Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Year Long NaNo

Its national novel writing month, and in honor of that, among other things that I will get to very shortly, I make this post. I know NaNo is only supposed to last a month, but earlier this evening I finally reached 50,000 words on my work in progress, Abducted. I started Abducted last year as a NaNo project.
The idea for Abducted came to me on September 30th, 2010. Shortly after having the idea, I wrote a few paragraphs of chapter one and started an outline. After a week of this idea completely consuming me, I decided to give NaNo a go. So I spent the entire month of October outlining, and on November 1st I began to write. In about a week I laid out over seven thousand words. And before I knew it I was at eleven thousand. By the end of NaNo i made it about halfway to the 50k goal.
This was an enormous feat for me because prior to this, the longest things I'd ever written was a 20 page research paper in high school, another in college, and over the course of three years, a 15,000 word story that I didn't know where I was going with. I was ecstatic because this was by far the biggest writing endeavor I had ever taken on, and I had a clear path to the end of the story.
However, I found Nano and I didn't entirely get along for the following reasons.
1.) Time - I have a full time job, and have very little time to write. Not that its an excuse but it does limit my free time. Combine that with all of my other hobbies and obligations outside of work, and the number of available hours dwindled to near zero. Not to mention during one week of NaNo I was at a women in engineering conference, which inhibited my NaNo participation.
2.) Motivation - I hadn't yet developed a writing rhythm. Because I was so new at it, I struggled to just sit down and write and make time in my schedule. I have since developed a schedule and try to stick to it. I don't always get to write every day but I know that I have times laid out to write and my mind easily slips into writing mode when those times approach.
3.) Editing - I am a compulsive editor. One of the things I do to get myself into the mindset of writing, is read the last chapter I wrote. As I do this I'm constantly correcting mistakes and making tweaks as I see fit. And every so often I felt the urge to read everything I'd written for a continuity and flow check. All things that are not conducive for NaNo, which pushes you to ignore mistakes and just write.
4.) Validation - As I wrote, and despite my fairly well plotted outline, I found it increasingly difficult to continue without validation. I got "Crap" syndrome. Something I think most writers experience at some point in their writing process. The feeling that everything you've done is complete and utter shit and no sane person would ever want to read this. I began to feel like I was wasting my time and wondered if I should even bother. A feeling that I should have never let get to me because even if I was only writing just for me, I had an idea and an obligation to see it through. I had a story I desperately wanted to tell but sadly I let "Crap" syndrome almost completely consume me.
At this point I began to look into critique partners and groups to seek validation. I didn't consider my friends because I was afraid they would just tell me my writing was wonderful because they are my friends. Call me a sadist but I wanted someone to tear my work to shreds. And believe me if you want that, you can find those people online. For every person out there to build you up there's at least thirty waiting behind them to tear you down.
So I joined a couple of critique groups and threw a few chapters out there and waited for someone to bite. In doing so I found my wonderful critique partner Julie S. She not only gave me some of the validation I needed but also was honest and pointed me to things I needed to work on. She also directed me to a critique group that has proven to be invaluable.
From this group I learned a few things.
1.) You can't please everyone - Not everyone will enjoy your story and that's ok. There is always someone out there who will enjoy it, even if its just one person.
2.) I knew next to nothing about the formal writing process, pov, showing vs telling etc. but that was ok because you can learn technique but creativity comes from within. People tore me to shreds for things that are considered basic writing skills but despite my "bad form" I heard time and time again that I had a good story. I knew I was probably onto something special and should have never doubted myself.
3.) I'm not a juggler. Writing, editing, critiquing, reading feedback all at the same time was overwhelming and stressing me out. I couldn't do it all at once but that was ok. I had found my limitations to the craft.
4.) Writing is not a race. Take the time you need to make things right. Don't sweat the small stuff. If things aren't flowing don't push it, walk away and come back later.
So with my new found validation and a sense of balance, I took a step back from the critique group and began to write again. I had a renewed sense of strength and courage and I wanted to not only write but finish my book, something I'd never done before.
Although I have not finished Abducted this evening I am one step closer to my final goal. The huge milestone of 50,000 words achieved. When I decided that I would finish, I set a goal of 60,000 words, the bottom limit for a ya novel. So here I sit, less than 10,000 words from my ultimate goal and five and a half chapters to go to finish my first draft. I'm amazed at how far I've come in a year and excited for the road ahead. Although the month of NaNo didn't work for me, I'm glad I tried, because it led me down the right path. It gave me the courage to write, and pushed me down the road that allowed me to find my writing rhythm and continue on. NaNo helped me do something I never thought possible; Write the story I never knew I had in me, and find the drive to finish it. Even though its taken a year, my NaNo is complete, and Abducted is soon to follow.
**DOES THE 50K word dance** (feel free to join, you know you want to ;) )


  1. Congratulations, buddy! You've come a long way.
    *Does the happy dance*
    Looking forward to throwing a party when you reach 60K. :D
    ~ Julie

  2. Haha thanks, or throwing a party when i finish... whichever comes first :)