NaNo-ers and non-NaNo-ers alike! A little something interesting went on during the month of November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month that I’d like to talk about now—from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. If you don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a month dedicated to writers all over the world who pledge to write 50,000 words from November 1st– November 30th (23:59 PM). And yes, many writers including me are writing up to those final seconds.
I had a lot of preconceived notions about NaNo before starting and I’d like to share what I thought was true after the 30 days, where I was proved wrong, surprised, frustrated and anything else in between.
So here goes, and I encourage other bloggers who participated in NaNo to answer the questions I have below and link back to my blog in their post. Make sure you leave a comment so I can find your post 🙂
All in all, it was tough. 30 days might seem like a long time to write 50,000 words, but not all is as it seems. It is a long time and it isn’t. I was lucky enough to finish my teaching contract October 30th and had 2+ months of vacation to write and travel. I wouldn’t have to teach—I would have all that time to write to my heart’s content! Look at all these people with full time jobs that are finishing. I could finish too, right?
How was NaNo for you? Was it what you expected or different than what you expected? How so?
NaNo was frustrating, like jam your finger on basketball pass frustrating. I wanted to travel and write simultaneously and making them both work is not as easy as it sounds. I was in Korea and Thailand for all of November and was in 5 different cities in Korea for the first 5 days on November (left on the 9th) and then 4 cities in Thailand spread between the last 21 days. It was a lot of travel and there were a lot of things I wanted to see. I thought travel and writing were very conducive to each other. Perhaps they are with more time, or for a particular type of writer, but for me it was really trying at times.
I definitely missed days. When you spend some days waking up at dawn to catch a flight to get on a bus that takes you to a port where you get on a boat that takes you to an island where you spend most of your time walking around, or taking a motorbike to where you’re staying, sometimes you just have to cut your losses. One day of no writing means 1,667 words to make up the next day. Two days of travel like that and you’re up to 3,333. The longer these spurts went the more I dreaded the make up. Longer writing days were not my favorite. Because that meant I was missing things that I wanted to see.
Where was the craziest place you wrote?
This isn’t that crazy but I remember writing on a bus going from Surat Thani airport to the ferry port in Thailand. It was early in the morning and I had the back seat to myself (for a little while), until they filled the bus moments later. I had my computer out and my hands were already flying so I didn’t stop. As we went along those bumpy roads, each of us flying from our seats until we slammed our heads on the low ceilings, I began to worry for my computer. Some of the compartments above us began leaking water and waking up some of the passengers. I was lucky enough to not be in one of the spots getting a shower. My precious computer was safe. I wrote like this for about 30 minutes until discomfort won over and I put my computer away.
What didn’t you like about Nano?
I actually have somewhat of a list for this one. Here goes:
- I felt rushed. Yes, I was unemployed but travel was my job of sorts and I just didn’t respond well to the 50,000 words in one-month thing.
- Sometimes I dreaded writing, and I have NEVER dreaded writing before. I think that was a clue to me that Nano might not be for me.
- Writing didn’t feel organic—this could again be due to the type of writer that I am or because I didn’t outline much beforehand. Because I didn’t outline or because I felt rushed or maybe because of the combination of the two I made some decisions about my novel on the fly a lot of times. This seemed okay at the time but looking back I think it affected too many things in the story after. I know, I know—it’s a rough draft. You can go back and change things. I guess I like to get as much as I can right the first time.
- I’m repeating myself but: writing while traveling. It takes a lot out of you. I also had to be decisive about what I wanted to do and had to say no a lot.
“Hey, do you want to go get an hour foot massage?”
That sounds amazing.
“No, I need to write.”
“How about do an add-on to your diving course and do some free dives?”
“Ah, I can’t. I already spent too much time diving today.”
“Grab beers after dinner?”
I could use a drink.
“Oh, umm. I honestly can’t. I’m behind in my writing.” And I can’t write well after drinking (even just a beer or two).
This may seem insignificant but it can be really difficult to balance both. Saying no to other travelers made me feel estranged and more distant in a lot of cases. I didn’t meet too many other NaNo-ers while backpacking around unfortunately. Other backpackers don’t fully understand the notion of, “no I can’t write tomorrow. I have to write today, and everyday, for the rest of my life! Oh, sorry no I meant just this month.”
