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The Problem with NaNoWriMo

Because I am a slave to trends and peer pressure, I decided to do the National Novel Writing Month in November. I thought that after writing Alliances, Empath, The Island, Conviction, Fusion, and bits and bobs of other books in the span of one year, I could totally do it again and finish Beginnings.

Hah.

I’m not sure what it was, be it a combination of quitting my day job and realizing the thing I used to count as play was now work, and having nothing to fill the play space or simply the fact that I didn’t want to write Beginnings AT ALL, I struggled. It was a pain in the ass even to sit still for five minutes and focus.

Suffice to say, I won’t win NaNo. I did get pretty close (as of writing this blog on Saturday afternoon, I got about 30k down on Beginnings) and it was good to cheer and join in with the rest of the group. But I don’t know if I’ll be doing NaNo again, unless I work on a book that I don’t have to publish or won’t publish for a long time.

The problem with NaNo (For me, your mileage may vary) is that it presumes you simply sit and WRITE and don’t edit. I’m not that kind of writer; I write something then come back and tweak it and then add on once I’ve got the running start. So it irked me when I’d write something and know I needed to fix it, but not wanting to fall backwards on the word count. Especially considering that I didn’t WANT to write this book.

Don’t get me wrong: Beginnings is going to be a fabulous book. It follows Lyssa’s journey from when Tauron kidnaps her until she graduates the Academy. It’s a fitting end to the series because we cover almost all of the parts of Lyssa’s past that the other four books gloss over. I know exactly what I want to write.

But the thing is, I mourned Razia for a few weeks after finishing Fusion. I feel like the series has already ended, and I’m antsy to move onto the next one. While I could, theoretically, end the series with Fusion, I made myself a pact to finish and release a book series by age 30. And dammit, I want to meet that goal with Beginnings.

The Big Picture

I don’t think my lack of focus is 100% due to the subject matter either, because I’ve been antsy while working on The Chasm (the sequel to The Island), too. What I think is that now that I am a full time writer (related: please buy my books), writing now falls under the “work” space in my brain that consulting used to occupy, instead of the “play” space. And that play space was now suddenly vacant of any sort of repeatable activity, other than writing more books. As much as I love writing, I can’t do it for 15 hours a day every day.

So I’ve taken up knitting as my new hobby. I like it because I can zone out and daydream, which is a super important part of my process, and one that I can’t do in front of a screen. So after a long day of writing, I’ll sit in front of the television and knit, and let my mind carry me away.

Back to the original point of this post, I do think that NaNo is a wonderful tool and community. I’m so happy that I took a chance and tried it out, and I’m even happier that I’ve discovered even more about my writing process, which is part of it, after all. At the very least, I was able to use it to write nearly half of the fifth Razia book, and I have to celebrate that considering how much I was fighting it. My end date for the first draft (and 65k-ish words) is 12/15, and I’m fairly sure I’ll get there by then.

To everyone who has won NaNo, or didn’t win, or will win tonight, Congrats! Tell me what you learned about your own writing process in the comments.

Published inWriting Woes
  • tentacle-pope of the world

    Great post! Learning about my process was the most important part for me too. I’ve always worked the way you describe — writing a bit, going back and fixing it, writing a bit more — and I was REALLY resistant to the idea of just writing a whole (awful, messy) first draft without tinkering as I wrote.

    But….

    It turned out that I LOVED just pouring out all the words without worrying about how good or bad the previous day’s work was. Now I think the process of editing as I went along was why it took me six years to finish each of my first two manuscripts! 🙂

    (SO envious, BTW, that you managed to finish a series by age 30, and kept your pact with yourself! I hoped I’d be a lot further along on my career by this point in my life — I’m 35 — so finding a way to work faster is really important to me…)

    • For me, I think, if I know the words before aren’t pointing me in the right direction, I have to remove them so I can readjust, so to speak. Even today, I had to take out 300 so I could write 1,000 more. It irks me, but I know it’s better to remove the words that aren’t working.

      I haven’t finished the series *yet*, but so far I’m on track. Good luck with yours, too!

  • Kirsty

    Knitting is the best hobby for zoning out! (I like to crochet, too)

    • I crocheted a LONG time ago, but I’m enjoying knitting for now. Once I can make something that isn’t lumpy…I’ll advance lol!

  • Becca

    I didn’t win either, but I have never written so much before! By aiming to just sit and write SOMETHING, I got out of my own way. Instead of editing everything ahead of time in my head, I just put the ideas on paper. It was such fun to sit down at the computer and let the story just… go. Also, having a set word count goal made me really extend the storyline that was in my head, and once I started, I couldn’t stop! 50,000 words used to seem like far too many words for my story idea, but after adding more depth and complexity and character development and details trying to meet it, I’m now fairly certain 50,000 won’t be enough when it’s all said and done.

    • And you know that I am DYYYYYYING to read it once it’s done! I’m so happy that you were inspired to sit and keep writing, because that’s what it’s all about. Good on ya and don’t stop ever!

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