NaNoWriMo: Here Goes Nothing

Despite clamouring about it on Facebook, Twitter, and in comments on other people’s posts, I haven’t actually written a post about NaNoWriMo yet. I’m pretty sure I mentioned it in passing, but I’m surprised at myself for not writing about it properly, as it has been a major decision for me.

I had already decided I was going to write a novel this year. But I had given myself the highly unambitious deadline of 12 months for a first draft, and a measly 2,000 words a week. I was non-committal – writing a novel was just one of many things I wanted to achieve in 2013. Other  goals including doing academic reading and writing, starting to paint again, doing more photography, finding a job, getting my Etsy shop up and running again. Basically, I was spreading myself pretty thin.

But then I had this realisation – I was just spreading myself this thin because I was afraid of committing to any one thing.

I have been afraid of failure.

I have always been afraid of writing. Despite primarily identifying as a writer (and a musician, but that’s a whole other story) for the majority of my life so far, I have done very little writing. And for a long, long time the quantity of my writing was decreasing with every year. In university, I was “too busy”. And eventually I got out of the habit entirely.

Sirens & Muses has been revolutionary for me – it has got my writing juices flowing again for the first time in half a decade. But still, I was holding off.

You see, the thing is: I did my Masters in Library and Information Studies because I decided I did not want to be a writer.

What a thing to decide, at the age of 21. When I hadn’t even given it a go. I still held onto a vague idea that I could write in my free time, but I spent a few years trying to let go of the idea. I wanted security, supposedly. A mortgage, a husband, a dog, 2.4 kids.

But really, I just didn’t want to fail.

I was absolutely terrified that if I tried to really write – tried to really be a writer – I would fail. And then I would really and truly have to give up my life’s dream, not just because I “decided I wanted to take another path” but because I couldn’t do it.

Something clicked in my head.

One day I just thought: I’m going to write a novel. And I’m going to do it now.

National Novel Writing Month was originally going to be a means for me to get 50,000 words down of my original novel idea. But my boyfriend soon convinced me that this was a bad idea. My “actual” novel is something precious to me, and he reckoned that if I tried to write 50,000 words of it in a month I would stall, would be paralysed. He suggested that I take November as a time to experiment with my writing habits – to start with a fresh idea and not have to worry about failing at it.

At first I was dubious. I had this idea that I was bad at coming up with stories – that’s one of the reasons the short story form has never really worked for me. But when we got home that afternoon, I just took out my laptop and came up with a story idea, just like that.

It turns out I don’t think I’m so bad at it after all. I just never really tried. The thing about writing – about anything – is that you have to actually do it. Story ideas aren’t going to pop into your head that often if you don’t sit down and think about it. Your writing is never going to get better if you don’t practice. And you can’t be a goddamn writer if you won’t goddamn write.

What I hope to get out of NaNoWriMo.

I realise that building NaNoWriMo into such a big, momentous deal in my head is not particularly conducive to not freaking out about it once I start. But it’s not really about “winning” for me.

What I do hope to get out of it:

  1. Writing discipline. I’ve already gotten better at sitting down and putting metaphorical pen (fingers) to metaphorical paper (keyboard) through maintaining this blog. But it hasn’t exactly crossed over into large amounts of creative writing. Aiming for 2,300 – 2,500 words a day (mon-fri) will be the first time I’ve set myself a challenging writing goal, and it will force me to actually sit down and JUST DO IT.
  2. Writing habits. Similarly, I have yet to find out how I work as a writer. I have no idea if I’m more productive in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening; if I work best in my flat, or in the library – in a quiet environment or in the midst of hustle and bustle. I’m already starting to feel that extensive planning prior to writing might be a very good thing for me, but I won’t be able to tell until I get going.
  3. Letting go of my inner editor. This is a big one. I have come to realise that this has been the main barrier to my writing – the invisible force field slowing me down to a maximum of 500 words a day. All drafts need editing and rewriting. And ultimately I will be more productive by letting the story flow and polishing the sentences later. If I want to achieve the 50,000 words I will absolutely have to do this, and I think it will be a very valuable lesson for me.
  4. Accepting the need for rewriting. Conversely, or maybe subsequently, I have been terrible at rewriting, too. My tendency to try to force out the finished product as I go has inhibited my ability to go back over what I’ve written and pull it apart. But by allowing myself to write more freely, I automatically necessitate a major rewrite come December.
  5. A rough first draft (fingers crossed). If all goes according to plan, I will have my first draft of my (sort of) first novel. And that prospect alone is exciting enough to propel me through the month. Having previously envisaged slaving away for a full calendar year just to get the words on paper, the idea of getting such a large chunk of prose down in such a short space of time is exhilarating. Even if I don’t get the full 50,000 written, it will almost certainly be an infinitely bigger step in the right direction than I have ever taken before.

