NaNoWriMo is essentially over for 2014 except for those who are still scrabbling to make up their 50,000 words before midnight hits.
It’s certainly over for me. I made it to 40,410 words today, which is 10,000 more than I expected to write and 10,000 less than I was aiming for. This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I admit I wasn’t remotely prepared for it: I only decided to do it two days before the first of November hit and I had nothing prepared beyond a premise: no notes, no plot, no ending, and certainly no outline.
Yeah, I pantsed the hell out of this thing.
It made for a good discipline exercise: at least 1,000 words a day, no exceptions, and I met that goal for thirty days straight. I’m hoping I can carry on that discipline over to the rest of the year, especially since I do plan to finish this story. I already feel like I’m at the halfway mark or past it so why not?
It became easier as the days went by to hit that minimum, and I came to enjoy the “discovery writer” aspect of working without a compass. I have a tendency to go back and “fix” earlier parts of the story or cut chunks entirely and restart from an earlier point. My first serious go at a novel had me dropping over a hundred pages of material so I could take it in a new direction. No such option here, at least according to the rules I set for myself. I had to find other ways to move forward that sometimes led in surprising directions I probably never would have reached otherwise.
Focus Writer (my go-to word processor these days) was great for this since you can set your daily goals and tweak the setting so that only the immediate paragraph you’re working on is sharp and crisp while the rest of the just story fades into the background.
Some segments felt a lot like the notes I would have taken if I didn’t have to sit down and fill the blank screen: feeling out situations and characters, exploring setting, back story, cosmology. Characters had room to breathe and develop, which was probably the best aspect, because to be frank, the plot is often aimless, slapdash, a fantasy-noir mashup that only came to a common thread fairly late in the month. Yet I was glad to stumble on these people and spend some time with them, and the relationships grew intense in a satisfying way.
If this book doesn’t work out, there are at least moments and characters I could mine from it for later stories, so it wasn’t a waste of time after all.
That was my greatest fear: trying to reach that arbitrary word count, flailing about filling up the pages, and ending up with an unsalvageable mess at the end. Because while I know “at least I was practicing my craft,” when I write a story I’m not happy with, what I feel like is that I wasted my time.
So…was NaNoWriMo worth doing? Yes. Definitely. I needed to do this. I’ve only written one short story since I started my paid internship and needed some motivating factor to force me into habit of writing again.
Will I do it again? Maybe not in November. Maybe every month where I have a major project to start, adjusting for what I seem capable of doing comfortably i.e. my 40,000 words this year. The reason to try at writing a novel in November is the community aspect but, living where I do, I didn’t get to experience that, and I found no real desire to plunge into the forums or read the inspirational emails sent to me every few days. Logging your word count on the NaNoWriMo website is nice and all but Focus Writer already does this for you.
I didn’t going into NaNoWriMo hoping to come out with a finished novel. For what I wanted out of it, though, NaNoWriMo served me well.