To NaNo or not to NaNo

People are already talking about NaNoWriMo and it’s giving me anxiety!! 😬

After the first time I did it, I vowed never to do it again. After I did it again, I decided I wouldn’t do it again again.

I must be a sucker for punishment because I am thinking of doing it this year. With every tweet, blog article, forum post or random comment I read, I get that tiny tingle deep inside. Is this some sort of trick? Like the kind your mind plays on you when you swear you’ll only read one more chapter before turning out the lights?

Lessons from attempt #1

I pantsed (ie. did not plan) my first year. I would not do this again. This article sums up everything I didn’t like in this one paragraph:

The story changed and evolved. Occasionally, I lost my bearings, had to backpedal and try something else. Sometimes the story meandered aimlessly. Some days I sat in front of a blank page with absolutely no idea what was going to happen next.

But while the meandering and ensuing incoherence bugged me to no end, I did enjoy the process of exploration. Every turn in the story was like discovering something new. I really got to appreciate the journey and the utter triumph of making the day’s word count.

I did hit 50k before finishing my story, but another 1k after got me to the end. I did not like my first draft at all, though, and spent a lot of time completely re-writing, re-concepting and basically redoing everything. I learned it’s not enough to just start with a loose premise if the pressure’s on to hit quantity-based targets every day, because I end up making up a lot of shit. 🙂

Lessons from attempt #2

I went into my next NaNo with intent. I had characters, I had arcs, I had goals — I even had a plan for my story after the event. I wanted to write a serial novel. Big mistake.

There’s nothing wrong with writing a serial novel. But it wasn’t practical to try and do it for NaNo without properly developing the idea, doing research, etc. The pressure to churn out words exposed the weaknesses in my preparations.

After a week and a half, I lost faith in my story because the science felt really hokey. I know that’s supposed to be OK in the first draft stage, but it touched something deep inside me that I couldn’t shake. Not even going away for a NaNo writing retreat could save me.

Again, I hit 50k before the story’s end. This time, I abandoned the draft. I did learn that I’m very sensitive to my surroundings — I started working in scenes and landscapes from the retreat location into my story. Still not sure if that was a good or bad idea.

What about this year?

I’m still torn. 50k is a lot of words and I promised myself I’d take better care of my mental health from now on. That said, I have had a few short story ideas growing in the back of my mind for a while. I could play NaNo as a rebel and just get it all down. I guess we’ll see how ripe these ideas get by the time November arrives.


Img via Alexas_Fotos (CC0)

2 thoughts on “To NaNo or not to NaNo

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