NaNoWriMo 2018 Recap
Another year, another National Novel Writing Month in the books. I won, barely making it to my 50,000 word goal. It was a bit of a different November for me. Instead of the usual starting a new book from scratch, I decided to dedicate the month to revisions for White Rose so it would be prepared for at least beta readers - if not to query - at the start of 2019.
Going into November, I was so excited. I was coming off of PitchWars, and while I didn’t get chosen, I still had such an awesome experience (and still am!) learning from other writers. I’ve gotten so much help and guidance, and in preparation for November to get into my revisions I felt like I was taking a class in first pages, structure, voice, and outlining. I took notes, filled out my spreadsheets, and went to reworking my book. I thought I was prepared.
Then the first week of November went through and I realized I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought. I hardly knew my characters at all! All of the scenes were still in the wrong place! Everything I wrote on the page felt wrong!
I had what I thought was this amazing spread on my Scrivener doc with notes of what I needed to fix for each scene, the old version of the scene for reference, then a blank page for the new version. That sounds prepared, right?
In a way… I guess I was. There were some changes that were great and I could tell I was going in the right direction. For the most part though, something felt off. But I couldn’t tell what it was.
I sought advice for figuring out my characters and structure and it helped for sure - but something was still wrong.
About half way through the month, I was perpetually behind. Most days I did write, but not enough to keep up with my word count goal. Once I hit a certain word count each day, I was thankful my writing session was over and closed my laptop. But then would feel guilty for not getting more done.
One day, I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast and they were talking about writers block. They said that sometimes writers block comes from trying to fix words that were already there instead of starting over.
This was the case for me. I kept on going back to my old scenes and chapters, thinking I could just revise and tweak the parts that needed fixing - when I just needed an entire overhaul. In fact, the days when I enjoyed my book the most was when I wasn’t going back to my old work and doing something brand new. That needed to be my new approach!
Easier said than done.
It worked… for a bit.
Then, about three weeks in, I had some down-time in the middle of the day and I took a good look at my spreadsheets tracking out my scenes and the major plot points of my book. Finally - it hit me.
I’d been structuring my book wrong the whole time. I’d been ending my first act in entirely the wrong place! I played and rearranged and all of the sudden - I saw my book. Or at least the first half of it. It made so much more sense!
I put together a brand new outline, rearranged all of my scenes in Scrivener, made note of everything I was going to have to delete later (there’s a lot of it) and got to work. I made a catch up plan (I was around 10,000 words behind) and announced it on Twitter. Which, is a big key to how I was able to keep going. Having other people comment back on my tweets with words of encouragement helped me to keep going. (Thank you!) November 30th, I slid in with just over 50,000 words.
Some things that I learned over those four weeks…
I need to be willing to take the crazy risks. I get worried that if I make THE BIG CHANGE, it’ll ruin my book. But, I’ll never know where my book goes if I don’t try. A lot of times that big change I’m afraid of is actually what I need.
But, if that big change doesn’t work- that doesn’t mean my book is ruined. I can always go back to how it was before and try again.
I also need to stop putting so much pressure on myself to have my revisions done by a certain time. Having goals is awesome - but I have to learn to forgive myself if I don’t make that goal exactly. There’s no rush or time frame I have to query, be signed by an agent, or have a book deal. If I need space to figure out the structure of my book, I need to give it to myself. There’s a whole lot about this pressure I put on myself I could talk about, but that’s another topic for another time.
Ultimately though, as I always learn, I know I am capable of doing this. Of getting those words on the page and telling a story. Most Novembers, I think “what if the other years were a fluke?”, “what if I’m not capable of pounding out a story any more?”, “what if this book just is bad and I need to quit now?” Then, like most years before, I still finished.
It’s not perfect, and there’s still so much work to do. But I’m 50,000 words closer.
How did NaNoWriMo go for everyone else?
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