questioned why I was trying to achieve 50,000 words in such a short space of time. My writing limped towards the end of the month, stopping for long rests between forced phases of effort, ending up yesterday at just over halfway to the goal.
On the down side, by the end of November I had failed to achieve the required word count and had lost interest in what I was writing about. On the days when I failed to write, or made myself write merely for the sake of boosting the word count, I was left feeling despondent.
On the up side, I have now written 26,075 words of fiction I wouldn’t have written if it hadn’t been for NaNoWriMo. Even if I never add anything more to the story, I consider those words to have been valuable writing practice.
The other up side, and the best thing about this project for me, was meeting and corresponding with a writing buddy who was undertaking the same challenge. Unlike me, she did achieve the full word count in the allotted time. Despite this not being my success, I feel delighted for her and inspired by her persistence and dedication. She reckons she’s between half and two thirds of the way through her novel and intends to keep on writing daily until the end of December, by which time she hopes to have finished the first draft.
Looking back over the past month, if I wasn’t writing every day, what was I doing? The answer to that question is more obvious to me now than it would usually have been in any other month. During NaNoWriMo I was always thinking about when I would next sit down and write, which made me more aware of how I was spending my time. I discovered that much of what I do on an average day is incompatible with writing. Preparing meals, general housekeeping and, most enjoyably, reading, are all things I do on a daily basis that take up time I might otherwise spend on writing.
As my writing buddy pointed out, it’s a question of balance. During NaNoWriMo she noticed that in making time to write every day she had to sacrifice other things. I remember several occasions when I sat down to write, usually straight after lunch, when I decided against doing it because what I really wanted to do was read. Once or twice I ignored this urge and made myself write, but more often than not I chose reading over writing. Mornings are nearly always my busiest time of day, and by early afternoon the prospect of relaxing with a good book is often too tempting to resist. I don’t feel bad about this because regular reading of other people’s work helps me to recognise and appreciate good writing, which I think is helpful for my own writing. Also, relaxation is a key ingredient for a happy life, and reading is something I find particularly relaxing.
To conclude, I failed to complete NaNoWriMo, but I think I learned some important lessons through taking it on. Congratulations to all of those who did succeed, I take my hat off to you.