Reflecting on NaNoWriMo…

At 54, 364 words, the first draft of my novel has come to an end. Coincidentally, today is the first day that you can ‘verify and win’ at the NaNoWriMo site, so on finishing my novel, I was immediately congratulated and declared a winner.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this whole experience has contained a remarkable amount of certainty on my part – certainty that I would, indeed, complete a novel of 50,000 words in month. It’s been 25 days, including a weekend break, and it has been a very refreshing time for me.

Some might find this confusing – that NaNoWriMo, far from being stressful, was one of the most relaxing things I could do at this time. Putting aside all the lists and expectations, all my normal writing projects, and just letting my mind and fingers go was incredibly releasing.

Most of all, I enjoyed dumping my own expectations of myself. I didn’t try to make the story anything I felt it should be, I simply made it what it wanted to be. It may not be a literary masterpiece, but it exists. I’ve realised I should never try to write a literary masterpiece – it freezes my brain entirely. This is so often the trouble I have with writing – it is not typical writer’s block, but it is a kind of barrier.

I need to learn to write a first draft, without caring about the quality of it, at least not initially. This is something I have known in theory for a long time. But participating in NaNoWriMo forced me to practise it. It enabled a story to emerge, unhampered by self-imposed rules over what it should be like. I was doing it for the fun of it…and that is what allowed me to do it.

I hope that I can carry this lesson over into my non-fiction writing, which has been my main focus this year. I hope that I can learn to spill out words on a regular basis, reflections and thought and ideas – simply because I can. Constantly thinking about the end result frequently prevents me from beginning. Writing a novel chronologically was an interesting discipline for someone who leaps about naturally, forcing me to immerse myself in the writing without fretting over what I would do with it.

Nevertheless, people are asking what I will do with it. Well, I shall lay it aside for a time, during which I may do some casual reading around the period – some gentle research. Then, I hope to go back to it and rehash it entirely – not changing the overall story but filling in the gaps, sketching the characters more fully, building on the sub plots. Giving more of a sense of why the characters feel what they feel and do what they do. Now that I’ve written over 50,000 words, I’m not inclined to lock it away and forget about it.

I will, at some point, privatise the ‘Almost A Lady’ blog. The longer it stays public on the Internet the more protective I feel of it – at some point I will draw it back to myself and work on it in private, in my own time. I will also try and think of a different title, as I have discovered there is already a book with that title. There’s no copyright on titles, but it would help to be as unique as possible.

Meanwhile I have a non-fiction, inspirational ‘book’ which I’ve picked at throughout this year – I’m hoping to bring the discipline of NaNoWriMo to that project, so that I can write it unshackled – and edit later. As I have a perfectionist streak, this is not easy, but this month has proved to me that it is possible.

Finally, a huge thank you must go to those who have determinedly read along as I’ve posted new paragraphs and chapters day by day. Your encouragement has made all the difference. When someone ‘can’t wait for the next bit’ it is very hard to disappoint them, even when I have been uncertain about how it’s been going! Thank you so much – this has not been a lone journey and your company has been incredibly helpful.

To those of you have already finished reading, you may smile when I end this post, on a day where many of my readers are particularly prone to thankfulness, with one word:

Thank you.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on NaNoWriMo…

  1. Kathryn says:

    As you know, i read thru about chapter 25. Looking forward to reading the rest. (Don't make it private yet!) Have really enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for sharing with us. Good luck with it. 🙂


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