Writing and Nanowrimo

I wrote the second draft of my novel.

At the end of February, after years of working on it, I finished the first draft of my novel. I stopped and paused to celebrate. I felt very proud of myself. I thought, I’ll take a few weeks off, maybe a month. And then I’ll move onto draft two.

Every single month after February, I put on my list of goals for the month Finish the next draft of my novel. Every week: work on my novel. But those were empty promises to myself. I did manage to print up a copy, read through it and mark it up once. But that was it. I didn’t manage to rewrite a single page month after month.

As it happens, I follow a lot of writers and readers on Instagram. And ever since September 1st, everyone has been talking about Nanowrimo and prepping for November. And that put one thing on my mind. Finishing this next draft of my novel so that I could move into November with the intention of working on something new for a month.

I did manage to work on my novel a few times throughout the summer. Once, in July, I managed to work through the first 5,000 words. Again, in August, I put myself on an Instagram ban and took two weeks to write the 10,000 words I required of myself before logging in again. It worked, but it was slow moving. I was not making the progress I wanted to make.

So it was a week or so into September that I sat down and said, I need to figure out exactly how many words I should be writing every single day in order to finish this draft by mid-October, so that I can give myself a tiny break before I begin Nanowrimo. I came up with an action plan. Every single weeknight, I will rewrite 1,000 words after work. And on the weekends, I will rewrite 5,000 each day. That put me at 15,000 total words edited every week, giving myself a tiny break for a trip to Montana for a friend’s wedding one weekend.

That put me finishing the book by last week, so that I would have a tiny bit of time to prep for Nanowrimo starting November 1st.

I did not know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I was going to be capable of writing 5,000 words each day on the weekend. I did know, though, that it would be much less stressful if my word count during the week was less. I thought I’d give it a try. I wrote down my word count goal on every single day of my planner. I kept track of my progress religiously.

Eventually, I gave up blogging so that I could focus all my free time on finishing this draft. I gave up everything but working during the day and writing my novel at night.

I finished. And I cut 10,000 words from my draft finished before my self-imposed due date.

I surprised myself. I didn’t know that just by setting a word count goal and keeping track of it I could actually accomplish the thing I wanted to accomplish all summer long. It was satisfying to type those last few words of this draft. And I know that there’s still many drafts ahead of me, that this book is far from finished. But I am more hopeful than ever that it’s a thing I can do.

What I’m trying to say is that sometimes, putting a quantifiable number on a goal and figuring out the math behind what it will take to get you there is important. I avoided doing it for so long because I was nervous about putting too much pressure on myself. About stressing myself out to the point that I wouldn’t actually be able to get anything done. But the thing is, the big nebulous goal of finish this next draft wasn’t doing it for me. I wasn’t getting anything done. But as soon as I set those weekly number goals, magic happened.

And this, my friends, is what’s so beautiful about Nanowrimo. You have actual, concrete word count goals and even better, a huge network of people to whom you feel the need to be accountable.

I am really excited about and looking forward to this next project, especially in starting it with Nanowrimo. Last year was the first time I did Nanowrimo, and I used it as a tool that helped me finish my novel. This year will be the first time I’m starting with something completely new. It’s big and it’s scary but it’s also thrilling.

If you’re wondering what this project will be, I’m sorry but I can’t tell you. There will be no big announcement on my blog about my Nanowrimo novel because I don’t know exactly what it will be. I have some big picture ideas but I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be. I know that I want to write short stories again and that perhaps they will be connected. I know I’m interested in writing about college students and/or the post grad life.

But that’s about it. I don’t have any characters in mind, or any plot ideas, or any settings. I just know that I want to write in a way that will surprise me.

And I’m really, really looking forward to it.

Happy Nanowrimo, friends. Let’s do this together! My username is maryenolte.


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