NaNoWriMo 2014 – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Quick word of warning – this week’s post starts off a bit on the negative side, as I vent my frustrations from the last few weeks, but it’s not all bad stuff, so please bear with me.

So National Novel Writing Month 2014 has come to a close at last, and I believe I shall be writing this thing off as something of a failed experiment. I say this not so much because I did not make it to the 50,000 word goal (my final word count, for the record, was 23,485), but more because the whole setup/concept of NaNoWriMo isn’t really conducive to writing for me. NaNo is all about “turn off your inner editor, ignore your delete key, and just write, write, write – you can worry about the quality of that writing in December,” and I just never clicked with that concept.

As I said in a previous post, I have learned that not only can I not turn off my inner editor, but I don’t want to. I enjoy editing as I go. The whole idea of being so focused on word count that in all likelihood large amounts of what I’ve written will end up just getting deleted during editing drives me crazy. It absolutely feels like a waste of time and creativity. Now I fully understand this is just me, and I would never discourage other writers from participating, since for many writers NaNoWriMo is a very good thing, a very motivating experience. Sadly, I am just not one of those people.

I think the biggest issue I have with it when all is said and done is that my obsessive/compulsive personality disorder really works against me. The first week and a half I was fine – I struggled a bit to maintain my word count, but I was always pretty close to where I needed to be. But then, on November 11th (Veteran’s Day in the US), I got busy doing other things, and ended up not getting any writing done. And blam! Just like that, I was close to 2000 words behind schedule.

Since I was already struggling to stay caught up, suddenly being over a full day behind killed me. The problem was, I couldn’t help but continuously look at my stats – my average daily word count, the average I needed to finish on time, and the date I was likely to hit 50,000 words (which kept getting later and later into December as the month went on). The further I got through the month, the more that 50,000 word goal felt like a weight pressing down on me. And the further behind on word count that I fell, the worse it got.

Ultimately this is what did me in. The further I fell behind, the more I stressed about it and obsessed over it, which made the actual writing less and less fun, which made me not want to write, which only exacerbated the problem. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was just ready for NaNoWriMo to be over and done. I tried not to let it stress me out, tried to tell myself, “Who cares about your word count, just keep writing,” but it didn’t really work (again, the joys of being obsessive/compulsive).

One thing I did like about NaNoWriMo is the idea of a constant daily word count. The problem, though, is that there is no reset – how much you write today directly affects every day after. This is fine if you’re pumping out 2000 or 3000 words a day, because you’re building up a daily buffer. But if you’re more of a 1000-1200 words per day person like myself, suddenly the opposite effect happens. Any time you are below the required daily average of 1667 or, heaven forbid, choose to take a day off from writing, that deficit gets added to the next day’s required total.

What I’m looking for is the more traditional daily word count, where the count resets every day. So, for example, if I set a goal of 1000 words per day, then that’s my goal every day. If I only manage 700 words one day, the next day’s goal isn’t suddenly 1300, it’s still 1000. Have a great day and crank 2500 words? Wonderful, but tomorrow’s word count goal is still 1000. So that is my goal moving forward – to write at least 1000 words per day, six days a week.

Okay, so now that I’ve purged all that from my system, I certainly feel better! I do apologize for the mostly negative tone of the post (and hope that my readers have stuck with me through the post this far), but NaNoWriMo really did stress me out a lot over the last couple of weeks. But never fear, there were a few positives that came out of this month as well. For one, NaNoWriMo managed to reignite my enthusiasm for my blog! Going into November, I was struggling to keep motivated to write this every week, and struggling with ideas for what to write about. What a difference a month can make!

For starters, focusing on my NaNoWriMo progress gave me a single theme that carried me through the whole month. This meant that not only did I know what my topic would be every week, but as I thought up new topics, I could bank them for future posts (and I’ve got several future topics saved up). I also came across a wonderful article on DIY Author that specifically talks about blogging for fiction writers (which was wonderful to read, as 99% of articles out there about author blogging seem to be much more applicable to non-fiction authors), which gave me more inspiration on how to focus my blog.

So in future I think I’m going to take that article’s advice (specifically parts 1 & 2), and really focus my posts on the behind-the-scenes of my writing – what inspires me, what’s going on with my story, insight into plot/characters, things of that nature. I also do still want to develop a continuing weekly story that I publish to the blog (as well as to online story sites such as Wattpad and Tablo).

Which leaves the question, now that NaNoWriMo is over, where do I go next? For starters, I am going to continue moving forward with my novel – because I did manage to get over 20,000 words written, and they’re words I’m pretty happy with, so certainly not stopping now! And since I’m no longer worried about total word count, this is as good a time as any to pull out those first couple of chapters that I know are ultimately going into what will be my first novel. Then I can rework the beginning of this novel with the knowledge that it’s now the second book in the series.

The other thing I’ve put together that I’ve been sitting on during NaNo is a world-building to-do list. This is a list of all the tasks I want to complete to fully flesh out the background of the world where my stories take place, starting with finishing the map I’ve been working on (it’s amazing how much of an effect figuring out the geography of your world can have on your story – a topic I plan to discuss in a future blog post). From there I’m planning to write histories of several of the societies of the world, as well as a history of the port city that serves more or less as home base for my main characters. Not only do these aid me with my stories, but they have the potential to be used for future blog posts.

And that is it for today. Time to get back to my mapping software and continue forward with building the geography of my world.


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