So wish me luck!

I will be keeping you updated on my journey once it begins. It all starts, funnily enough, the day after I turn 24, which is the age my parents got married. I haven’t been looking forward to 24, and I think it helped propel me to really shake up my life and get going with this properly.

For those of you who are also taking part, feel free to look me up on the NaNoWriMo website – my username is Áine Warren (aine-warren). And most of all, good luck! It’ll be an interesting month.


25 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: Here Goes Nothing

  1. I have no doubt you will reach the 50,000 word goal, Aine. Just keep writing, even when you get stuck. The one writing habit I discovered during my last NaNoWri was I can write anytime, morning, afternoon or evening because I had to keep writing. Good Luck!

  2. You have some great advice there and some good reasons for doing NaNo (or should it be IntNo?- doesn’t have the same ring). I’ve done Nanowrimo two years running and have yet to hit 50,000 but it was a great experience. I’ve learned what best suits my style of writing amongst other things. Thinking about the 50,000 words can be very daunting and almost restrictive. Sometimes it can be soul crushing.

    Try to have fun and resist the urge to get serious about writing. A lot of it comes down to enjoying yourself and freeing yourself from restriction. If you don’t make deadlines or something comes up it’s not the end of the world if you missed some writing. I think writing is all about taking baby steps and developing slowly. After some slogging you’ll look back and say look how my writing has grown! All the best!

    • Thanks for that advice! I do have a tendency to stress about things so I’ll have to really be strict with myself about not getting too hung up on making the 50,000 words. I guess it’s all about the experience! 🙂

  3. What a great post and self-confrontation, Áine! 🙂
    I think this is a great thing to come back to in moments when the writing gets frustrating or you start slipping back into your old habits of self-editing and whatnot. I can’t imagine how challenging it must be to write this much but I’m sure it will be so rewarding once you see that you can do it! Best of luck and look forward to hearing about your progress!

    Thanks also for subscribing to my blog, it’s much appreciated and I hope you will leave a 10-word-or-less description of your blog on my new page dedicated to my readers & their blogs:

    Thank you!

    • Thanks so much! Yes you’re right, it will probably be invaluable to have all this motivation written down to come back to when the going gets tough – I hadn’t thought of it like that, so thanks for pointing that out. I’ll head over and add my description now. 🙂

    • Did you decide to go for it? If not, I think just setting any sort of challenging word count for the week or month is a good way to get you going. I’m struggling with day one with a horrific hang over – I know if it wasn’t for NaNo I wouldn’t have written a single word today, but I’ve already got over 1,000. So it seems to be working so far!

      • Haha so proud of you! Sounds like you enjoyed your birthday. I wrote maybe a couple hundred words this morning, and I’m going to a “write-in” tonight with some other wrimo-ers. Oh, and yes, I did go for it. Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

      • I’m just reading your blog post about it now! Haha thanks, it started to flow later in the day, I’m close to the 2,000 word mark – so far so good, and hopefully it won’t take me ALL DAY like it did today for the rest of the month! Sounds like fun, good luck!

  4. Pingback: this month, i will write a novel. | the way home

  5. The first part of this post was exactly me! So terrified to write that I made excuses like school, or work when in reality I did not want to know if writing fiction was something I could be good at, and I felt like I was wasting time trying when I could be filling my time with more important things like keeping up with a new reality TV show (stupid high school phases) But at least now I know, like you, that I can do it! Good luck and best wishes my nano username is katyd1018 if you want to be writing buddies!

    • Yes it’s a good feeling seeing the thousands of words pile up! It’s funny how so many people seem to struggle in this way, I guess it’s only natural. At the end of the day, any creative endeavour takes work, and it’s natural to be afraid of failure if it’s ingrained as a major part of your identity. I’ll go add you on nano now! 🙂

      • Thanks for the add! I like being able to find bloggers who are doing nano, it makes it easier to connect! Now that we are on day 6 though, I am actually feeling like its getting easier. And I am excited to get the chance to escape for a while – I am hoping this feeling lasts past November!!

      • Yes, it’s a lot of fun connecting with other people doing NaNo! I wish I was finding it easier, though – I think I’ve been finding it harder as it goes on, but that could be thanks to my health being a bit up and down. I’ve yet to feel that escape, but I hope I get there! 🙂

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