I committed my November to writing a 50,000-word novel inspired by the NaNoWriMo project.
I’m a very self-conscious writer. Writing is a puzzle where the pieces—story, grammar, flow, context, and voice—shift when I add or change a word. If I follow the rules, I can be a decent writer, but I don’t want to spend my time simply telling decent stories. This month was about conquering voices of doubt in my head…and writing a story.
At the end of the month, I emerged with 50,000 words and a first draft of a novel. How did I temporarily fight my writing demons? I set a goal to write 2,000 words everyday. On November 8th, 15th, 19th, 21st, and 28th I didn’t write a single word. I never wrote more than 3,000 words in a day.
I’m sifting through my first edits of the book now. I’m still a self-conscious writer, but one armed with a few more tools that might help others along the way:
— I Did it My Way: You people out in the world expect a lot from me, so I ignored all of you when I wrote this first draft. I decided to focus on process rather than outcome. Something that resonates with me might have an impact on others. It’s also easier to edit a story I like.
— Prison Building: I created a set structure for my writing practice. Writing was my first task each day. If I only wrote when I felt like it, I would have managed about six days of writing in November.
— What if?: This was my first project where I put a couple of characters into a world and asked the question, “what would happen if?” Instead of an outlined plan for this book, I wrote through the story. I experimented like a scientist—the story was a vague hypothesis fueled by confusion and exploration.
— Relief in Writing: Each word I put down on paper was one less word swirling around my head. Relieving myself of that burden gave me some peace of mind throughout the rest of the day.
— No Free Samples: I decided to stop giving the story away. People’s feedback started to shape the way I wrote when I tried to explain a detailed plot summary.
— Those Stories with Intention: I wish I had addressed my intention at the beginning. My creativity supported my fears because I never stated my goal beyond “write 50,000 words.” I think it’s important to understand what type of work you want to create—it gives the mind a direction. My book currently lacks the humor and wonder I try to bring to my work.
— Edit later: First drafts are terrible. Creating is about refining. That’s not something I can do at close range. I wrote a rambling version of my novel and walked away. Only now, as I begin to read my draft, can I see the size and scope of the story I created.