If you look to the right of this post, you will see my total word count for the NaNoWriMo (which means that in November you write a novel with a target of 50,000 words).  I am amazed to say that I now have the first draft of my novel.

Back in October, I wrote about my feelings on signing up for the challenge.  I felt afraid but fear was overriden by curiosity.  There were two things I was curious about (1) whether I could do it and (2) what I would learn from the process.  Well, I did do it and this is what I learnt.

A vague idea not details   I only needed an idea.  I didn’t need to worry about where my plot was going and what was going to happen and when.  I’ve never liked writing plans.  In the past, when I was told to plan my essay and submit the plan with the essay, I would always write the essay first and then the plan at the end.  For me, ideas are formed during the writing process and if I do make a plan first, I usually deviate from it.  The same happens in my teaching.  When writing my novel, the plot just developed as I went along.  Some days I knew what would or should happen next.  At other times, I had absolutely no clue but instead of panicking or hitting a wall, I just asked “What happens next?” and somehow and from somewhere the answer came.

Keep driving forward   I just kept going, pushing forward, without worrying about the details.  So if I wanted to write about something that I had little factual knowledge of, I didn’t let this stop me.  I made it up, guessed, imagined what it would be like.  There wasn’t time to get sidetracked by research.  That can come later.

Finding time   Before I started, I was more worried about finding the time than doing to writing.  However, I made it a priority and I was determined not to fall too far behind because I knew I would then be more likely to give up.  There were a couple of days when I wrote less that 500 words, the daily target being 1,667, but I ensured that I quickly made the deficit up.  Throughout the month, my finishing date based on my daily word count only ranged between 29th November and 1st December, so I remained on target or a day behind or a day ahead.  I would say that I wrote for between one and one-and-a-half hours a day, but not in one continuous session: most of the time, it was five minutes here, ten minutes there.  I learnt not to worry about finding great chunks of time during the day.  In five minutes, I could write a hundred words or more.  Those five minutes added up.

Getting started    I’d had the idea over a year ago but had been waiting for the right time to start the project.  However, if you wait for perfect conditions, you will never start.  The right time to do something is NOW.  In some respects, I think that getting over the hurdle of starting is harder than doing the task.

Believe    Fairly early on in the process, around day nine, I suddenly realised that I was certain I would complete this project.  With the element of doubt removed, I was able to focus with confidence on the task in hand.  There were none of those “Perhaps I should give up now because I probably won’t finish” thoughts acting as a demotivator.

Commitment    It’s much easier to commit to something with a definite end date rather than something that is open-ended.  I kept saying to myself “It’s only for a month.  I can do this for a month.”  That’s easier than saying “I’m going to do this until it’s finished”.

The end might be the beginning   My aim was to write a novel from start to finish.  I thought that when it was done, that would be it and I had no intention at the outset of taking it any further.  However, I now find that I am keen to do some research to make the events and descriptions more authentic, to write the back story in more detail, and generally to develop the novel further.

Overall, I feel much more confident about doing things I previously thought were too difficult or time-consuming.  NaNoWriMo has shown me that if you approach something in the right way, the seemingly impossible is achievable.

What do you want to do that seems impossible?  How can you make it achievable?


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2 Responses to NaNo-ver

  1. Nilufar says:

    This is most inspirational. I do so appreciate the actions described as it makes the process appear doable. And of course the message here (for me) is that any task can be approached like this, in edible bite-sized chunks, with an end date or some sort of cut off. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. kokorimbaud says:

    Congrats for making it! This is a huge accomplishment, and I love that you now want to polish your novel and develop it futher. With it being easier than ever to get things published on your own, you totally should look into it.
    I toyed with the idea of joining this year, but a number of reasons said it wasn’t a good time for me.
    Maybe I should have – you are right, starting something despite the circumstances being a bit challenging often is half the victory.

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