Yup, I said it, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to and I almost caved on October 31st, but I made myself a promise. I know what happened last year, and I told myself I wouldn’t do NaNo this year because of it.
NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – takes place every November and challenges writers and authors alike to try and write a novel in 30 days. When I first heard about it, I thought it sounded like a fantastic way to get started one one of the novel ideas I had milling around in my brain. And it is. It’s a great outlet for intense bursts of creativity and for motivating yourself to write every single day (something I struggle with). The moral support from the community is heartwarming and I love seeing how others are doing with their novels, as it encourages me to keep going with mine.
I took part in 2016 and 2017, and I enjoyed both experiences, but my enjoyment dipped last year because I was working full-time, whereas I wasn’t in 2016 (I was in Japan). I also had a 3 hour round-trip commute every day, which I’d normally spend reading, but during NaNo I was trying to channel this into something more productive. This meant carrying my laptop with my everywhere to write. It wasn’t ideal, I’ll say that much.
‘But Kate’ I hear you saying ‘why didn’t you just write in the evenings?’ Well, I did. But since I have an office-based job, evenings are my only time to do sport. And I may have mentioned this before but I love sport. It keeps me feeling healthy and happy, so I wasn’t willing to give it up for a whole month.
Between working full-time, commuting, and my hobbies, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to write. But somehow, I managed it. For the first two weeks I kept to my word count and wrote every day. But after that things began to fall apart. Since I only just had enough time for writing, I was getting no reading or blogging done, and I missed both things. A lot. I started to fall behind because I didn’t like the direction my story was going (it wasn’t turning out how I’d imagined it). I kept writing, but I found that I really wanted to just stop for a few hours and give myself some reading time.
And then we went to France. Curveball, I know, but it was my sister’s birthday towards the end of November, and she was on her year abroad so we went out to celebrate with her. It was three blissful days of fun and relaxation, but I got no writing done. So by time we came back I was down 5000 words and had failed my goal of writing every day. I felt dejected about my story, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to continue with it. But I felt emotionally rejuvenated after our mini-break; I’d had time for reading and had enjoyed exploring, and I just wanted to enjoy the rest of the month without using up all my time trying to catch up on words. Plus, I was beginning to feel like I needed to rewrite my story from the beginning with a completely different plot.
So, I quit. I stopped writing and left my story at 30k words. As a result, the end of my month was much more relaxing than the story. I was (and still am) disappointed with myself for not continuing, but it was a case of quitting while I was behind or spending more time and energy trying to salvage a story I no longer liked. At the time it was the right decision for me, but I didn’t end up touching that story again until this autumn. I hadn’t felt motivated to write in a while, but a combination of different factors led me to feeling inspired in October, right before NaNoWriMo. This left me with a decision to make – did I plan quickly and take my new idea straight into NaNo, or did I give myself more time to let the idea take root, forego NaNo and begin to write it at a more leisurely pace.
I went with the latter option. My situation hasn’t changed since last year; I still work full time and commute long hours, and I still do a lot of sport (sorry, not sorry) so I chose not to do NaNoWriMo this year because I knew there was a good (99%) chance I’d stop writing before the end. Because, honestly? I don’t have enough time to smash out 50k in a month. Even though I’m not going to France this year, I’m busier than last year because I have plans every weekend as well as through the week Plus, my inspiration to write has only just returned (from war) and I didn’t want to destroy it by rushing into a story that needed more planning.
I’m sad to not be participating this year, because despite the trials of last year, I really enjoyed the first few weeks, it’s definitely the right decision for me. I know that I would struggle to get to 50k and then beat myself up about it, because I just don’t have enough hours in the day. So, instead of doing NaNo, I’m going to gently cultivate my story ideas, and see if I can get them to grow without losing my inspiration. It’ll be a longer process, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What works best for you in terms of a writing process?