This year I became one amongst the many people around the world who participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have undertaken this challenge a couple of times in the past; the first time a success, the other a complete failure, so even though I came to it this time around with an open mind, I was determined to see it through to the end.
It’s been an intense number of weeks; however, there were three things that I learned about myself throughout the whole experience that surprised me.
During NaNoWriMo this year, I thought I’d try something completely different and write in a genre that I’ve never written before. Admittedly, the idea had been tinkling in the back of my mind for a few years, and despite certain aspects that remain fuzzy, I wanted to give it a go. I worked with a very basic outline; I knew my beginning and my end and one of my main characters remained very elusive (but then he’s supposed to be), but on the whole I let my characters ‘speak’ for themselves. From doing this, events happened that I did not expect and minor characters began to reveal their own, unique personalities. By writing in a genre I have read, but never written, I gave my ‘muse’ a free reign, which is just what NaNoWriMo is all about.
I’ve always been one of those people that are easily distracted, which is why, whenever I write, I need to work in silence. I flitter from one writing project or idea to the next, which might also explain why I generally write in shorter forms. Therefore writing 50,000 words can be quite a challenge and yes, when I reached the half way point, I felt like throwing it all in; I didn’t like my beginning, my story was going nowhere and I was re-reading one of my favourite novels at the time in which to help me with my love scenes. At the midway point, panic had well and truly dug itself in. But when I stopped to really think about my story, about my vague plot outline in order to keep going, I thought I’d focus on my strengths and began writing those scenes I knew I could write. I began writing scenes that I could clearly ‘see’ in my minds’ eye, including the very last scene where I got to write ‘The End’. Sure, my NaNoWriMo novel is now a complete mess, but it allowed me to focus on the task.
I have to admit that during NaNoWriMo I did not write every day and do the recommended daily quota. I took weekends off to spend time with family and the odd day here and there between writing sessions. When I did write, though, I made sure I wrote enough to make up for lost time in order to meet the 50,000 word limit. There were days when I wrote up to 2,500 words and decided to push myself even further the next session; 3,000 words then became 4,000 words per day, until with 10,000 words left to write, I accomplished that in two days. I wrote 5,000 words each for two days, which has become my personal best. I kept telling myself that if I could write more words for the day, then I probably should – I pushed myself outside of my own comfort zone.
When participating in a challenge like NaNoWriMo, you can often surprise yourself with what you are really capable of. Writing a novel from scratch is certainly not as easy as it looks; it takes time, patience and an awful lot of hard work and determination. Whether you reached the 5,000 word limit or not, every word you’ve written is a step closer towards your goal; after all as the saying goes ‘you can’t fix a blank page’.
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Did you make it to the ‘finish line’? In what ways do you push the boundaries with your own writing? What have you found works best for you?
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