Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I Learned From Writing a Novel in a Month

Yes, okay, so I started this blog with the intention of writing in it regularly.  And yet it's been a little over a month since my last entry.  Well ... for once, I actually have a good excuse!

I was writing!

See, I participated in this really neat thing called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, where you set out to write 50,000 words of a novel in ... yeah ... one month.  I decided to do it spontaneously during the (end of the) last week in October which only gave me a couple of days to prep for the writing. See, I've had an idea of a story bouncing around in my head since college, and every once in awhile I looked at it and even thought about writing it, but I always had some excuse not to do it.  Usually the excuse was just laziness, honestly.  And I decided ... it's about time.  Why not.  Luckily, my husband was supportive.

When you sign up for an account at the NaNoWriMo website, they give you this nifty graph that shows you how on track you are to finishing 50,000 words in a month by charting what it would look like if you did it at a steady pace.  Here's my final graph, which declares me to be a winner since I met the 50k word goal (yay!):

The graph is a little deceptive.  It looks like I had a pretty amazing beginning there (around day 3 or so) ... but really, at that point I missed a day and just cut and pasted in some text from bits that I wrote in college (under 3000 words, but still ... that's a good chunk).  So really I slacked off a bit.  And then just before Day 20 I hit writer's block and got tired of the story and kind of wanted to chuck it out the window.  But I sought out encouraging friends and thankfully my husband did his fair share too of reminding me that I'd come so far and not to give up at that point.  I was already half-way there!  So I chugged along and still had some writers block and lagged below that steady line ... but in the last two days, look at me go!  Ben and I were visiting my in laws at the time and thankfully they were understanding of me sitting down and writing for a few hours.  I'm lucky to have both a supportive husband and supportive in-laws!

All in all, I'm happy with how the month went.  It was a really interesting experiment in self-discipline.  Here are some things that I learned.

Lesson Learned 1) I really do enjoy writing and want to keep doing it.  At the back half of the month I was getting a little sick of the story, but what's the first thing I did after I finished my 50,000 words?  Printed it out.  (Shout out to my in-laws who offered up their printer & ink for that beast of a manuscript.)  And took a pen.  And started adding in details as I read through the first couple of pages.  What?!  I'm not totally sick of this story yet?!  That was very encouraging for me to know.

Lesson Learned 2)  If I want to be good at writing I have write the bad stuff.  I mean, I knew that beforehand.  I definitely read plenty of blog articles about it.  But I didn't know know it until doing NaNo this November, because I had always lacked the motivation to actually plod through the bad stuff.  But this time I did.  I wrote it!  The bad stuff! I wrote it because I knew it'd carry me through to some stuff that might actually be good.  And you know what, I don't know if any of those 50,000 words that I wrote are any good.  I still haven't let anyone else read it.  Not even my husband.  And I don't plan to any time soon.  I do have a plan to revise and edit this story, and after that, maybe I'll let people close to me read it.  And then I'll determine whether it's any good.  If it's not, that's okay, because I've got the experience under my belt and can make the next one that much better.

Lesson Learned 3)  It really, really feels good to follow through on doing something that I said I was going to do.  It's in my personality to have a burst of energy when I start projects, but then to lose my excitement and quit before I barely get started.  It's embarrassing to admit that in a public forum, but hey, it's who I am, and a lot of my thought journey lately has been on how to overcome that part of my personality so I can do some cool stuff.  Because it really, really feels good to do it.  And I'm so much more confident with myself, with my family, with the work that I do, whether professionally or personally.  And everyone knows that a confident, happy mom is a better mom.  So I think I like following through with things.  Well, I like how it feels after I've followed through with them at least, even though the back end has its rough spots.

Lesson Learned 4)  As much as it feels good to do stuff, through doing NaNo I'm reminded of exactly how little free time I have.  Being a stay at home mom isn't the vacation that I wanted to believe that it might possibly be before my son came into the world.  My husband had to watch him plenty of evenings when he didn't nap well during the day and I didn't get the chance to get my words in for NaNo.  (Did I mention yet that I have an awesome and supportive husband?)  To be able to do NaNo other things had to be put on hold.  Didn't do dishes as often.  (Hmm ... Maybe my husband would let me do this every month.  I hate dishes.)  I also didn't make as many plans with friends because I knew that it would be too much on my plate.  Time is a precious resource.  Throughout the month I did quite a bit of reflecting on my priorities, and that's a reflection that I'm sure I'll be thinking about often in the future.  Didn't exactly learn anything super new from NaNo about this, but it was definitely an experience that will color how I look at priorities in the future because of the time management that it required.

That's (almost) it for now.  Look!  I did more writing!  I just wrote 1,080 words!  Whoo hoo!  My writing muscles feel strong and happy now.  I wonder how long it's going to take for the excitement about "word count" to fade after NaNo.

Anyways, thanks for reading :-)

Talk with me!  What are your goals this month?  What do you have to sacrifice to get there?  When are you most motivated to keep your goals?  When you're unmotivated, how to you get yourself to actually do the things you said you'd do?  No, seriously, it would be really fun if you'd chat in comments or facebook.  I can see you just sitting there beyond your computer screen, reading this and being all like, "I'm not really going to answer your questions. I'm just going to swipe on to the bottom of this blog post ... and I'm probably just skimming right now anyway ... and I'm going to go read the next Facebook post on my screen."  Well, I got like 100 page views on a few past entries and what .. 1 or 2 comments?  If you're gonna spend 15 minutes of your life reading this blog entry you might as well talk to me about it :D  YEAH!!!  do it.  COMMENT!!!  you know you want to!!! </pressure> if you do comment and blog leave a link to your blog in the comments too!

#engage with me
#no really engage
#but it's okay if you don't
#no pressure
#writing high at bedtime oops


  1. In my opinion people are always harder on themselves then others, I know I am. Wouldn't the public determine whether or not your "stuff" is good, like a critic for a movie? It's 5:30 on a Sunday morning and I can't sleep. I think about work all the time and ways of being better at what I do, want to be the best at what I do. Working is not a sacrifice because it needs to be done in order to survive. I feel I'm not sacrificing anything because the bills need to be paid. I'm most motivated early in the morning. I run out of mojo around 2-3 pm when I know the dog needs a walk. Iv'e been sitting at a computer all day and need to walk as well but not really up to it. What do I do................?? I just do it, I don't procrastinate (much), just hook the dog up, walk out the door and down the street to pick up my neighbor's dog, hook her up and I'm on my way. It's always a struggle the first 10 minutes but I just do it because I know how good I'll feel after the walk. That's the reward, feeling good. I've practiced this attitude my whole adult the things not so fun early in the day then I can play for the remainder of the day.

  2. Angelita, yes that is so true about people being harder on themselves than others! I've also noted that sometimes, the harder people are on themselves, the harder they are on the people closest to them. So that gives me even more pressure to want to be kind to myself, so that I can be kind to the people I love the most! You have a great attitude. Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed reading it :)