Nanowrimo: Once a Rebel, Always a Rebel

It’s been a while, but I’m back with the annual nanowrimo update! As usual, I didn’t do the normal nano, but instead of (light-heartedly) calling it a failure, this year, I’m embracing the “nano rebel” label.

Though I intended to step back from blog posts this year, I hadn’t intended to go quite so long without an update. I guess I didn’t feel like I had much to say since I’ve really struggled with my writing this year. Without going into too much detail, plotting and writing the fourth and final book of my series became a source of frustration and anxiety. I finally got on track, and used nanowrimo to push me to finish a proper draft.

My Nano Rebel Goal

I started November with a bit over 35,000 words in the draft, and I know that my drafts are usually in the 60-70K range (I write short drafts), so for nano, my goal was 1,000 words a day. This would get me about 30K, and within sight of the finish line even if I didn’t quite make it. Below are some of my observations from the month.

Lesson #1

My final count for the month was 30,179 words. For me, 30,000 words in a month turned out to be very doable. Even having several zero-word days, I managed to hit 30K. It took some effort to make up words at the end, but I didn’t feel burned out and miserable. Normally, having some zero-word days would really discourage me, but it’s a lot easier to recover from a 1,000 word deficit than a 1,667 word deficit, so my more modest goal helped. I hadn’t kept a running total, but I knew I was behind. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hit my 30K goal. It meant that when I finally did the math on November 26th to see how many words I had left and got a number over 7K, it still felt doable. I was also at the climax of the story by then, which was fun to write.

Daily Count Frequency

Zero words: 7 days
0-999 words: 10 days
1K-2K words: 8 days
2K-3K words: 3 days
Over 3K words: 2 days

Bottom Line: Any words are worth it, even if you only write 200 that day. It’s very normal to have a few really high word count days. Embrace them.

Lesson #2

Some people work really well in mornings, others at night, but what about certain days of the week? Mine are not created equal. I expected Saturdays to win, but Sundays are apparently my best day. I guess rest + time is the magic formula! I want to keep tracking this, because I don’t think I have enough data yet. Still, for November, you can see how most of my writing occurred on the weekends.

There’s this notion of writing X number of words a day, but what if people switched to a week view? Instead of feeling discouraged by those 400-word days when I was aiming for 1,000 words, why not look at weekly totals? This might be the mindset I need to adopt in order to maintain morale and make progress while still accounting for life’s challenges, like when my son cancels nap time without putting in his written notice two weeks in advance…

Average words per day of week

Monday: 566, 2340, 0, 615, 1307 = 966
Tuesday: 530, 0, 0, 209 = 185
Wednesday: 1254, 0, 759, 1453 = 867
Thursday: 0, 448, 0, 453 = 225
Friday: 534, 520, 0, 1005 = 515
Saturday: 1058, 2105, 1131, 2748 = 1760
Sunday: 1546, 4165, 968, 1038, 3427 = 2229

Bottom Line: Embrace your schedule. If daily goals are crushing you, try a weekly goal, or monthly goal (like your own personal nano!).

Lesson #3

This particular book has been rewritten twice now, and this was finally the draft that got finished. I’d worked out the plot a few months ago, but honestly still felt discouraged by all of my setbacks this year. Using nano as my motivation really helped. There was a voice in the back of my head saying, “It’s taken you this long, why bother rushing now?” Setting this deadline helped replace that awful voice with the plan that I’d have it finished on November 30th instead of the nebulous “this year.”

I’ve set myself the imaginary deadline of December 31st to get this draft ready for beta readers, and it feels doable. I just won’t have time for my usual excuses.

Bottom Line: “Artificial” deadlines work, so set some.

Lesson #4

Be a nano rebel.

The whole purpose of nanowrimo is to get people writing, so if you know you’ll feel like a miserable failure on day 10 because you can’t write 1,677 words every day, adjust it into a goal you know you can hit (while still pushing yourself a bit). Success breeds success. The accomplishment and relief I feel from completing a draft of this novel after it’s been weighing on me for months has been great motivation for the editing phase.

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