My NaNoWriMo Legacy

If you’ve been following my blog for a little while now you will be aware that, in the midst of my excitement about NaNo 2012, I am trying to complete the novel that I began for NaNo 2011. While I managed to ‘win’ last year – even submitting a day early to get my 50,ooo word certificate – this didn’t mean that I was finished with the characters I created. In fact, far from it. The last ten months I have been doggedly attempting to complete this novel and now I’m so close I just know I have to do it.

I suppose this is thing about NaNoWriMo: while it is an international support group, of sorts, for writers throughout the month of November; egging us on to start the next big project, pushing us to our writing limits to achieve the initial creative burst of that novel idea…it’s still only the beginning. Even if you managed to wrap your story up in 50,000 words there is still a long journey ahead if you really want to turn those words into something that might end up in the hands of some eager reader out there in the world.

Now, I don’t pretend to know why everyone participates in NaNoWriMo every year – but it seems to me that most entrants want to create something tangible for them to work on – an actual novel to eventually submit for publication one day. At least, that is why I want to do it. I entered last year never believing that I might reach that improbable target, but I had an idea of a story I wanted to tell and NaNo was a good opportunity for me to get that story down on paper so that I could explore and investigate the narrative without having to worry about ‘perfection’. (which has always been my downfall in the past).

But…and it’s a pretty big but…after the initial joy of ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo I was intimidated by the next steps. For a start, it’s taken me this long to even come close to completing the novel’s story. In the last ten months I’ve only managed to up my total word-count by about 25,000 words: which, when compared to last November, is half of the amount I wrote in 30 days!

I’ve also come across a few plotting problems and character issues that I hadn’t even had chance to think about in November when furiously writing to increase my word count. This caused numerous stumbling blocks and sulking and general ‘putting aside’ of the novel until I forced myself back to it because I didn’t want to become another cliché with an unfinished manuscript lolling on my hard-drive.

As I’m coming up to those final few scenes in this novel I’m aware of how much work there is still to be done. This is a first draft. My very first, first draft. I expect it to be fairly questionable for a complete novel text. I anticipate plot holes and story lines forgotten, characters that are two-dimensional or stereotypical that have no consistency of appearance or behaviour along with some semi-serious grammatical issues and odd spelling mistakes. All in all, I’m preparing myself to read back an almost unreadable text.

I suppose what I’m trying to pinpoint here is that all the hard work and exhilaration of NaNoWriMo is just, for me, the very first tiny step in a HUGE journey of writerly-discovery. Last year I completed the challenge with a hop, skip and a jump thinking that the hard part was done – after all, what could be a bigger challenge that writing 50,000 words in 30 days?

*insert suitably epic realisation scene here*

I loved my NaNoWriMo experience, so much so I am determined to do it again this year: even though I now know what it means for those 50,000 words I plan to write in 30 days. It means dedication and perseverance and damned hard work to make those words into something that you dream about. I haven’t even begun the editing process for my NaNo 2011 novel, after all it’s taken me almost a year just to even finish what I started. But isn’t this what writing is about? It’s hard slog and labour over something you adore doing because you want to share the story you feel you have to tell.

And NaNo is the beginning of that journey for me. The legacy it leaves me to work on is taking me one step closer to being that which I want to be – a published author.  And it’s a legacy I don’t want to see go to waste.


10 responses to “My NaNoWriMo Legacy

  1. Pingback: My 10 Not So Secret Secrets to Winning NaNoWriMo | The View Outside

  2. I’m going into NaNoWriMo with a clearer attitude about it. The first time I did it, I really didn’t have my heart set on it, so I failed pretty quickly. This time, I’m going in prepared, like a boxer training for a big fight.

    But I also know that this is meant to be fun, so whatever I’m working on, I’ll know it’ll likely be a crap first draft.

    Good luck next month!

    • I honestly didn’t expect to be successful during NaNo last year, I decided to do it to ‘just see’ and I became so obsessed I won with a day to spare!
      Your heart definitely has to be in it, otherwise why go through the insanity of 1667 words everyday, rain, shine or full time job!?
      Good luck with it this year – go for a knockout (although, in this metaphor does that mean all 50k words in one day?!)
      If you fancy a buddy on NaNo – invitation open to all – my username is ankhofbastet.
      Thanks for reading, Cat

  3. Hey, Cat. Sounds painful. I can understand a little about what you are going through. Word count aside, do you think your story has made significant improvements since you started working on the manuscript last November? If so, then I think you have been successful. Also, by your posts, I know you have been planning about what you are going to write about for NaNo. What are you going to do differently than what you did last year to make yourself better as a writer?

    • Hey Dan, I think my overall story has improved with some really nice parallels in the main and secondary story arcs. Also, I think I know my characters better so feel I can challenge them more.
      With regard to what I’m going to do this year…Hmmm. Haven’t thought this through yet! I have a much more detailed plan than last year, and have worked a lot more so far on who my characters are – so I guess that’s influence from the current WIP. One thing I am going to try for is to complete my story during November, as that has been the most difficult thing these past few months: would like to have some semblance of a finished manuscript this year so I can put it aside and come back to editing – rather than having to finish it!
      Good question: thanks. Made me realise I have learnt a lot this past year! x

  4. I think you’ve done incredibly well to beat that stereotype and make it to the end of your first draft 🙂

    You’re completely right about the next stages being just as hard work of course. I wrote a novel three years ago. It’s just over 50k and I wrote it all in 2 months over summer. Since then, I haven’t looked at it.

    I realised it needs a big shakeup plotwise. It’s solid enough, but it’s boring. I skimmed through the story and took what I remember of it from those distant days, and used the story snowflake method to build it up again from scratch. I’ve come up with something that (hopefully) takes those characters but puts them in a more exciting, tense, thrilling situation, and comes to a more clearly resolved conclusion.

    I’m getting a bit nervous, because this weekend is when I start my Big Rewrite. I’m going to be starting again from a blank page, seeing what my characters give me this time, and only going back to the original when I’m done to see if I’ve forgotten anything that was really good.

    At the moment, I’ve no idea if this is going to work for me, but I’ve realised it’s my only hope of breaking out of some of the crappy writing in the first draft.

    Gosh that was long. What I meant to say was, good luck with Nano 😀

    • Wow – good luck with the big re-write. That is a very brave undertaking but it seems like you’ve thought about it enough to make it work for you. Sometimes the only way to find out if something will work is to try…which is how I ended up doing NaNo last year!
      Long comments always appreciated – I like reading how other writers are doing and what methods they’re trying to succeed in their writing. Have you given yourself a deadline for the re-write, or are you just planning to write until the story is done?

      • Haha thank you, I’m going to need it! My aim is to publish for my birthday which gives me almost exactly four months from now to rewrite, edit, format and crowd fund. No pressure, right?

      • No pressure. But, let me just mark on my calender 4months from now…I’ll check in with you at the end of January to see how those birthday plans are working out. 😉

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