Camp National Novel Writing Month is officially here, and I’m really excited to start the writing! Camp NaNo is basically a more-laid back version of NaNoWriMo–this time around, you can choose a smaller word goal, a lines or pages written goal, or a minutes or hours written goal, and you start a completely new project, re-write an old one, or finish one you’re already working on. This year, I’m finishing my spy action/thriller The Alley Runners with an optimal goal of 30,000 words–not as hard as last November’s 50,000, but not an easy goal, either. To celebrate the start of this month of writing, caffeine-drinking, Authortube-watching, procrastinating, and, at the end, relaxing and celebrating, I’m doing a recap of what I learned while noveling in November, my first time participating in NaNoWriMo.
Here is the link if you want to see my first post along these lines, What I’ve Learned About Writing While Writing My First Draft.
First of all, for those of you who do not know, National Novel Writing Month is November, in which literally thousands of people from all across the fifty states and fifteen territories compete to write a full length novel–50,000 words–in a month. I, along with several of my writing buddies (people you connect with to compete and be accountable with) –won, which is to say, reached 50,000 words. Here are my thoughts, my feelings, my adventure writing approximately 50,159 words in a month. And, by the way, all photo credits go to Pinterest. 😀
Don’t look at me like that. I know I have already said this multiple times. But with each new story, each new poem, each new book that I write (yes, I write books now, when did that happen?), I realize this more and more, even though the writing itself becomes easier. To finish 50k+ words in a month–that, my friends, takes dedication. Several, several nights I was up l a t e. I sacrificed time I could have spent with family and friends so that I could accomplish my goals. I seldom read or watched television. At school, I thought about writing. At home, I forced myself to write. When I laid down to sleep, the last thing I wanted to think about was my book, yet that was the only thing on my mind. It was hard, going like that for a month. Very hard. But it was so worth it. And I’m sure the thousands of others who participate in NaNo with me whole-heartedly agree. We did it, and it was worth it.
- You’ll always need more research than you think you need.
This year, I tried my hand at seriously writing a historical fiction for the first time ever, and, in Preptober (slang for October, NaNoWriMo prep month), I researched enough, or so I thought. I outlined the course of the American War for Independence, made notes about different ships that were widely used during the second half of the eighteenth century, did other things along those lines. I thought I was all set.
Somehow, I didn’t think about the fact that hey, I’ll need to know what 18th century sailors eat. Or what being flogged feels like. Or, did George Washington stay in a tent at Valley Forge, or in a house? (Surprisingly, he was quartered in a house. I had no idea that there even were houses in Valley Forge.) So many things I had not thought about, even though I thought I did an excellent job preparing for November. My Google search history looked a bit strange at the end of November. “trenton nj map 1780s” “terms of endearment in Japanese” “john paul jones” “rank lower than corporal”
Though researching isn’t always the most fun part of writing, it is necessary.
- You’re going to need a break, and that’s okay.
Specifically, I didn’t take full-on breaks in November. I wrote all thirty-one days. And now I know you’re thinking “Why is she saying this?” Because I took little, itty-bitty mini breaks. I would be short two hundreds words at the end of the day, and I’d shut my laptop down, anyway. Maybe I forced myself to read for a half hour one day, to ignore the computer until after school the next. To be honest, most of November is a caffeinated blur now; I do remember specifically letting myself scroll Pinterest looking for book aesthetics to motivate myself to write, and, after writing through half of a movie, cutting my word goal down a few notches and letting myself take a break. Nobody wants to write when they hate writing. If you can, take a few days off. Just do what you have to do. Your health and mental state are so much more important than if you can write a 50,000 words in thirty days.
- Your family and friends may not understand, but they will believe.
This was a huge one for me. So many people around me encouraged me, asked me how my goals were going, had a sympathetic ear. My sisters were understanding when I couldn’t play a board game or didn’t have time to watch that old black-and-white movie. Lily and Eva read along while I wrote on the big school monitor or smiled when I dug out a piece of paper to scribble the next scene during study hall. And, at the end, they bragged on me. Oh, they bragged on me. My teen leader’s wife proudly announced to Action Teens (my youth group) that I had written a 50,000 word novel in a month. Lily was thrilled for me. Mom was impressed–she had told all of her siblings at Thanksgiving what I was trying to do, and now I had done it. None of these people necessarily understood why I was doing what I did, or why it was so important to me, but they all believed I could. And that means worlds to me.
When I first started NaNo, about a week in, I was able to visit a NaNo-inspired writing conference at my library and meet bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf. But I also met a librarian (whose name escapes me now), and as we were chatting about NaNo, she said she had attempted NaNo seven times before and never won. That really struck me, and, quite honestly, put a lot of doubts into my head. This grown, adult woman, hadn’t finished every year for seven years. What about me? Sixteen-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears me, who doesn’t know two things about noveling, has school and homework in abundance, is taking a five-day trip for Thanksgiving, and can barely find the time to write, as it is? How is this going to work out? I might as well just quit now. I’ll never finish.
But hey. Guess what. I’ll let you in a little secret. I finished, and it CAN be done. What did I just do? I wrote a full-length novel with a specific beginning, middle, and end, in not three years–the approximate time it took me to write Though He Slay Me—but thirty DAYS. IN DAYS.
Wow. Just typing that seems ridiculous. But I, and thousands of others like me, accomplished our goals. After it all, we were tired. We were mixtures of ecstatic and cranky (mostly ecstatic.) I thought of the librarian, and I hoped she made it.
Well, my friends, that just about wraps it up! What are your plans for Camp NaNo? Did you did NaNo last year? What is your favorite NaNo memory? Also, any questions for a Q+A? Let’s talk!