What an auspicious way to open my site!
My first blog post about failure. Of sorts.
I did not write 50k in November.
NaNoWriMo (which stands for national novel writing month) is an annual challenge where writers from around the world get together virtually (and in ye olden days of pre-pandemic, in person) to write a brand new 50,000 word novella in November. That works out at exactly 1667 words per day.
Yes, the original lofty ideal is to have a completed new manuscript by 1st December. However, as the years have gone on it has developed. For a while there was a sister challenge called Script Frenzy which set the goal of writing a 100 page script in April. And gradually, as more and more people have taken up the challenge, it’s been customised to suit different needs.
There are now unofficial challenges. Such as designing 30 covers in 30 days, editing, finishing projects, not writing novellas …
In short, NaNoWriMo is now used for many different types of writer and, crucially, for many diverse reasons. But there is one reason that seems to me to run through all the different threads.
Developing a habit.
NaNoWriMo is an excellent way to intentionally fall into the habit of writing. To create space for your own creative work and cement its place in your life while being part of a community of creatives all deep in the same process. It provides excellent motivation and support for the highs and lows that inevitably accompany any creative endeavour but all too often we overlook when we’re buried under problems (usually of our own creating) all on our own.
Of course there are other reasons people participate, but this seems to me to be the most universal.
NaNoWriMo is a challenge; not a competition.
The beauty of the month is that we’re all in this together, supporting each other, cheering each other on – even if only silently in our own heads. It’s not about winning.
Do you really want to end up, having done 30 days of hard graft to get to 50k, only to find you have to delete 45,000 because they were awful. Or didn’t fit. Or irrelevant filler to get your word count up?
I know I don’t.
So yes, I failed.
In the traditional sense, I failed. I did not reach 50k. However, I’ve taken part in enough challenges to know that I was never going to reach that goal.
In the past, I’ve aimed for the full fifty and felt awful as November 30th neared and I only had 10,000 words. Sometimes I quit for months feeling I couldn’t write fast enough to make real progress. And all the time ignoring I’d got 10k. That’s 10k I didn’t have a just few weeks earlier.
And so I’ve taken to setting my own goal: challenging enough to stretch me but not so big I stand so little chance of attaining it that writing anything feels hopeless.
My goal for this year was 15,000 words in 30 days. That’s 500 words a day.
My final total was 17,036.
And I’m stoked by that. I feel like a winner but most importantly The Hollywood Project has made significant progress.
So you want to how I did it and what I learnt?
How did I?
I chose my goal by pushing myself approximately 150-200 words above my usual daily word count.
I allocated time to write and altered my schedule to include it.
I got my words in first thing. Instead of letting life dictate when, or even if, I wrote I made sure I’d made progress before 8 am. No mean feat for a night owl.
I tweeted my word count daily, to hold myself accountable. And made some lovely new friends on Twitter at the same time, which is a nice little side bonus.
And my biggest takeaway from 2020’s NaNoWriMo is that I work better in smaller sessions.
I began the month writing for one hour and I consistently reached 400-550 words. But when I got interrupted half way through a session and was forced to take a break before returning for my second half hour, I clocked over 870 words. And, most importantly, when I tried it again — 900, 1000.
This is now my new routine. So I guess I really did win!
What did you learn this November?