Tuesday, December 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo Victory!


This is what success looks like. 
30 days, 50,413 words, and 3 bottles of wine later I have an almost-finished novel to my name. 


A toast to myself
On November 1st I took part in National Novel Writing Month and set the lofty goal of completing 50,000 words for my novel by the end of the month. It was my first attempt at NaNo, and I managed to pull it off. 

How did I do it?

Well, when all is said and done, 50,000 words is really not that much. It takes effort, focus, and discipline, but it is 100% doable. I've heard a lot of people complain about how challenging NaNo is for people who work full-time or are just plain busy. However, having completed it myself, I am struggling to understand their point of view. Let me break it down:


I managed to accomplish NaNo while:

-        working 40 hours a week (8:00-4:00, plus one 7-day work week, and three late nights until 9:30 pm)
-        going on one 2-night out-of-town business trips
-        hosting an enormous house party
-        making two weekend trips (Okayama and Hiroshima)
-        running 5K every non-rainy day
-        skyping with my family back home several times a week
-        keeping my one-a-week dinner date with the only two foreigners in my town
-        making a new friend and hanging out once a week
-        taking days off from writing
-        taking naps after work

So what's this myth of literary abandon? If I can still take naps and chill with my friends then it can't be all that intense, right? But you're probably wondering what I did give up to make NaNo happen, because, after all, if I was writing 50,000 words every month then I wouldn't need this event to motivate me. So here is a list of things forgone in order to accomplish NaNo:

-        sleeping in on the weekends (was up by 9:00 every morning, when I usually sleep in until noon)
-        blogging (I scheduled posts in advance during November)
-        writing long emails to my pen-pals (sorry guys!)
-        reading (I usually finish at least one book per month but not in November)!


So what does actually writing 50,000 words in one month look like? Here is my case:


Day
Date
Comments
Goals Words
Actual Words
Friday
1
work
1000
996
Saturday
2
work
1000
1011
Sunday
3
work
1000
0
Monday
4
no work!
4000
4591
Tuesday
5
no work!
4000
0
Wednesday
6
late night
500
2007
Thursday
7
work
1000
0
Friday
8
work
3000
2405
Saturday
9
Hiroshima
3000
2997
Sunday
10
Hiroshima
3000
0
Monday
11
work
1000
438
Tuesday
12
work
1000
2261
Wednesday
13
late night
500
959
Thursday
14
business trip
0
1620
Friday
15
business trip
0
0
Saturday
16
house party
1000
0
Sunday
17
no work!
4000
0
Monday
18
work
1000
1050
Tuesday
19
work
1000
2235
Wednesday
20
late night
500
1398
Thursday
21
work
1000
1042
Friday
22
work
1000
997
Saturday
23
Okayama
4000
8819
Sunday
24
Okayama
4000
1592
Monday
25
work
1000
1173
Tuesday
26
work
1000
4799
Wednesday
27
work
500
3210
Thursday
28
work
1000
3495
Friday
29
work
2000
1318
Saturday
30
no work!
3000
0





50000
50413


As you can see, there were quite a few days in which I intended to write and wrote nothing, while other days I wrote way over my goal. Also, you can see that my word count improved towards the end of the month, after I was able to overcome a few creative hurdles and get into writing mode. NaNo is really good training for people like me: people who call themselves "writers" but don't write regularly. NaNo forces you to write, and in my case, it forced me to really think about my novel, make a solid outline of the story, and prepare extensive to-do lists.  

Before this, I didn't know much about myself as a writer. Now, I have a much better understanding of my strengths and limitations. 

10 Lessons Learned
  1. If I don’t start writing before 9:00 pm, I probably won't get anything done. I previously I imagined myself to be some kind of night owl, and while the late hours tend to bring more poetic thoughts into my mind, those thoughts don't always make their way on to the paper at 1:00 am. 
  2. Two hours is as long as I can sit at a café before I need a break from the computer. Sometimes I just need to change tables or face a different direction. Sometimes I need to leave and walk around, but whatever it is, my internal clock says two hours. 
  3. I do my best writing after 5:00 pm, so working full-time from 8:00-4:00 is no excuse!
  4. In reality, even if I'm free all day, I can only write for a max of five hours. This is sad but true. I guess that kills my dream of being a professional writer. 
  5. Planning ahead and making outlines helps me stay on track,  especially when my creativity is drained. Daily to-do lists and outlines are a must for me!
  6. Write-in’s work! Instead of finding other people distracting, I find that they often help me focus.
  7. I don’t really need any background music.
  8. I prefer to keep a routine schedule but I need variation at least once a week. For example my Tuesday write-ins from 6:00-10:00 were something I looked forward to every week, and I knew I would get a lot doen, but on the weekends I liked to change my routine. 
  9. I focus better in public than at the home no matter how much of a (freezing) oasis my home is. For some reason, being out in public keeps my focus on the screen and stuck in my story. At home I get distracted by skype and social media. 
  10. I didn’t drink as much alcohol as I thought, and drinking doesn’t actually inspire me, help me focus, or make me a better writer.
So what is the status of my novel now? Well,  it is still a long way from completion. I  need to do a lot of research into the details, which means fact-checking and site-visits. I also need to embellish my writing. Just because I wrote 50,000 words does not mean they are all good. It will take a while for me to edit the story for overall quality. 
But I won't worry about any of that now. 

The point is that I am done!
Cheers to me!

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