It is official: I have won my 9th NaNoWriMo. This is my tenth year and I am pretty sure I have my winning system down pat. You see, I am a social writer. I know, seems odd, but I am. I write more and better when I am writing with people.
When the month started I was reflecting on how my annual exercise of writing 50,000 words in 30 days has impacted my greater writing skills. Now, on the flip end, I am focused on something different. I am shocked at how well I did this year. Within the first week I was half way done. Most of that, about 15,000 of the first 25,000 words, were written in the first weekend. This year I did something differently in how I planned my novel. I decided to focus on two things. First, I focused on my ending. I struggle with endings in all my writing and communicating. Most of it can be solved with knowing what my point is. Writing the thesis reminded me the importance of knowing your objective and sticking to it. The same is true in fiction writing. You need to know what your story is and what points you need to make. Once you make it, you wrap this up and move on.
That was what I did this year: decided on my ending. I knew when and where the story should end. What should be happening to my main characters to identify the end? That was where my second point came in. I had to decide what themes were important to my story. I focused on two themes. First, I looked at the men my main character had loved before she settled with her ‘soul mate’. I wanted her to reflect on how those men and her feelings about them shifted as she changed. Second, I wanted to have my main character to determine her full sense of identity. Well, enough of one to make her happy. I knew I was done when she was with the right man and had a strong sense of identity. No, I won’t share more details than that. The rest was terrible.
The month didn’t start out with this story though. I woke up on November 1st with a strong idea for Harry Potter fan fiction. I wanted to write that done as much as I could before moving on to my planned story. It was an interesting experience. I have woken up on November 1st with the perfect opening for a story or an idea that I want to write down. I bolt out of bed, typically much earlier than I normally would have, rush down stairs and open the laptop. Sabine meows a few times to remind me that she wants fresh water and some treats and, once the most important details are typed out, I take care of her needs. This year I had an idea for a totally different story. I spent the first weekend writing a 12,000 word bit of Harry Potter fan fiction. I by no means finished that small piece, but I got all the ideas on paper. That was all I wanted to do with it: get the ideas written before I forgot them.
By the end of the weekend I was working on my main story and already building on momentum. Here is what I realized about that first weekend. As the local organizer, the municipal liaison, I was at all three writing events that weekend. I spent most of the Friday writing and then wrote extensively when we had events on Saturday and Sunday. I write between 600-800 words in 15 minutes and that is how long we often work at events. We call them writing sprints. The goal is to write as much as you can without chatting, researching, or distracting yourself. People do really well with these. So, within 45 minutes of a 4 hour event, I had hit my daily minimum. I had written about 5,000 words every day at these events because I was there for hours.
I tried writing from home too. The best I did was when we ran sprints over Twitter, but it was hard to do when nobody else was online and the television was on. I felt I was doing well enough at events that I didn’t need to worry about writing during the week at home. This allowed me to have a small life outside of writing. I was able to get knitting done, spend time with people, go to my book club, and more. I just wanted to make sure I was done before Thanksgiving. In fact, I was done on November 19th.
I don’t recall ever finishing this quickly. Even taking off days to focus on life keeps me working until right before Thanksgiving. Last year I didn’t finish until Nov. 26 and the year before that, Nov 22. In past years my daily average has been about 1,800 words. This year I jumped to 2,394 words. I think changing my process could have been they key to my success. I didn’t outline, I just stuck to my themes and ending. Everything after that was free to develop as I needed.
I did other things as well. I didn’t get stuck on chunks of text that didn’t come easily. I moved on to chapters or action that came more easily. I figured it would be easy enough to return to those sections when I can think them through. I also had a plan for what to write if I finished my planned piece before 50,000 words. I am glad I did both. Right now I am still writing (I still have a few events to run) and have enough to work on for a while. I am done though and now its time to think about next year!