Monday 27 November 2017

#NaNoWriMo2017: Making It Work


Now, if you've been following me for a while, you'll know that two years ago I was in a completely different place writing wise than I am now. For several reasons outside of my control, my productivity was down the tubes and I was barely getting two chapters of each book done in a month period. It wasn't for lack of wanting to, but basically I wasn't organised, I wasn't motivated and I didn't really make the time to write. It all came to a head in October 2015 when I realised I'd written one chapter for the whole month. I was annoyed at myself, but also worried and upset that it would have a long term effect on both my career and my creativity.

Of course, I know that it's not a competition, that everyone writes at their own pace and that it takes as long as it takes. I know all of that, but I gotta say, it was soul destroying to be at a point where I was doing so little. I'd finished my degree, so that wasn't eating into my time. I was having good days and bad with my health, so while that played a part, it wasn't the reason. I just couldn't get myself to write. I know that some people will say it's just a matter of sitting at the keyboard and writing, and yes, I'll agree with them there, but I couldn't find it in myself to do it.

So, with the build up to NaNo 2015, I did something I had never done before, and that was plan to take part. I knew that 50K was never going to happen. It would just be setting myself up to fail and would make me feel worse. So I made a deal with myself. I would write one page for every day of November. And you know what? It worked. It wasn't just the plan of knowing what I expected of myself, it was the buzz around social media of NaNo as a whole. I managed over 30 pages, and I knew I didn't want to let that vibe go, so I created Joey's Writing Monthly Goal - #JoWriMoGo - which I have done every month since.

But then this year, having managed to exceed 50K in the past few months, every month, I realised I could finally do it. I was finally at a point where I could make NaNo work for me. I've not joined the site, so I won't get a shiny button or certificate, but I was able to take part in the hashtag, boost other writers and authors who were doing the same. It was so nice to be able to actually be aiming for the same thing. I, of course, still did it my way. I used my sticky notes and planned each day, I had editing to do alongside writing so I made sure to make time for that. I also knew it wouldn't be the beginning of one novel, but the tail-end of two. I wasn't going to start a whole new project, nor was I going to dedicate that time (and words) to just one of my WIPs. So I did still keep my own spin on it, and it's been great.

Along the way I've found authors who both love NaNo and authors who hate it. I'm happy for the way it helped me get back into the saddle, but I have to say I see both sides. There's something to be said about the level of community that comes from everyone in the hashtag knowing that they have several million other writers cheering them on. That's a powerful tool. On the other side, there is more to writing a book than well...writing it. There's the editing and the cover design and all of that. But I like to believe that most people realise what the achieve in NaNo is just the start. That you don't then upload on December 1st with no one else ever having read your work.

So how do I make NaNo work for me? I keep it simple. I know what I'm capable of. I know, through my tracking of words and chapters and all of that, what I can manage comfortably in a month. I know what I have planned for that month and I know what other responsibilities I have to do. Like for example, I knew getting the second dose of Mepo would be a complete wash of a writing day, so I planned to have it off. I also knew that editing had to be done, so I made sure I made time for it. I knew that I write better doing half days rather than full ones, so I made sure that I had the morning to relax and the afternoon/evening to write. It all worked for me because I am already in the habit of writing every day.

And that's a very good habit to have as a writer. If you've told yourself that you will write something every single day, then it becomes a routine, and in becoming a routine, it feels weird to not be writing every day. I tell you, by the end of the month when I've finished my chapters and only have admin work to tie up, I feel weird. I hate it sometimes that I have no chapters to write and am instead doing blog posts, or videos and all of that. It feels wrong! And because I started with NaNo and continued with my own hashtag, I've made my writing a routine. I've made it a part of my every day life. And that's a great tool to take away from this frenzied month of writing.

Because at the end of the month, you might have a first draft, you might not, you might have more writing to do or you might jump into editing. Whatever it is, you have achieved something, even if it's not 50K words. I had someone ask before just before November started, what to do if you fail at NaNo, and my answer was simple. You didn't fail, you just didn't hit the goal set. That's not failing, you still managed to write something, and you keep going. You don't let it stop you, and even if you're never in a position to do 50K in 30 days, that's okay. Everyone writes at their own pace. Some people are faster, and that's okay, and others take their time, and that's also okay. The end result is the same, you made a book. And that's something to be very proud of.

So with that, I'm off to finish off my last few chapters. I hope NaNoWriMo2017 has been good to you, no matter what you achieved, it's still something, and that matters.

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