I wasn’t planning on participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo. I participated in the previous two (only ‘won’ in the last one; the year before I stopped at 45k) and knew enough about myself, my writing, and my goals to recognize that, while I enjoy seeing my word count bar fill up, I don’t actually enjoy NaNo.
Oh, the first week is great. The joy of starting a new project, of having a whole new world to explore and people to meet and stories to find out about — I love that. And, participating in NaNo has taught me some pretty important things, such as, while I may not like planning a project out down to its individual scenes, I do find that having a rough idea of chapters helps me cut down on ‘mistake’ writing. (You know, writing a good 1-3k to find that maybe half that, usually less, is actually useable)
I like that participating in NaNo bumps my word count up, so close to the end of the year. A lot.
And that’s it. That’s my list of things I like about NaNo. Word count, and new story. The word count isn’t even all that valid, because so much of the material needs extensive editing — and I don’t write that way, generally. I edit and tighten as I go, and maybe it makes me a little bit slower . . . but I’m also not rewriting the book from the ground up late on. Scenes, sometimes chapters, but rarely more than one third of the work.
Four years ago I had a really bad writing year, and I decided I needed to pay attention to what I like, what works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and what things I might change to increase my productivity (because there are ALL THESE STORIES and time is running out). I learned a lot of things about my habits. I changed how I did some things, but the most important bit for me was to see what didn’t work, and why it didn’t work, and to work around. For example, a lot of writers will give the advice that one should write every day, that there should be a daily goal, whether it’s 500, or 1k or 2k. I write *most* days, but I also go a day or two without writing, and I regularly hold writing days on my days home from the day job. It’s not uncommon that I’ll get the bulk of my weekly word count in on those days.
I love writing; I hate having to commit to doing something EVERY DAY. Even things I love to do.
And then there’s knowing that anxiety is an asshole, and that I have to deal with that. So the second I skip a day (even if I blame for it!), when I’m doing NaNo, it opens the door for the mental bullying, and the mounting pressure of words I need to hurry up and write, before it gets away from me.
And then writing becomes a chore, and I’m tossing out scenes that aren’t quite right, that I know I’ll have to go back and fix. The material diverges in my mind — the story I’ve written so far, and the story in my mind, and the pieces do not match in too many places, and it’s all out of control and untidy and unwieldy, and it becomes insurmountable.
I want the pace. I want to regularly churn out 40k – 50k a month. This is why NaNo keeps seducing me — because if I can make it work long term for me, I can be happy with my progress levels, and I feel like I’m on the verge of hitting something that’s sustainable for me.
But the added pressure of the rest of NaNo does not work.
Hopefully next year I’ll remember this. Silly Jo.