Pro tip: don’t voluntarily take on the challenge of writing 50 000 words in 30 days while simultaneously trying to finish your degree. It doesn’t end well.
This year was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. With two days and 20 000 words left, I can say with certainty that I’m not going to make it. I spent the first half of the month trying to squeeze in writing around working on the final assignments of my degree. Needless to say, my creative work was far more interesting that 12 pages of Renaissance literature analysis, and I frequently had to force myself to work rather than write. For a while, I was pretty much on track, but those last few essays broke my stride, and I never recovered. By the time my last assignments were submitted, I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting before my laptop for a moment longer.
That being said, NaNo did teach me about my own process. I found myself more motivated to complete uni work because I wanted to write in the evenings, which were by far my most productive hours. There were many late nights, which were oddly satisfying. I took to writing on my phone during train trips and lunch breaks to make the most of that down time and get ideas on the page while they were fresh.
NaNo forced me to stop thinking about writing and just write the damn thing already, and for that alone I’m glad I took on the challenge. Sure, the 50 odd single-spaced pages I have at the moment probably aren’t very good – I haven’t gone back to read them yet – but some day, with a bit of work, they might be. I’m hoping that what I’m working on now might eventually be worth pushing to publication. I’ve always wanted to write like this, I’ve had these ideas bouncing around my head for years, and finally, finally putting them on the page feels amazing. I’ve learned better habits. I’ve learned that a little bit written each day is better than nothing at all.
I’ve had my fair share of rolled eyes and heavy sighs when I tell people that I’m writing a YA contemporary fantasy novel where my heroine joins the fight for magic-users’ rights, constantly being asked ‘Don’t you want to write real literature?”, but I’ve more or less become immune to it. I love what I’m writing. I’m enjoying it. And right now, at this stage of the work, that’s what matters.
I haven’t won NaNo this year, but it has helped me achieve more with my writing in 30 days than I’ve managed in the past three years. At the end of the day, I suppose that’s not really a failure at all
November is nearly over, but my novel is far from finished.