Confessions of a NaNoWriMo Addict (and Lessons Learned)

I discovered something about myself this year as the 50,000 words in a month NaNoWriMo challenge approached and I got more and more excited about it. I am a NaNo addict. This was my sixth year doing NaNo. The first few years were a considerable struggle and it took some powerful outside encouragement to keep from giving up. Many people say it isn’t about winning, and for some, perhaps it isn’t. I believe that, had I not completed that first year, I might not have done it again. I also wouldn’t have felt the pride or the accomplishment.

For me, NaNo started as more than just a fun challenge. It was a way to show my commitment to my writing and to develop a habit of writing all the time. Now, after several years of doing it, it is still a fun challenge and a great way to keep my writing habits strong. I would write no matter what, but because I would like to try to publish (whatever form that may take in the current changing industry) I believe it is important to develop strong writing habits and commitment to that process. NaNo is a fantastic way to develop and reinforce those things.

I am happy to say that I learned a few things about myself this year that I haven’t had the opportunity to learn in previous years.

1)      I cannot write with a hangover.

Yes, I went out in my steampunk mage costume with friends and closed down the bars on Halloween. This was a bad idea, a really fun bad idea (and taking third place in the midnight costume contest at one of the bars was rather entertaining). When we all got to the hotel room that morning around 2 a.m., I wrote the first eight or so words and went to sleep. When I woke, I tried to write more and the darling people sharing my room (you know who you are) goaded me until I said “And thus begins day one of NaNoF**kYouAllMo” and went to breakfast. I wrote 350 total words on day 1.

2)      I don’t write well with a cold.

Halloween morning, I woke with a sore throat. However, I’d been planning this adventure for a long time. I wasn’t going to let a little sore throat stop me from celebrating Halloween. This landed me with a bad cold to go along with my hangover the next morning that would plague me for the rest of the week. I don’t think well when sick, so I’m afraid the first 15,000 words or so will need to be edited very heavily.

3)      I don’t write well with the flu.

No, really. Shortly after rising from the cold, I caught the flu. I’m sure this was some higher power punishing me for having the audacity to celebrate Halloween the night before NaNo started. As I said above, I don’t write well when sick. The second 15,000 words or so is also going to need some heavy editing.

What I love about all of this is that I still finished with 56,000 words and, at worst, the bones of the book I wanted to write (with some fleshy bits holding it all together – the zombie of a manuscript if you will). Knowing what I wanted to write before going into it helped a lot, as did a certain stubborn streak that does not serve me so well in some other aspects of my life.

I will spend the next several months finishing and editing this book (and working on some others). Next year, I will dive headfirst into NaNo again, because I love it. Next year I also won’t sabotage my own process by staying out late on Halloween. (Actually, I probably will because I love Halloween too.)

Happy writing!