Winding down from #NaNoWriMo, or 30 days of hell

NaNoWriMo is nearly over.

Hooray if you’ve already won or are soooo close you can taste it! If you are only at 30,000 words right now Ohmygodhurryyouarealmostoutoftimebutyoucandoit! If you are at 10,000, um, well, can’t sneeze at 10K, it’s a good start and you are now 10,000 words closer to the end of your novel!

It’s not for everyone, this panic-filled mad rush to 50K. Would you do it again?

I’m unsure at this point. I cracked the magical 50K finish line a little bit ahead of schedule. Hey, who threw that?! I didn’t say it was GOOD.

There. That’s the crux of my issue with NaNoWriMo. What I wrote wasn’t good. I don’t think I am especially OCD about my writing – a little, maybe – but I want what I write to be great. Isn’t that the point?

I started out with a general outline. I knew how the story would end, had prepared some scene ideas and character back stories all before November 1st.  In case it’s not clear, I am a planner, NOT a pantser, a seat of her pants writer.

At around 20,000 I started fizzling out but found my groove by shocking myself and pantsing it all over the effing place (and that sounds way dirtier than it should), ending up with some decent scenes including a biker gang fight that came out of NOWHERE. Then I threw her in jail at 33K. By 39K the fizzle beat the crap out of sizzle. Coffee, junk food, more coffee, lots of staring at the computer screen, lots of dramatic sighs and face palming.

Maybe it happened earlier or later for others. I tried checking #NaNoWriMo and #amwriting for ideas, did a couple word sprints but the sizzle, the fire, the drive, was gone. I got it back at around 45,000 after writing some pretty shitty words (I’m being kind here) by coming up with a better motivating back-story for my main character. But still, those shitty words taunted me, “fix me, I’m terrible” they say. “You’re gonna leave me hanging like this all flat and awful?  There’s a typo RIGHT NEXT TO ME.”

I pushed on. I’m so glad I did. The first half is way better than the second half where my goal became word count not story, meeting the deadline instead of fleshing out the characters. The crazy deadline that is NaNoWriMo leaves no time to select the perfect word or come up with the perfect sentence. You have to put down good-enough-for-now words and eh-f*ck-it-I’ll-change-it-later sentences and I found that surprisingly difficult.


BUT, here’s the important part, hence the caps, NaNo taught me to follow the characters as they flipped me the bird and marched right off my outline and that the story is (mostly) better for it. Words can be changed, sentences and paragraphs can be improved later.

Today, as I write this, the sky is a canvas of gorgeous deep orange and pink. I hadn’t noticed sunsets all month because…Nano (also November which is typically very gray here in the Midwest). The very day I cracked that magical threshold at 50,716, the heavy pressure eased. Is my novel finished? HAHAHAHAHA.


But the bones of a pretty good story are there, in JUST 30 DAYS. So maybe, possibly, next November I will go through this again. Until then, I’ll be revising, rewriting, and occasionally watching a beautiful sunset.