How I Survived My First Nanowrimo
If you’re reading this, that means I survived my first Nanowrimo! I made it! If you are unfamiliar with Nanowrimo, I wrote a blog post all about it and documenting the first few days. But in short, it’s an annual challenge that occurs in November. The goal? Write 50,000 words. Yup, sounds kind of insane, right? Well, it was. And it was also a wonderfully insane, frustrating and encouraging experience. But with all that not only did I survive Nanowrimo, but I conquered Nanowrimo, if I do say so myself.
Keep reading to find out how…
30 25 Days? What??
When I first began writing this month the goal of writing 50,000 felt so distant. But now, as I write this (currently it’s a few days before the end of the month), I’ve officially hit the goal. That’s write. I mean right. I hit the 50,000 mark on Novmber 25, 2018, around 7 p.m. to be specific. The last few days of Nanowrimo I didn’t initially plan to go above the set 1,667 daily word goal. But I was just feeling it. The last days felt the same. At first it was a struggle to get to even 500 words. I couldn’t imagine hitting 1,000 let alone 1,667. But I stuck with it. Pushed myself to write just one paragraph, then take a break. Watch a Youtube video or listen to part of a podcast. Then come back to it, write one more paragraph, and repeat.
Eventually I reached the point where I didn’t feel the need or desire to take a break and the words just flowed from my mind, to my fingerips which typed away merrily. Then before I knew it, when I finally felt like I was done for the day, I’d find out I wrote 2,000 or so words. I soon realized that it was very doable to finish Nanowrimo early. So I then set a goal to write around 2,000 words so I’d be on track to finish by the 28th. How the heck did I go from being on pace to finish by the end of the month, to the 28th, to finishing on the 25th?
Set Goals, But Enjoy
Participants of Nanowrimo have various strategies for how to prepare and power through the month of November. Some opt for a free-flowing, easy-going kind of attitude that writes everyday, or most days, but doesn’t stress about hitting word goals. Other people think you should have a set goal for everyday, stick to it with no faults. I also saw a pyramid strategy called “Reverse Nano.” With this you begin the month writing well over 1,667 words and then it gradually tapers off once you get to the end. This strategy sounds very interesting. I didn’t hear of it until nearly the end of the month, but perhaps I’ll try it next year!
Instead, for me, I think I fell align more with the strict, make-sure-I-hit-my-goal-everyday mindset. But, I didn’t stress myself out about it. Several factors could contribute to why I didn’t stress myself out over it. I’m new to the Nanowimo world, jumped in it pretty spontaneously and I’m getting back into Nano. So with all of these reasons, I felt “refreshed.” Of course every person has a different lifestyle and have various degrees of responsibility and free time. But I think learning to enjoy the process is key. I watched so many videos of people preparing for Nanowrimo and they sounded like they were absolutely dreading it. They talked about how last year it sucked, they didn’t hit their goal, their unsure if they will this month, etc.
Bad Thoughts? Be Gone!
Besides from negativity influencing your life and your experiences, my thought was always: then why are you doing it? If it’s not something you’re looking forward to, why even participate? It’s not like a job or school or some other obligation. We’re literally all volunteering for this experience. While of course there are hard times, frustrations, etc. that can come with it, and that’s part of the experience. And an experience having “bad” parts doesn’t mean it can’t overall be a good one. But, if you struggling, especially from the beginning, and aren’t looking forward to writing, maybe doing Nanowrimo isn’t ideal for you right now. Maybe do your own makeshift Nanowrimo next month when your head is clearer. Push yourself and be self aware enough to recognize if you need to just push through or that it isn’t the time for you.
November can be a hectic month for some, with the holidays and such work may get busy. For some students they are preparing for finals. Whatever the case may be, life happens. Again, recognize when you should just push through and when you should move on. Not every rough patch means to throw in the towel. This month in general wasn’t the greatest for me. Stress about work, money, life, and the death of my cat that I had since I was in second grade. It sucked.
But, I didn’t take these are reasons to give up on my story and on this journey. I never wrote this consistently ever. Not in such an organized manner, at least. Usually I’d just write aimlessy, the plot never getting anywhere. Or I’d scratch everything the minute I felt uninspired and would convince myself the whole project sucked. I’ve had moments like this happen, but knowing I had an end goal in mind helped me fight it.
