This past Sunday, at 11:59 p.m., this year’s NaNoWriMo ended. I went into it with a head full of steam, eyes full of wonder, and a vague idea of a story I wanted to create. I’ve only finished my NaNoWriMo story once (the first time I did it, which I did on my own one cold, snowy February) and I was determined to finish this year.
But I learned some important things this time around.
1) When I’m writing something I’m very, very excited about, I don’t get bored with it and start to drift towards writing another story. I’m still jazzed about this project. In fact, the more I wrote, the more excited I got, and the story demands I keep writing it. (Although calling it a “story” seems premature at this point, since it’s really just a collection of random scenes and vignettes, in no particular order, with some very abstract ideas that tie them all together into something that has the potential to be a novel. Which segues nicely into…)
2) When I write out of order, instead of starting from the very beginning and rushing to reach the end, I’m much more comfortable writing and am able to maintain interest more. Writing out of order, working on whichever bits my mind is most interested in at the moment, works much better for my nonlinear, ADHD brain. It helps me flesh out and learn more about the characters and the setting when I don’t worry about a linear plot so much, but fleshing all of that out also helps me find and flesh out the plot more (instead of forcing the characters and setting into a linear plot).
3) Things I think I’m good at writing: dialogue, descriptions of weird shit, exciting action scenes. Things I don’t think I’m good at writing: beginnings and endings (of both scenes and stories). But even when I’m writing what feels like utter crap, I feel terrific, like I’m charged with electricity. (Sometimes it’s crappy electricity, but it’s still a great feeling.)
4) When I give myself a fairly short-term deadline and a specific word total (like NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 words in 30 days), it’s much easier to get myself to write than if I’m writing a vague “novel of undetermined length that will be done whenever I finish it.” (When I was an undergrad, I wrote the majority of my papers the morning they were due. I’d get up before the crack of dawn, walk to the university computer center, have a vague idea of what I wanted to write about, and just start madly typing until I had something resembling an academic paper. That approach works best for my fiction, too–at least when it comes to first drafts.)
5) When I have a day off work, I still tend to wake up early, but it’s often difficult for me to motivate myself to get going and starting doing much of anything (unless it’s sitting on the sofa watching Netflix). But when it comes to writing, it’s very easy for me to get up, get dressed, get out of the house to a coffee shop, and start writing.
6) Basically, what I’m saying is that when I’m not writing fiction, it’s too easy for me to forget how much I love crafting fiction. And when I’m doing it, I’m in a near constant state of “Duh! How could I forget how much I love doing this?”
So while I didn’t finish this time around (AGAIN), this was probably the best NaNoWriMo for me in terms of self-discovery and the sheer enjoyment of writing. Technically, it only counts as “winning” if you finish your 50,000 words novel. But for me, as long as I keep working on this project and finish my shit, I will consider this month a solid win.