I had hoped to start a winning streak. After experiencing the joy, the relief, and the satisfaction of winning NaNoWriMo last year, I was hopeful I could do it two years in a row. But I didn’t even come close.
I started out strong the first week. I was committed to making time for multiple writing sessions to write 1,667 (and often more) words each day. I started to struggle around the 18,000 word mark. I got through the excitement of the first few chapter and found myself unable to determine what happened next. I had a rough idea, I had an overall outline but it wasn’t enough. I had hoped the plot would come to me as I wrote, that I’d be able to write my way through the mushy middle of the story. But I was stuck.
I felt my trouble was that I didn’t know my characters well enough yet. How could I know where the story was going without truly knowing who my characters were at their core? So I started on a blank page and started writing journal-style from the points of view of my different characters. I got a few thousand more words out of that and got to know them a bit better in the process. But I still didn’t know how my characters were getting to where I saw the story ending. And that’s when I knew I wasn’t going to reach 50,000 words this year. Instead, I made it about halfway to the goal.
Looking back at last year’s Nano, where I broke the rules by writing a work-in-progress rather than starting a new story from scratch, it was much easier to get to those 50,000 words because I was so familiar with my characters and their stories. Those characters have been with me for years, from their humble beginnings in a short story I wrote in a writing workshop years ago. My characters for this year’s Nano are still new to me. They are like new friends I am still getting to know. I haven’t given up on them, or their story. I just need to spend some time with them, and get to know them a little better before I can tell the story.
Though I didn’t “win” NanoWriMo this year, I don’t consider it a failure. NaNo provided the push I needed to experiment with this story that’s been floating around in my imagination for a while.
And it has given me the motivation to treat every month as if it is National Novel Writing Month. While I often find 1,667 words a difficult daily goal to maintain, I will set a more achievable daily word goal for myself. Let the spirit of NaNoWriMo live on!
Congratulations to those who crossed the 50,000 word finish line, and good luck to you in your editing endeavors in December for National Novel Editing Month!