A Reflection on NaNoWriMo Cramming

November is over now, which means your crazy NaNoWriMo friends are emerging from their caves, searching for meaning in their lives. After thirty days of writing, they aren’t quite sure what comes next. Now is the time to celebrate their successes and progress toward writing 50K words of a new novel.

Last year, NaNo was not difficult for me. I had characters, I had time, and I had the writing fuel (read: coffee, coffee, and more coffee). I demolished the word goal and even finished my novel during the month and started a new one. It was glorious.

This year was a completely different story. After easing through last year, this month hit me square in the nose, knocked me down, and pummeled me until the last few hours of November. My last day required an 8.5K word sprint in order to win.

Somehow I did it.

I didn’t want to save it all for the last minute, but that’s exactly what I did. The month of November was stressful for me, and I envy those who might not be as competitive as I am. Despite the hell of a month, I was determined to win, no matter what it took — even if I was cramming it all in during the final hours of the month. Of course, when you cut it that close, you start to look back at all the opportunities missed and chances you could have made life easier for yourself on November 30.

Write every day

Even if it was just 50 words, I made sure I wrote every single day (I’m all about keeping up that streak). For at least ten minutes, I sat down with my story and did my best to make progress. Now, ten minutes is not enough, but sometimes that’s all I had to give. That’s why the next tip is so useful.

Schedule time to write

Last year, this wasn’t even a thought on my mind. My life was different at the time, and there were clear cut moments in the day where I could focus on writing. I never worried about scheduling it because I knew those moments would be there.

This year, those moments weren’t as common, nor were they as long. Sometimes all I had during the day were five minutes here and there. As someone who thrives on writing with momentum, that wasn’t enough time to get going. Toward the end of the month, I realized that I was going to have to start scheduling time to get up in the morning and write or stay up another hour to get the words in. Writing group on Wednesday was exactly the boost I needed, but I needed to hold more accountability on the other days.

What Writing Groups Can Teach You

Garbage is acceptable

That inner editor is a persistent little bugger. My first few chapters, I absolutely did not follow my own advice. By the end of my book, I was separating any and all contractions just to cross the finish line. Sure, there’s a lot of work to do when it comes to editing or rewriting any first draft, but because I was too careful with the front end of my novel, the last 5K words suffered more than they should have.

It’s Time to Turn Off Your Inner Editor

The writing community is some of the best support

Writing groups are a great help, not only for scheduling time to write, but also for their support and encouragement. You have accountability to show up, not only for your friends but for your writing. That consistency is what helped me on the days where I wanted to do anything but write. There were several of us participating in NaNo, so we could share our tips and suggestions on what helped us.

Not only does the nanowrimo.org site provide support and encouragement throughout the month, November is a time where a huge portion of the writing community comes alive. For thirty days, writers join forces and take over the online community. It is a wonderful thing to be part of and provide value to. They are a great source of inspiration for writing!

Sometimes life gets in the way

As much as I was determined to get this novel done earlier in the month, life happens. I had a lot of commitments come up that could only be accomplished in those moments. I spent a weekend visiting my alma mater and rejuvenating my spirit. I traveled home for a weekend to see my brother after four years. I was in the middle of a relationship that I wasn’t about to shove aside for a month. I had holidays and travel, just like everyone else.

Understanding that life happens, I knew that even if I walked away with a “loss”, I would have gained a lot of progress toward a novel I loved and believed in. Especially because I know this book will continue into the next year as I work to make it publish-ready. It’s a story that I love, and I’m not about to let it go. Still, my competitive nature didn’t let me give up easily.

Now, when I woke up Saturday and realized how much I’d have to write, I didn’t think I’d make it. I had done it to myself, but I also knew if I sat down and focused, I could cut that deficit in half. When I reached that, I tried to cut it in half again. All the while, my family was in the background cheering me on or yelling at me for not taking my computer into the bathroom to keep writing. It was exhausting, but actually did have moments of fun.

But I’m never waiting that long to finish the 50K words ever again.

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