So it’s been nearly two weeks since I finished NaNoWriMo. Yes, I wrote a 50,000 word novel draft in a month.
An entire month of literary abandon. An entire month of little sleep. An entire month of triple the caffeine intake. I have to say, it took quite a toll on me, as you can see below.
No, I didn’t turn into a crazed Jack Nicholson, though I was in zombie mode for nearly a week afterward. It was quite amusing, I’m sure, for anyone around me during those days. In all seriousness though, I did learn quite a bit about writing, and myself during those thirty days.
I refer to this work as “The Prequel”.
In April, when I entered my first writing contest, I started writing my first novel. It’s a time travel novel. However, over the course of five months, the plot just wasn’t really forming. This past fall I had acquired a copy of Snow Patrol’s “A Hundred Million Suns” and fell in love with it. As I was listening to it this novel idea assaulted my muse. The prequel for my already current novel. It just would not let me go. Scenes just kept entering my mind until I had to at least write down a rough outline so as to not to forget it, once I finished my current novel. But then realization struck me that I could not use my current novel for NaNoWriMo, officially. That’s when I decided to write “The Prequel”. And thus it all began.
Firstly, it really is important to write every day (though I haven’t done so since November 30th!). During the competition I started out rather strong, even ahead. And then the unforeseen happened and I got the flu nine days in and was laid up for two whole days. I didn’t feel like doing anything, let alone writing. That put me behind by over 3,200 words. It then took me another couple days to recover from being sick to even want to attempt to write. When that week was all said and done I was behind by about 6,000+ words. This was not a good start to my first year of NaNoWriMo.
Secondly, I learned that I really need to get to know my characters on a personal basis before I can convey their story to others. I didn’t really form a relationship with them until midway through writing. Though, by the end of it, we were really great friends. I think I told their story to the best of my ability (so far). I think they would be pleased.
The most surprising thing that I learned was that your outlined plot is not set in stone. It can change, so let it. By chapter six, the plot took a fork in the road and turned into something completely different than what I had planned. Probably the most shocking thing about this whole writing experience was receiving a brand new plot twist at eleventh hour on the final night of the competition. Let’s just say the ending of the novel will be totally unexpected!
The next, and I have come to realize, really is the most important thing, is to have a support system! Going into this only a couple people knew I was going to compete in NaNoWriMo. Some that I mentioned it to gave me odd looks and very carefully composed questions as to why would I do this. Why not? What had I to lose? Time? Sleep? Sure I can’t get those back. But look at what I gained! I wrote an ENTIRE 50k word draft! I pulled a whole book concept out of my head and got it down in physical words! I have never done anything like this! It was quite a rush! This is the first step to getting published (my ultimate dream)! But I digress. A support system. My biggest support system came from friends at work and church. Once they found out what I was doing, they became huge supporters and encouragers. I have to say, those that continued to ask about the progress of my work day after day, week after week, really is what powered me forward to completion. If I had not had that constant encouragement and interest, I probably would have gotten frustrated and just given up. But I didn’t. Thanks to them. You’ll be the first ones to read it once it’s been edited. You all know who you are.
One other significant thing I learned during this journey was that I need to read more. If you know me at all, you know that I’m already a bookworm. I get giddy over bookstores. Yes, Barnes & Noble causes me to drool. Used bookstores, even more so! What compares to that old musty book smell with a slashed price tag? Not much, I say. Not much. But really, Stephen King, renowned author who has penned more books than I am even aware of (and under a pseudonym no less), gave a piece of advice in front of a group of people attending a conference in his recognition. Someone asked him what his advice would be to become a better writer. His reply was to read lots of books, in many genres. He said that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. His recommended book quantity included 70-80 books a year! That’s about 2 books a week. Which has made it to my 2011 “Resolutions”, or Goals. Do I think I can read that many books next year? Not likely. Will I attempt to reach it? You betcha!
So in retrospect, all the lost sleep, all the deranged dreams and ideas that cropped up during November, all the caffeine buzzes (Red Bull Fiasco of December 1st)…was it all worth it? Heck yeah! I really can’t wait to see how this all pans out from here. Saturday I emailed it off to my friend and cohort Saz who lives in New Zealand. She is my sole beta-reader. I trust her advice and I know she’ll give it to me straight. I also know that she’ll do her best help me to mold this draft into the novel that it has the potential for.
And without further ado, the playlist that encouraged:
1. Where the River Runs by Collective Soul
2. Hands Open by Snow Patrol
3. Set Down Your Glass by Snow Patrol
4. Noticed by Mute Math
5. The Golden Floor by Snow Patrol
6. Salt in the Snow by The Classic Crime
7. The Planets Between Us by Snow Patrol
8. Pale Horse by Moby
9. Airplanes by B.O.B (w/Hayley Williams)
10. Crack the Shutters by Snow Patrol
11. Take Back The City by Snow Patrol
12. Panic Switch by Silversun Pickups
13. The Lightening Strike by Snow Patrol
14. Make This Go On Forever by Snow Patrol
15. 9 Crimes by Damien Rice
16. Falling Slowly by The Swell Season
17. Maybe by Ingrid Michaelson
18. This Year’s Love by David Gray
19. Kings & Queens by 30 Seconds to Mars
20. Download by Snow Patrol