At 5 PM on 30 November 2014 I validated my first draft manuscript and with a total of 50, 622 words and 130 A4 pages of typed text, I won NaNoWriMo 2014.
I’m very excited and exhausted, both from the sleepless nights and the exhaustion.
Things I would have done differently (because hindsight is wonderful):
- been more proactive in September and October in developing a plot, and trawling through various name generators to develop a working list of possible character names and place names. Behind the Name, Fantasy Name Generators, and Last Name Generator were crucial in helping me when my imagination wasn’t fully functioning in the tense final stages of Nanowrimo.
- I would have tried to ensure more variety in my characters by planning at least the personality profiles and descriptions of the main characters prior to the start of Nano. I had this idea that using a personality system like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator would be helpful in making believable individuals with distinct personalities. I will probably do that for my next NaNoWriMo.
- I would have drawn a map and a timeline, because in retrospect I’m not sure that my descriptions of the location and timeframes in my story were consistent.
- I would’ve tried to go into it with maybe a plan A, plan B and plan C story idea – because it is very hard to write a story you don’t like. However, on the other hand, the discipline of writing even when one doesn’t particularly enjoy it is, I think, I good skill. I found that as I pressed through and wrote anyway, my story started to interest me enough to want to find out what would happen next.
- I would’ve been more deliberate about setting aside half an hour every day to go for a walk. When I don’t get enough exercise, I turn into a monster who doesn’t write very well.
- I would’ve started the social media fast a lot sooner, keeping my updates to just this WordPress blog. It’s hard for me to find a healthy balance. I’m one of these people who has an existential crisis when they’re not using social media, but also falls apart when they spend too much time procrastinating on social media. I can’t win and I often reminisce about the good old days, circa 1996, when my rural town still didn’t know what an Internet was and we had to ride kangaroos to school and breakfast was the damper cooked on the coals with a hot tin mug of billy tea.
Things that worked well:
- Deliberately writing on a near-daily basis. Even if only a paragraph or a few hundred words, it all adds up eventually.
- Deciding at one point that, as hard as 50, 000 words is to write in a short timeframe, I actually really wanted to be able to look back on this month and say that I accomplished what I set out to achieve.
- Getting the kids to write stories for the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program. As they came to understand how the process worked, enjoyed it, and realised what I was doing, I found that they were more willing to give me some space to accommodate my own writing when I asked them to.
- Choosing to wash a load of clothes first thing every morning. Most of my writing successes can be linked to having clean socks available.
- Logging off Facebook around the halfway mark and letting people know I wouldn’t be available, so I wouldn’t feel compelled to reply to messages unless I was free.
- Admitting that even though something in me wants to be a good and proper science fiction or fantasy author, the reality is that there’s this weird part of me that is compelled to write stories about monsters and the supernatural. Rather than try to fight that impulse, I went with it.
- Accepting that while this full first draft of my story might end up never seeing the light of day, it had a little potential and I think, with a lot of work, it could make a decent novella.
- Having people around me that sent me texts and emails and messages of encouragement. Thanks for helping me keep my head above water, folks.