We’re two weeks in. That’s right, we’ve reached the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month. For those of you who had nothing better to do on Halloween, I posted here announcing to the world my intention to participate this year.
“So then what’s this post about?” I hear you ask, “Are you coming to let us know that the impossible dream was, in fact, impossible. Have you dropped your pen in anguish as yet another in a long string of writer’s blocks plops into your path like so many gumbas and koopa troopas in World 8-4? Have you cried mercy as your frazzled brain can’t even tell an adjective from an adverb any longer?”
And to you doubting Thomases† I look up from my hard won ~25000 words and whisper “No.” I have thus far kept very close to my intended pace throughout the month. You can see the stats from the back of my baseball card below:
In my fifteen days that’s I’ve been plugging away at my novel this month, I’ve come to learn three lessons at dear cost to me and mine that I’d like to share with you.
1. It’s not actually that hard
I started the month unsure of whether I would even be able to keep up with the 1,667 words/day fever pace that is required to finish on time. I finished those words the first day without issue. So too with the second and the third and and nearly everyday since then. The 50,000 word goal seems unapproachable in such a short period of time, but it’s so much more reasonable when taken one day at a time. As old grandpa Abrams used to say, “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.”
I’ve clocked myself and found that I can write ~2000 words in an hour. So all I have to do is sit my but in the chair for an hour twenty five times over the course of the month. It’s not so bad when you think of it that way.
2. It is pretty hard, though
I don’t want to sugar coat things, friends. Getting up the energy to sit and pour yourself out onto the page for an hour a day is difficult. I’ve noticed that writing is much more draining than almost any other creative activity that I’ve partaken in. Unlike drawing, painting, or dancing, writing requires constant and unique creative input. When going to draw something like Father Christmas’s Leal Knightlord, I only have to be truly creative at the start when I sketch the concept for the final picture. From there on out it’s just follow-through – detailed sketching, inking, scanning, coloring. All of those steps only require a sort of absentee creativeness—I am regularly able to watch TV and listen to audiobooks/podcasts during this process.
No such luck with writing. You have only to put in ~1 hour a day, but you need to be fully and totally present during that time. You also want to try and write something that is going to be genuinely usable later on during editing. Not an easy task at all. I’ll tell you that everything in my life suddenly seems to take on a new importance when I sit down to write. I’ll find my self changing the A/C filter, washing dishes, taking out the trash, anddoing laundry all in avoidance of writing. To be sure these are all important things and they do need to get done, but I hadn’t found such pleasure in them when I wasn’t shirking my daily writing responsibility.
3. Be diligent and plan for the worst
I can’t stress this enough. There is no time for waffling. There is no time for having writer’s block. There is precious little time for planning. When you take the challenge of taking a bite out of NaNoWriMo, you need to have a good plan going forward.
You have to set yourself up to succeed. You never know when a sudden illness is going to hit (It’s happened to me TWICE in the past two weeks), and you may overestimate the amount of writing you’ll able to accomplish on that mid-November vacation (precious little, I found out last weekend). As a result you need to write when you can. Don’t just wait until your word count ticks above 1667 for the day and then stop. If the flow of words is still fresh, soldier on and make the most of your creativity. YouTube and Reddit will always be there when you’re done. The best way to approach it is to imagine that it’s your job and that someone is really counting on you finishing this draft by the end of the month. Ostensibly, you’ll be preparing yourself for your future life as a successful novelist when your editor and fans will flood your inbox with demands for more of your beautifully constructed prose delivered as soon as possible.
The take away is keep writing no matter what. If something doesn’t work, don’t erase. Just forge forward.
Okay, folks. Back to writing for me.
†Note: That was the Apostle I was named after. My parents had a lot of hope for me.