NaNoWriMo: PLANNING for Success!

(My Journey in 2019 – Part 1)

Cast yourself back. It’s November 1st, 2019. Halloween has made its exit and Christmas is waiting on the doorstep; family gatherings, festive cheer and happy memories! Yet before the holidays can arrive, a great journey must be completed. Yes, friends, Its National November Writing month! 30 days, 50,000 words. There are no rules and there are no restrictions. You can write fiction, non-fiction, a diary, a mess of thoughts with no threads linking them, it doesn’t matter! What’s important is that you make the daily word count; 1667 words, every day, for 30 days straight.

For me, the task sounded impossible. It was great to think about but never something I’d actually achieve. I was so resolute in this belief that even as I told my friends and family about it, I felt self-conscious. I knew that by making my participation public, I’d be a failure should I give up half-way through. That when I lost my drive and fell short, they wouldn’t support me but instead judge me. Why was I setting myself up to look bad? I knew I’d fail, I knew I didn’t have what it takes….

Somehow this year, I surprised myself.

Through a surreal turn of events, on November 30th 2019, I breached 50,000 words. It wasn’t an easy journey and though sometimes it was fun, it wasn’t always a happy one either. Yet I made it, my proudest moment! Now, as we approach Christmas, I want to share my experience in the hope that you can find inspiration for next year! If ever you’re falling short, I wish to help you reach that tough 50,000, through my journey and the lessons it taught me.

The feeling of success when you get there is so worth it!

Though, like the marathon start, we’re going to start from zero. The very top. Today, I’m going to tell you about when I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo and the time leading up to November 1st.

Without further ado, grab yourself a cup of tea! Settle in and relax as we go back to the middle of August, when I started toying with the idea of taking part.

I’d known about NaNoWriMo for as long as time itself. It was one of those challenges I’d always wanted to complete but I never quite found the courage, time or energy to do so. Everything I’d written in the past would only make it as far as 10,000 or so words before dissolving into nothing. I’d always start filled with inspiration then somewhere down the line, I’d get distracted and that’d be that. Why would November this year be any different? That’s what I kept telling myself as I considered partaking. I supposed one reason might have been that I already had an idea for a story; a fantasy novel that I’d wanted to write for years. I’d attempted it before, outside of NaNoWriMo. I made it to around 3000 words before I stopped. I didn’t run out of ideas; I didn’t get frustrated or angry. I simply closed the document on my computer one day and allowed it to grow digital cobwebs. I still don’t know why I abandoned the piece but I always regretted it. Time and time again, I tried to will myself to go back and carry on but I never found the time. I was always busy, always too tired — little did I know, that was a mindset I only adopted. In truth, I subconsciously refused to see all the opportunities I did have to write. This was one of the first lessons NaNoWriMo 2019 taught me. Even now, I’m shocked that I attempted the marathon with that mindset. Yet at the height of August I reached the impromptu decision that I’d throw all my cares aside and try. Why shouldn’t I? It was a chance to finally finish the tale I wanted to tell. NaNoWriMo gave me a goal to reach, an excuse to get on with it!

I never knew at the time that an excuse was all I needed.

As I said before, I had 3000 words before the marathon had begun. They were festering somewhere in an anbondoned Microsoft Word document. Though despite this, I elected to start from scratch. If I was to complete NaNoWriMo, I wanted to do it in the traditional sense: 0 to 50,000. Don’t get me wrong, there are no rules in regards to carrying on a partial novel and if that’s what you did, then great! But, for me, I wanted to finish the old fasioned way. A blank document that I would pour my words all over, in the hopes something nice would shine.

After I’d reached the decision to take part, the days turned into weeks. August fell into September and how did I prepare for November? I did nothing. Nothing at all. Zippo. I’d decided with certainty that I was going to take part but I found myself to be dreading the marathon. I saw it as my freedom falling into a void as I wrote page after page of jarble. I still often questioned, what on earth was I doing? I put the challenge off, to the back of my mind, for as long as possible. It was only as October began to show it’s face that I decided to research a planning schedule.

What I found made my jaw drop.

I was behind before I’d begun.

On NaNoWriMo’s website, they list exercises to be completed over the course of six weeks. These aim to assist with planning your masterpiece. The start date for these was September 9th and here I am, in October, feeling at a loss. I understand now, of course, that the dates are a guideline but alas, my mind is very absolute; if a schedule is offered then I must adhere. No questions asked. The fact we’d surpassed the start date of the course and I hadn’t followed it set alarm bells ringing in my head. It told me I was falling behind, even though NaNoWriMo hadn’t even started! You’re going to fail, I told myself and part of me already wanted to give up. Much to my shame, I was a little happy to be given an out. Like needing an excuse to write, it turns out I only needed an excuse to give up too. Something I could say to my friends and family was the reason I changed my mind and didn’t take part this year. Had I used it, no doubt I would have regretted it today. I never would have known that I was going to make it to the end of the marathon. I would have always wondered, what if?

Yet much to my relief, I pressed forward and managed to overthrow my strict mind. This was one of my greatest feats of the month, funnily enough. I decided that I’d hurry the course. Rather than spending six weeks preparing, I would instead spend one week.

Amazingly, it worked!

I followed the course on a fast moving conveyor belt. Where it suggested, for example, spending a week on character development I instead spent only two days. I felt a bit like I was cheating, that I’d be subpar anyone else in the marathon yet to my surprise, two days was all I needed. If I sat down and put my focus into planning, I could come up with aspects of my novel in a quick and efficient manner. Sure, they weren’t fleshed out as much as I’d like but it gave me material to work with. What surprised me from this, is that it actually made me excited to write! I found I was looking forward to November rather than dreading it. It gave me a fresh set of lenses to look upon my story and a desire to sit down later and flesh those ideas out.

On the bus to work, I lost myself in the world of my characters and universe. Even though nothing was on paper and even though my story hadn’t started! I found that I was asking myself what ifs? I was imaginging actors that could play my characters and I was exploring different eventualities, different situations…

All without putting a single word down. It was like magic! In an instant, I was giddy with excitement to begin telling my story when November 1st arrived. It changed everything in a click of the fingers. Yes indeed, for me, planning was key. That doesn’t mean to say you need a big brain storming session or that you need to spend weeks upon weeks doing it. A simple idea of who your characters are and where you want to be is enough to create a masterpiece.

I learned that it didn’t matter if you started late or if you fell behind. That nobody could write down what’s expected of you but only offer helpful advice. What’s important is that you get your ideas down and within mere days, the prospect of NaNoWriMo will no longer be scary. A challenge, sure but not something to fear!

So, like that, had I cracked the secret to reaching 50,000 words?

Not quite and as you’ll see in the next article, I encountered many more bumps along the way!

I’m sure there’s a way to make the journey easy just waiting behind that door, I’m sure of it!

PART 2: NANOWRIMO: WRITING 50,000 WORDS IN 30 DAYS

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