What can you do? Choose less busy, and tamer hostels and get more peace and quiet but feel more alone, or meet more people at busier places and hang out some, but say no a lot?
- Yeah, still not done. On social media, people posting about their successes every five minutes. If this is your first time on my blog you might think that I sure don’t like a lot of things, but I gotta say what I gotta say. Why is it necessary to tell everyone about your successes? Yes, NaNo is a social thing and its great that writers encourage each other to keep writing but enough is enough people. Stop the ego stroking. If you love writing and you want to write every day, just do it. It’s not really necessary to give yourself a pat on the back after every 2,000 words. When you finish NaNo, or have sold books, let other people do the patting. I don’t know, maybe this is part of the way I raised, to not really give into the, attitude. Yes, encouragement is good. Yes, support is good, but there is a difference. I hope people take this in the vein that it is meant.
What did you like about NaNo?
- That I was writing everyday. That I had some goal to reach by the end of the month, and that if I was just sitting around doing nothing, I had words to write, dammit!
- That there is a community of people behind me. Regardless of what I said about “oversharers” (people who post all the time) earlier, I truly do think that people who participate in NaNo, or just writers in general, are so kind and helpful. They are exciting, creative people in my experience and I love when those kind of people get together and share ideas. There is a buzz about these experiences that makes me feel alive.
Was there anything that surprised you about NaNo?
I did not know that I’d be sitting on my butt for so long. Maybe all the chairs or things I found to sit on were just hard but my bum definitely noticed the difference. I actively had to search out places where I could prop my computer up chest height to stand and type but those places became harder and harder to find. So my bum suffered.
Was there anything unique about your Nano experience compared to others?
Maybe just the travel and writing part of it. It was lonelier that I could have imagined.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have outlined more. I would have had a much more detailed outlined I could refer to so that the chapters were easier to begin. I was almost a blank slate everyday and while this was good in some ways, it slowed me down in others.
I also would have done the travel thing again but instead of going to a bunch of different places, just stayed in one place—an island, a nice beach, some place where I could enjoy the outdoors and still write. And a writing buddy or two wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world.
Was there anything funny or interesting that happened during Nano?
People are really funny about word counts. Yes, they are important because when we try to pitch a book or self-publish, the length of our book matters, but I found that some writers, especially NaNo-ers are always putting a number on their work. I don’t really like to minimize it to a number. I will say I am more conscious of word counts now but I don’t really like talking about them. It cheapens it for me for some reason. Some conversations I had during Nano:
Them: How many words have you written?
Me: I think I’m on track as of now (not wanting to put a number on it).
Them: Oh, I’ve written (x) number of words (also on track, but ahead of schedule).
Me: Oh, that’s great!
Later, another writer and I ~
Me: How many words have you written? (Prematurely thinking this is how NaNo-ers interact with each other)
Them: Oh, I’m just doing it for myself (slightly defensive). I’m not keeping track.
Me: Oh, okay.
Did you complete your goal of 50,000 words?
YES! A few hours before midnight on the final day.
How did it feel? Was it all worth it?
Yes, I think in the end it was. I wrote some parts so quickly that I probably wouldn’t recognize them now and at the time of writing this, the novel is finished, so that is kind of cool. I don’t think I would have finished by now without NaNo. It felt really good to reach my goal.
Would you participate in NaNo again?
Hmm . . . maybe!
What advice do you have for people thinking about NaNo, or to other writers?
Do what works for you. Don’t feel bad or misplaced if you are the only one not participating in NaNo and everyone else is. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t force it. That goes for just about every aspect of writing too. Break rules and have fun!
Keep in mind this was my first time attempting NaNo. There are probably easier, better ways to write and I am by no means an expert. Just sharing what I found.
That’s all for now. Did you participate in NaNo this year or years past? I want to know what you thought of it. I’d love to hear your experience!
Add your link in my comment section and link me back to your page. Hope you enjoy!
Let’s connect! Add me as a buddy on nanowrimo.org @jobabraham or let me know your Nano handle in the comments!