My experiences of nanowrimo this year have mostly been positive. The most positive thing about it was hitting 50,000 on Wednesday, the 27th. It had been a difficult slog to get to that point, and there were many times that I didn’t think I could do it. One day, nearly half way through, I decided to quit. The idea made me feel cranky and upset because I don’t like to quit. I like to succeed! Usually, when I set a goal for myself, I work hard to achieve it, so choosing to give up didn’t sit comfortably with me at all. I stormed around the house, in a terrible mood, reluctantly doing my house work and being very cranky with anyone who spoke to me. When monte asked me what was wrong, I yelled that I was quitting Nano. I then laced up my sneakers and went for a long walk, crying the whole way up to the end of my road.
Whilst this sounds very melodramatic, remember who’s writing this. I can be very melodramatic, it’s true. However, I also feel things very strongly, and at times verge on manic depressive disorder. So it felt very significant and painful that I was giving up something I had really wanted to do, and which I had set out to achieve.
After a few hours, I calmed down. Monte took the kids outside and they worked in the garden, and I wrote a few thousand words and caught up on my word count. All was right in the world again, and my mood was restored almost back to normal. I still felt really cross with myself for considering quitting. So you can see how wonderful it would have felt for me when I hit the 50,000 word mark. Despite that awful day a few weeks earlier, I achieved my goal.
Now, don’t assume that any of my writing is excellent. The way I tackled nanowrimo this year was to set time limits for myself, eg 30 minutes, and just write. Sometimes I wrote from a list of ideas I made pre-November. Sometimes I worked from writing prompts that I found online (I found the twitter great for writing prompts, including the nano twitter account). I worked from a book about creative writing by Kate Grenville, and that really helped me explore some facets of my writing. I did a lot of writing exercises, testing myself not only on my typing speed (it’s high), but on my ability to make sense with words on paper (screen). I really enjoyed testing myself and experimenting with my writing. I found that there were things that I couldn’t bring myself to write about, so I can set challenges for myself in the future.
If you asked me how many novels I wrote during nano, I’d say none. If you asked me how many novels I started, I’d say three. I wrote 2 short stories, and started three. Honestly, I feel like everything is unfinished, but I think the main intention of nanowrimo is to get words on the page, and ideas out in the open. I sure do have a lot of material I can now work through. Another thing that nano taught me is to get into the habit of writing. I got used to writing every day, or at least most days, and that has been a wonderful thing for me. I have always loved writing, and have always used the old excuse that I don’t have the time. Well, nano taught me to make the time. I’ve enjoyed exploring different worlds and different characters, and by the end of the month, I have found myself coming up with ideas about which to write, with a sense of urgency to get my ideas written down.
Some of the most difficult things about nano this month were juggling children and writing, and coming up with ideas for my writing. Firstly, writing with children around is tricky. I don’t have an office (yet) that I can shut myself in and work in. My table is in the living room, and I do a lot of writing on my bed. Kids come and go, asking for drinks or food, or to tell me about random things, or ask where something is. I am often disrupted when I am writing. Thankfully, Monte is really helpful at keeping the kids away when I’m writing, especially because my writing stints are fairly short. I haven’t had to resort to visual timers so the kids know when they can talk to me, but I sure have thought about it. I find it really frustrating that it’s so difficult to focus on something when the children are around. I don’t want to leave all my writing for when they are asleep at night. It has been an exercise for all of us, with mum having something to work on which renders her unavailable for a certain amount of time.
Another thing that was difficult about nanowrimo was the inventing of ideas. I find that I can start a story pretty well, and I can have a general idea of a plot outline, but in general, I am not good at developing a story. Hence why I tended to focus on short stories in nano. I think I am able to write well, but the exploration of ideas is something I really need to develop if I ever want to write a novel. One problem I have is that I get a bit bored. If I’m getting bored, maybe my readers would get bored too, and what is the point of writing something boring. Which brings me to another point: maybe my confidence isn’t good enough to be a writer. Writing is a bit like running through a street in the nude. You start to bare part of yourself to the world. Perhaps I am not ready to expose myself to the planet just yet.
One thing I have learned from nano this year are that I need to plan my writing a lot better. I need to come up with a story from beginning to end. Sometimes I think of how a story will begin, without putting much thought into its ending. Another thing I’ve learned is that I should try to set aside at least 30 minutes to write every day; it makes me feel good! I’ve learned that going through a writing course book is really handy, and I should set myself a goal to go through one of my writing ‘text books’ again soon. Overall, I learned that writing is something I can and should do. Since I was a young child, I have wanted to write. I just love writing. I am equally happy to write fiction and non-fiction. In fact, at times I prefer non-fiction because I don’t have to be particularly creative in terms of plot.
I will be studying next year, and nano has been a good exercise for my family and me. For me, it has shown me that I can find somewhere quiet to work and that I am able to concentrate on my work and potentially study hard. For my family, they have learned that life doesn’t explode around them if they can’t access me for a while.