NaNoWriMo 2016

This year I participated, and won NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know about Nano, the idea is that people sit down during November and write 50,000 words. That’s 1667 words per day, every day, for 30 days. Phew.Early

I’ve tried to do Nano many times and always failed. I had excuses- too busy with work, the holidays, travel for the holidays, work around the holidays included 12 and 16 hours shifts. All of that is true, and it makes it really really hard to sit down and write, let alone creatively write on any of those days. In fact, sometimes all I wanted after those hard and horrible work days was to plunk my butt down in front of the TV and vegetate. Frankly, in the past that is what I did.img_20161129_185013

So what was different this year? Well first I decided to write everything by hand- pencil, pen and paper. Second, I don’t have the same job I used to have- my schedule is still chaotic but I carved out time every day to write. Third, On days I had more time, I wrote more. I padded my numbers when I could. I had several days where I wrote between 2000 and 3000 words.  Finally, I decided I was going to win.img_20161120_174950

Let’s address these points one by one, writing by hand is not easy but it offers a tactile experience which I think I crave when drafting a piece of writing. I’ve almost always written drafts of my blog posts, papers, and other writing with pencil, pen, and paper. This is what feels natural and works for me. Even this post has the bones of it written in my pocket notebook. Not the full post, but the ideas I’m hitting, pencil and pocket notebook. After I get the idea drafted I then type it up, mostly without looking at the paper draft. Occasionally I’ll reference it as I write, but especially for shorter pieces like this, I find no need to refer back to the notebook. I’m sure that if and when I type the novel, I’ll be referring to the notebook more often. Or I’ll go through and make an outline of the major chapters and events and work off that.

The work schedule is still chaotic, but it’s much more of a managed chaos. Further my commute home is not panic inducing- I don’t have to be on a congested highway, often I can drive through beautiful rural scenery, so it’s actually relaxing. Oddly enough, my schedule this year included a lot of travel in November for family events and killed those days for writing. I also had to work extended hours the week of turkey day to meet my hourly requirements. So my actual work days were all over the place and the hours worked extended more so than in October. Nothing like the 12 to 16 hours days I worked 10 years ago, but not far from it. Combine the more regular hours with a shorter commute and I suddenly have an extra hour a day.img_20161116_231854

When I had time I wrote more. If I found I had a spare 10 or 15 minutes, I scrawled down 100 words, or even a sentence. 10 to 15 minutes here and there add up to an hour over the course of a day. I had several days where I wrote 2000 to 3000 words and a few days where I wrote more than 3000 words. This was key to success. I had 2 days where I was sick and literally got down only 180 words each of those days. Also on the days where I was traveling, I had only 900 words or so. Being able to write more on days where I had the time was crucial.

Last, I decided I was going to win. In years past I had already decided before I had failed that I was going to fail. I am horrible at month long daily challenges. I failed at NaNoJoMo (November is National Journaling Month) and every other monthly challenge I’ve tried. This isn’t hyperbole, I cannot commit to doing something everyday. I just can’t. You might say, “But, Less, you JUST did!” The thing is I didn’t. I setup my Nano so that I wouldn’t have to write every day. I made sure I had WAY more words in the beginning to give myself extra words so that I wouldn’t have to write on days if I didn’t feel like it. And on those days (2 of them) I wrote exactly one page. I forced myself to do so, even though I hated it whole I did it, and grumbled the whole time. But I decided that I would win and DAMN IT I was gonna win.

So what did I learn from this experience? First off, I CAN write 50,000 words in a month. Writing 50,000 words in a month is hard damn work. Not only is it hard work, but it’s physically demanding work. I wrote over 3000 words 2 days in a row and then had to fill out several 10 page assessments at work, my wrist is still in pain, in fact I had to do several smaller days and take frequent breaks after that, simply to rest my wrist. Because carpal tunnel and inflamed shit in your wrists and hands hurts like whoa! Especially WHOA when you are writing more than usual.  I learned that I cannot do 2000- 3000 words a day on the regular, but I can do less than a 1000.

The experience has shown me that despite my misgivings I CAN do a daily challenge so long as I pad my results so I can take days where I work less than others. I write a lot pretty regularly. Generally I write quite a bit for the blog, and discard it, at one point I was probably producing 1500 words a day for this blog, and never publishing them. I have FILES AND FILES of blogs posts that never developed past an idea. I’ve got notebooks full of idea seeds that never germinated. But this month I pushed out a 50,040 word draft that can use another 100,000 words to complete and be a finished novel. Frankly thought what I’ve written thus far needs a lot of work, it is a first draft of something that COULD be more. That is huge for my writterly self esteem.

Frankly I think when you boil the experience of NaNoWriMo down to it’s core, it’s all about gaining self esteem as a writer. Sure it’s been said (over and over) that to write a good book you need to write a lot, everyday and fail at writing until finally you figure out what you are doing. And by gosh, I think I’m getting it now. Maybe I have a long ways to go before I’m not just a blogging hack, but hey, I’m on that road now.

  • Natalie Englund

    Congrats!🎉 I’ve done NANO a few times. I know how hard it can be. That’s great 😁 that you figured out what worked for you for you to succeed. Let us know if/when you decide to publish your story!

    • lessherger

      Oh man, it’s so very rough. I need to figure out the ending, and I need to add in another 50,000 words or so to finsih the story. Then editing… Oh boy, it need the edits.

      • Natalie Englund

        Ah, but you’ve finished the first 50K. That’s an accomplishment. Are you a plotter, a panster, or somewhere in between? If you’re a panster, I would suggest just pushing through and getting it done-then set it aside for 2-to-4months. If you’re a plotter or somewhere between the two, I’d suggest setting it aside for 2-to-4 months and immediately starting something else right now. You’ll capitalize on the writing momentum that you have now-starting a new manuscript, and have fresh eyes later when you look at your NANO manuscript. Not that you asked for my advice 😉, just offering things that I’ve noticed from my and other friends’ experiences. 😊

        • lessherger

          I pantsed this one. This is my 2nd novel, but first I’ve gotten this far on. The last one I outlined, and fizzled out. I’ve been thinking about pushing through and just finishing. I suspect I’ll take your advice.

          You might want to check out the group that I started on FB called Manuscripting- we talk about writing by hand. Supper supportive, we could always use more writers in the group.

          • Natalie Englund

            I’m going to check that out now. It would be great 👍🏾 to have more writers/creative types to bounce things off of.

  • Congrats on 50K, Less! I did Camp Nano this summer and Nano last year and this year – but seriously haven’t reached 20K works any of those months! Still, I enjoyed all of it and will definitely participate again. It is so much fun!

    • lessherger

      Thanks Tammy! It is so much fun! I look forward to CampNano this summer. I tried that last summer and failed… I think I got maybe 5000 words, if that. Over the holiday break I’m taking my “book” with me and I’m starting to type it up and the first editing pass, then I’ll finish writing it. I have a good idea of what is going to happen next.