It’s December, which means that the madness that is NaNo has come to a close. This was my second year participating and it served as quite a learning experience. The biggest of which being that I can do things I didn’t think I could.
It was the middle of October when I went to the NaNo website and committed for the year, pledging to participate. At that time, that was all I had…the desire to do it. No plot. No characters. No genre even. Not plan of any kind.
Last year I had an outline. One that was for a story floating around in my head for the past 15 years or so, since I was in college. And now I’m not sure if that helped or hurt me. It helped me stay on track, not get ahead of myself, and keep up my word count. The story itself though was inconsistent as there were key plot points that I hadn’t decided what way to take them or when it reveal it.
Last year was also the farthest I’d ever gotten on any of my “stories” I’d written. I accredited it to the presence of the outline and knowing where each scene was going to be. I’d snowflaked it, gone though the steps in order to have that outline and an understanding of the characters going to be in it. So it’s no wonder why I panicked that I didn’t have anything planned this year.
I started writing in my notebook, different ideas that I might be able to eek out 50,000 words from, finally settling on one. A fantasy that I titled “The End of the Faerie Hunters.” When it started on November first, I had the title, the name of the main character, and the fact that magic was outlawed by the king and the faeries were killed for existing.
I started off okay, getting a little over 1,700 words the first day. (For those unfamiliar with this form of writerly insanity, you need to average 1,666 words per day in order to finish it on time.) The second day I got about the same and started thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be too bad.
Then the writer’s block hit, and suddenly I was behind.
My word deficit grew, from 1,400 on the third to over 11,000 on the eleventh. I started thinking, already, that there was no way I could finish it. The average words that I would need to finish went up to 2,000 per day, then 3,000. In the middle of the month I was 12,683 words behind, with even less than that written. By this point I was certain that it was a lost cause.
I kept writing, chipping away at the gap to what I should have had, and on the twenty-third, I was out of the five-digits and down to four, though only just. That didn’t last long as a couple days later on the twenty-sixth I ended the day at the worst count so far, being over 13,000 words behind with only four more days left on the NaNo clock.
I had taken those days off work for deer season but told my husband I wasn’t going. I had too much to write. So I buckled down and turned on the notifications for the word sprints on Twitter. I chipped away at the words, typing at the short increments with classical music playing in my earbuds to drown out the sounds of the dogs and my husband (sounds bad, but I get distracted easily, and with the earbuds in, it was a signal to him that I was working. I’d talk to him during the breaks so I wasn’t ignoring him completely).
That first day of sprints I wrote almost 6.5k. The next I was over 7. I could have eased up and written 3k the last two days to finish it, but I wanted to be sure, so I did another day of 6.3k, finally coming to the winner line at 50,056 words. With that, I ordered my winner tshirt and coffee cup, and started letting my brain relax with a bit of Diablo III.
I’m still shocked that I wrote that much without an outline, but perhaps that’s why this one makes more sense the whole way through than last years. Maybe the freshness of the idea gave wasn’t held up by my preexisting notions about the characters. Or the scariest thought of all….
Maybe I am a pantser after all, but need the motivation to keep going that NaNo provides so I don’t give up on the story like I have so many, many times in the past.