How? By writing over 50,000 words toward a novel. I had an idea for a novel bumping around in my head and occasionally spilling out into an idea file in my computer. In 2017, I tried NaNoWriMo and lasted 1 day and 1 ½ pages. So, I decided maybe I should read a few books about creative writing.
For NaNoWriMo 2020, I started with a rough plot line and some character sketches and set aside time in my calendar to write each weekday morning. Then I just wrote without worrying about quality. I had learned the concept of a ‘shitty 1st draft’ and I figured I was good for one of those.
Three things stand out as I read through my writing journal entries over the month. 1) I was incredibly nervous, 2) separating the creative and analytical aspects of writing works for me, and 3) I experienced a ‘magic’ in the creative writing process.
I was determined and excited to complete this challenge. But I was also nervous to start and then anxious as days went by about whether I would have enough to write, especially during the first half of the month. Luckily, each morning that started with nerves ended with success.
Day 1 – My first day writing for NaNoWriMo. I was so nervous it was ridiculous. Last night I woke up in a panic as though I had an exam this morning. And this morning, by 8:00 a.m. I had a stomach-ache from the tension.
Day 9 – Almost halfway through the 50,000-word challenge. As time goes by, I get more and more nervous about having something to write. And each morning I sit down and enough pours out somehow.
I fell in love with reading and writing in Grade 1 when first learning letters and how they came together into words, stories and learning. But most of what I have written for ‘readers’ has been in the areas of business, law or academia. I’m new to creative writing. This competition helped me discover that while I write creatively, I need to turn off my critic.
Day 2 – Yesterday I added more scene ideas and again more this morning. This may just work as a system. Keep a time when all I do is write – leaving myself notes in the text where I need to research or check something, so that I don’t get away from the flow of writing. And make a quick scene note when I think of something for the plot.
Day 14 – I’m looking forward to the next stages. The more analytical part of looking at what’s missing, layering for greater character breadth and place descriptions, and so forth. I’ve got some good beginnings. I’ll also have to check the pace.
Day 15 – I love how this creative process works. I have learned it works for me to simply write without worrying about quality. Just get it out.
The greatest discovery that came up repeatedly through this challenge was the way ideas came to me as I wrote. It felt like magic, which both amazed and scared me. I felt the magic from the very first day.
Day 1 – It’s incredible how a world unfolds, and people pop up in this imaginary world, as though it is being created in front of me and I’m just writing it down.
Day 5 – Today I could barely type the last scene I was working on fast enough and my heart was pounding. It was similar to how it might affect me if I was reading the scene, except I was the one writing it. The story was funnelling through my brain and down into my fingers. This is fun.
Day 9 – Ideas, words, images just appear in my minds-eye. I write them down as that happens, like I’m a transcriber. It makes me nervous too, because I fear the magic will stop and I will just sit there in silence. Who knows where creative stuff comes from? It’s a blessing to experience. And it makes me feel part of a weird and wonderful universe, which I don’t need to understand.
Day 12 – Wow! I was writing a scene and a mystery in the story just popped out, revealing itself to me. And there was me, frantically writing it down, thinking, “Wow, where does this come from?!” Who cares? I’m loving it.
My final day’s journal entry sums up how happy I am to have gone through this process and accomplished a wonderfully shitty first draft.
Day 19 – I DID IT! I finished my word count. A day earlier than expected. I didn’t think I would finish today and then the scene I was working with just kept growing. I can’t wait to start working on the novel again in January. But, I’m also really looking forward to a break from it until then. I can’t believe it did it!
I am grateful to the NaNoWriMo folks for offering this opportunity each year. If you think you have a novel in you, check it out their website!