Another thing I did that helped me propel through the rougher patches was planning. Although I only heard of Nanowrimo a couple days before it started, I already began sketching an outline for my story. I’m new to the entire process of outlining a novel, but I can now attest that it’s a necessity. I spent hours researching online to determine the best outline method for me. Some people like extremely detailed outlines that are practically a book in its own right. Others prefer a very rough idea of the beginning and end, and that’s about it. Where do I land? Somewhere in the middle.
I found that having extremely detailed outlines that were upwards of 100 pages would take the fun out of writing the actual novel. For me, I’d feel like I was writing it twice. But for some people this works for them, so go for it. Instead, I took the popular storyboard method and made it my own. Many people use big poster boards, like the ones we’d use for science projects or presentations in school. But I’d find that’d get very expensive and wasteful. So I opted for an index cards method.
Index Card Method
What I did was on the front of the index cards I wrote out some of the major plot points/events for my novel. Such as wedding flashback, dad dies, intro to Cal (one of the characters), bachelorette party, etc. Then, within each of those major plot points, I’d write certain scenes or events (maybe even dialogue) to happen during that part. I’d flip over to the side with the lines and write out what I wanted to happen. For example, on the “intro to Cal” card I made notes to include how he and the main character (“MC”) met, a few meaningful memories from their past, and what will happen when they separate again.
This helped me stay on track and motivated me to push through sections I was in a lull over. Even if I was not too excited about finishing the current scene I was working on, I’d think about the next scene and how excited I was to explore that. I can’t believe I wouldn’t outline before, because I will now do this for all my stories going forward. Also, I numbered the cards so I could keep track of what was coming next.
I left room for my story to grow and change if I wanted to take a scene in a different direction or cut it completely. I gave myself a rough idea, I didn’t map everything out to the T, which still allowed me to have fun with it. Fun fact, in high school on essays I used the same reasoning. I never outlined my papers because I felt I was writing it twice. And I would always do well on my papers. But let me tell you, novels are clearly different than an essay or research paper. Please give outlining a try. If you don’t like my index card method, there are so many others to try.
Connect with the Nanowrimo Community
What’s great about Nanowrimo is that there are so many others doing the same thing. You’re not the only crazy one attempting to write 50,000 words in a month! Through the forums, writing buddies and Nanowrimo events, you’re able to connect with like-minded people who share a passion for writing. I didn’t have any writing buddies, so I can’t comment on that. But I did enjoy combing through the forums and reading people’s posts. You can get advice on writing, name suggestions or just talk about how the month is going. For those afraid that they’ve fallen too far behind, there are even threads to encourage those in this position.
Throughout the month there were also “Virtual Write In’s” on the Nanowrimo Youtube account. There, the selected hosts talk about, shocker, writing. They give viewers their tips, share their own processes, may even tell you about their stories and more. One thing I found helpful were the writing sprints that lasted typically between 5 and 15 minutes. The hosts would chat and viewers would converse in the chat box. But when it was time for a writing sprint, all activity ceased so we could write as much as we can in the allotted time frame. You have the option of following their writing prompts or just writing your novel.
Additional note: keep your eye on your Nanowrimo inbox on the official site. You’ll find pep talks and advice from writers that can put a little pep in your step.
Progress Tracker to… keep you on track
I realize I did not write any words yet today, but it’s currently only 4 p.m., so don’t scold me! But as you can see from the screenshot of my own progress tracker the graph is in an upward slant. Now, if you are doing the Reverse Nano strategy I mentioned earlier, your chart will look different. But seeing this my graph increase while my “words remaining” until I hit my goal decrease as each day passed, kept me accountable and motivated. Also, you earn badges for updating your word count. One for 15 days, one for 30 days. And for some reason I really want those invisible, virtual badges.
Your graph will hold you accountable when you’re slacking and also give you a guide to show you when you’re moving in the right direction. It’ll show you how many words you need to write each day to finish on time, if you’re on pace to finish early, all that good stuff. So keeping your eye on the website definitely helped me not only survive Nanowrimo November, but conquer.
Thanks for Reading!
If you made it to the end of this post, thank you! Thanks for reading and I hope you found this blog post helpful, informative and entertaining. Keep your eyes on this site because I update it weekly. Also, check out my Youtube channel and Instagram if you want to learn a little more about me. Thanks, Leila.