In the month of July, I signed up to Camp NaNoWriMo. My task? Finish my first draft.
I set a target of 30000 words. If I’d forced them out, it would have finished my draft. But disaster struck. I hit a wall with my plot. My ship beached itself. Something was missing.
As a result, I spent a lot of the month fiddling with early chapters and adding a new character. I only managed 14000 words this time, half of my goal!
I’ve discovered a few things about my writing process during NaNoWriMo. Things that have made me question the 50k challenge. Is it worth it?
I love the community, but hate the stress of word counts:
NaNoWriMo is great for getting the words out and to challenge yourself to write as quickly as possible. The community of writers is amazing. There are #’s on Twitter, #NaNoWriMo and #CampNaNoWriMo, and groups who complete word sprints together.
Three times I’ve participated now: Last November, I wrote 65000 words. In April, I set a 50k target. I fell a few hundred words short. In July, I set a lower target because I knew it was a busy month. I even had a detailed plan: Preparing for NaNo: Tips
Tip: start a timer for a 15 minute writing sprint and mute the noise at the end. You’ll just keep writing and forget about the time!
Did I meet my goal in July? No. Writing fast is stressful. Each NaNo, I’ve felt like I pushed myself too hard and rushed my writing without thinking it through. If I want to maintain quality, the best I can achieve is 1500 words in a 3 hour session. That brings me on to my next point…
My writing is better when I take my time:
Looking back at November and April’s work was an eye opener. Stilted dialogue, too many filler words, and far too much telling! (Mica’s Show vs. Tell series is an amazing guide!) My work wasn’t terrible. The essence of the story was there, but was it as good as July’s writing?
Not even close!
During my weekly short story blog posts, I’ve come to appreciate how much better my writing is when I write slowly and edit as I go. In July, I slowed down to 1500 words in a three hour session. My work was much higher quality than the 3000+ I wrote in November’s sessions!
Editing as I go is more efficient:
I didn’t edit a thing during NaNoWriMo November, or Camp in April. I just wrote. Now, I need to rewrite most of it anyway, so why not cut out the middle man and write slower, better, the first time around? I feel that, for me at least, this would streamline my drafting process, allow me to finish projects quicker, and get onto those other plot bunnies!
I set unrealistic targets:
I considered the
coconut circumstances of July carefully, but not carefully enough.
Birthdays, family visits, and a hospital appointment took time away from writing. Added to that, I got great news from the hospital: The lump in my brain is just a cyst, it won’t kill me! It’s been odd adjusting to my new found relief, and I’ve been slacking a bit since!
Anyway, when I set targets I’m pretty strict with them. I don’t plan for distractions, or time off. I need to be more realistic about how much I can write. 50000 words in a month is a huge commitment, better approached if you have lots of time!
Tip: Don’t overstretch yourself, or you’ll feel demoralised if you don’t meet your goal!
I may hang up my pants and become a plotter:
When I started Tales from Dragonspire, my plan was non-existent. My characters weren’t set in stone from day one: I added them as I wrote.
One thing that threw me off my stride this NaNo was the addition of new character, Nick. Nick is Arckia’s best friend, and he adds depth to the beginning of my story. Only issue is, I’d written the beginning without him back in November!
Because of Nick, I spent a lot of time planning new scenes for older chapters. I planned chapter one again. Then I tossed it. Repeat. Chapter one got three new plans and a complete rewrite in July! This cut into my writing time, and less words were written.
I didn’t finish my first draft either. I still don’t have a concrete plan for one part of my story. It’s a travelling section, and I’m not sure what to do with it. My distracted brain would rather start the second draft than finish the first one! Anyone else do this, or am I just weird?
Maybe having a plan from the start would be more effective? Time to hang up the pants?
- NaNoWriMo has a great community. It’s great for making friends and meeting other writers.
- It’s a good way to get the basics of a story down.
- Writing fast can be stressful, especially without a plan, and the quality can suffer.
- NaNoWriMo is a time commitment. Expect to make sacrifices!
- Planning is perhaps better during NaNoWriMo. Worth experimenting with!
Will I participate in NaNoWriMo again?
You’d think that, given the above realisations, my NaNo days would be over. Not so, my friends! The idea of planning has piqued my curiosity. Next NaNoWriMo, I’ll experiment. I want to see if planning improves my NaNo scribbles!
In October, ‘The Pantser Plots,’ will be a new feature on my blog. I’ll make a detailed plan for a new story, or Dragonspire Book 2. Then, I’ll chronicle my attempts at writing during November. I’m super excited to see if I write better as a planner or a pantser!
How about you? What are your experiences with NaNoWriMo? Did you participate and meet your goal during Camp NaNoWriMo? Are you a pantser or a planner? Let me know in the comments!