Mid-Nanowrimo Update: Things I've Learned

November 17, 2015

Well... we're over halfway there and I'm way behind. Way way behind—but that's okay! I'm still determined to finish out the month strong even if that means finishing without making it to 50,000 words. So far amidst road trips, my husband falling sick with a three-day flu, work crises, deadlines and a plethora of unnecessary drama, I'm almost to 20,000 words. That's a lot for a little over two weeks—especially for this slow writer—but not for Nanowrimo. Excuses aside, I've already made a running list of reminders to myself as I attempt to press on:


I have anxiety. Mostly mild stuff but it can creep up on me when I least expect it—like when my husband brings home the flu: hello full-on panic mode. When my brain goes into a panic, it's working double time and all it can focus on is the anxiety, which is bad news for writing because it isn't going to happen. Not until the dust settles and that usually means late-night writing sessions where my brain is too tired to dwell on anything else. That brings me to item number two.


Sitting around all day eating nothing but junk for an entire month is going to make anyone feel less than their best, but health is mental too. There will be times when I have to step away and do what you have to do to deal with anxiety. I need to give myself those writing breaks and the freedom to put other things before my Nano project because it's not the first priority. I can't beat myself up if work or anxiety ruins a writing day—that will only put me in a bad place where writing becomes a toxic source of guilt and that, to me, is infinitely worse than missing my words count.


I schedule my writing time, but often I feel my attention drifting to other matters. I have several side projects that demand attention, but the real killer is finding myself adrift through the internet. When it's writing time, it's fingers-on-the-keyboard-eyes-off-pinterest-time. If I'm going to schedule the time to write, I'd better be writing. This is probably the best thing Nano can teach is the ability to shut out everything else and write.


It's so easy to get discouraged when you're behind yet you see people put up 30k words in a day and finish at day three (If that is you, holy crap you're amazing. Don't let us slow-pokes stop you). But honestly, HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? Second, are there diapers involved? Third, and more importantly, is that even something I'd want to do? Nope. That's not me. I'm guessing that involves intensive prep and outlining and while I believe in prep, I'm pretty adamant about my headlights approach to outlining. I have an ending in mind and a time frame for the story, but that's all I need to get where I'm going. That's my method, but that's not everyone's method, and if I've learned anything in my 25 years of life, it's that comparison is the thief of joy. There are definitely times where I wonder if I'm doing it all wrong, but then I remember that no two authors walk the same road. The way of others is not my way, so I've been making sure to keep my eyes turned firmly ahead.


There's a reason I don't outline my first drafts—it's because I love the pure exploration phase of a novel. I place my characters into a plot and then I see what happens. I can't let my characters act for themselves when I'm working with a rigid outline. Gosh, that sounds pretentious, but I need flexibility. Plotting aside, with writing this many words in a month, there is no time to sit back and chew on the phrasing of my sentences as I am oft to do outside of Nanowrimo. Here's what Nano has taught me over the years: be willing to let your first draft suck. Over and over, I've told myself "no one is going to read this." The first draft is for me and me alone.


The most important thing I've learned: it's not worth it for me if I'm miserable i.e. it's being a toxic source of guilt. So far, it's not. Writing is my love and my passion, but I don't need Nano to finish a novel. Nano, I do for the community and the joy of writing a story with others alongside me. I have a huge novel to edit when this is over so my primary goal besides getting to 50k words, is getting there without getting burnt out. I might be tired at the end, but if it's a burnout sort of tired it won't be worth it.

And that's all for now, because it's time to write. But first, what have you guys learned?

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  1. I am also way behind where I should be for NaNo, so this post definitely hits home for me! My grandmother passed away during the first week, and I was an absolute wreck and didn't get any writing done. I've been playing catch up ever since.

    I really like what you said about not letting your low word count become toxic guilt or pushing yourself so hard that it causes a burnout. The first time I did NaNo, back when I was at university, I did NaNo unofficially on my own. At the time, I wasn't a member of the NaNo website nor was I on Twitter. So, the only person I was comparing myself to was myself. While I do love the community inspired by NaNo and all the participants on Twitter, I also find myself feeling guilty for not being as far along as others. I don't want to view writing as a chore or something I have to do. I want writing to be fun. However, if I don't participate in NaNo and other stuff that include deadlines, I almost never finish writing my novel. It's a challenge to balance my joy of writing with finishing a first draft.

    At the end of the day though, any writing I get done during NaNo will be an achievement because I may not have written those words otherwise.

    Thanks for a great post, Adelyn! Good luck on NaNo:)

  2. I'm not officially doing NaNo, but this post still hits home for me because I spent months and months trying to be a fast drafter when I'm not...at all. Everybody has a different process, and just because I can't write 1,000+ words a day doesn't mean I'm a terrible writer. Everybody's process is different, and that's okay. Thanks for reminding me of this!

  3. This is such a cool post. I'm still behind my word count at NaNo, too, but I'm not really stressed about it, either. I'd love to win NaNo because I'm super competitive (mostly competing with myself, though), but I won't be really sad if I don't.
    What I've learned is that I CAN be serious about writing and I CAN make time for it - I've written every day this month except for 2 days when I had the worst stomach bug and we were moving apartments the same weekend (something I'd never wish on anyone...). But I feel like writing a little every day keeps me connected to the story in ways that binge-writing doesn't, plus it's harder to burn myself out if I do small batches of writing (one in the morning and one at night, for example), which still leaves time for other work and life.
    I'm also glad I'm doing NaNo because this is the first time I've shared the fact that I'm writing with anyone except my husband, which is kind of a big deal for me.
    I wish you luck with your novel, however much you write in November!

  4. Ah, I feel ya on the anxiety thing...it's a struggle in my life, too, and it's been showing up a *lot* this month. *hugs*
    This is such a great list! They're definitely reminders I need -- I think a lot of people forget that NaNo is supposed to be fun, and treat it like a life-or-death situation. Which...isn't great.

  5. This is a great reminder while I strive to reach my NaNo goal! Funnily enough, my way of dealing with anxiety is to ignore all my schoolwork and just keep writing. It helps a lot! I'm struggling with concentrating on just my writing, though, because multiple desktops on Mac and I have two hundred tabs open with blog posts to read. (This one included, of course.) Great post, and I hope you enjoy NaNo!


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Mid-Nanowrimo Update: Things I've Learned

Well... we're over halfway there and I'm way behind. Way way behind—but that's okay! I'm still determined to finish out...