Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Our Journey So Far #8: Looking Back On Last November (NaNoWriMo)

Alex Steele here today. Have you missed me? So! With NaNoWriMo preparations, and that feeling of Fall in the air, not to mention the lovely scent of all things pumpkin spice flavored, I've been thinking about last November. Last November was my first NaNoWriMo (which is where thousands of people try to write a 50,000 word novel in 1 month!), and it was kind of a disaster. I won. I wrote my 50,000 words and finished most of that book, but it was bad. Then I got thinking, how have things changed since then? How have I grown as a writer and a person?

Last year was a big year for me. Over that summer I wrote my first book, and I got really serious about writing, but this year has been just as important, if not more so. I feel like I've learned a lot more about writing and about the kind of writer I am, what I can and cannot pull off. I've really started to grow into my own, I feel. Which got me thinking; how different is this NaNoWriMo going to be from last years? The answer: I think it's going to be vastly different.

First let's look back on last year and all the things that I feel went wrong:

For one, I got a bad start. I was moving at the end of October, I literally moved into my new house on Halloween. So I didn't have time to outline. I knew the very basics of what I was going to write and nothing else. I was scattered during the first week with moving and unpacking and settling in. More than that I wasn't motivated.

I didn't love NaNo, I liked it, it was fun, it challenged me but I honestly thought I wouldn't do it again. This is because I didn't outline and was not happy with the way my book turned out, and for a brief period of time I was convinced it didn't turn out right at all because I tried to write it in a month.

Then a few months later I realized, nope that was not the reason why. I rushed into writing that book without knowing nearly enough about the magical world it was set in, and it's never had that spark for me. Whether I'd written it in one month or ten it still would have been bad, because I didn't have the same feeling for that novel that I did my others, that same excitement and feeling that it needed to be written.

So then I did Camp NaNoWriMo in July:

I'm not sure what made Camp so much better for me than regular NaNo was. It could have been the addition of cabins and the fact that I actually talked to other people doing NaNo, and it also could have been that I was more sure of myself. I knew what I was doing.

I'm not sure when that happened, the being more sure of myself. I think it's just something that comes the more you write, I don't think anyone could pinpoint that moment.

I think whether you've been writing for years, or weeks, or hours, the first time you do NaNoWriMo can be overwhelming. Sure, some people fly through it right away without struggling, but most don't. It's hard. You're not just writing 50,000 words in 30 days, which sounds hard enough by itself, but you're creating characters and worlds. It's exhausting. Not to mention you probably have other responsibilities, a job, cooking, cleaning, taking care of yourself and possibly others. Basically, Camp NaNo taught me that there can be a learning curve when doing NaNoWriMo, just like when doing anything else.

I went from barely writing 50,000 words last November, and not feeling very proud of myself because I ended up infuriated with my story, to writing over 100,000 for Camp, even completing a 50k week.

The Final Big Step:

The final big step for me, growth-wise, came when I started pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. I wrote a contemporary romance, I'd never written contemporary or romance. I started experimenting with co-writing, and different tenses, switching from only writing in 1st person to 3rd person. And all these things taught me a little more about writing and the different ways to tell stories. It's made me a more confident writer by seeing that I could do different things. I can write an epic fantasy, and a fluffy contemporary, I can write something sadly hopeful and something just plain fun.

How I've changed since last November:

  • I am much more sure of myself and my writing abilities.
  • I'm more confident. The kind of confidence that can only come in knowing you're doing your best.
  • I've learned a lot, including that it's okay to let go of other things, like reading, to focus on what's important, writing. Also, that I am a plotter, not a pantser.
  • I feel like I'm more excited and relaxed about NaNo, and writing in general now. From the beginning of last November, I was nervous and a little bit frightened. I was like a baby kitten unsure of the whole world. Now I've grown, I know better than to stress NaNo because I can make it my (insert choice bad word here).

Why I think this year will be different:

I mean, I've learned a lot. I think I know that I need to have fun with it, make friends, and just enjoy the challenge. Even with having completed a 50k week in July, I know now that if I don't make it to 50k this November, it won't be the end of the world and that, I think, makes a huge difference. I feel you really need to learn to take the pressure off when it comes to NaNo, because it's about having fun and trying to accomplish something only for yourself, not to prove to others that you can. I feel like that can be forgotten especially during your first time.

Is NaNo going to be better this year that it was last year?

I definitely think so. I'm already more excited. I'm ready to jump into my writing, have fun with my writing buddies and hopefully meet some new ones. Basically, I'm looking to November to be one big party.

Whether you NaNo or not how has your writing evolved over the last year!?

Write on, write on.

-Alex Steele

P.s. I'm doing Night Of Writing Dangerously this year! Is anyone else going???

(Penelope Grace: Nope. I'm going to be napping through the night! Have fun though!)

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