Guest post by Tonya Spitler
NaNoWriMo: What I learned
For years I have listened to author friends talk about their experiences taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge. Each year I shake my head and cringe. It sounded so impossible.
Up until about a year ago, writing was a dream of mine. Something I had always wanted to do, but never felt confident enough to start. Sound familiar?
This year I decided I would jump on the NaNoWriMo challenge bus. Here is what I have learned along the way.
I am somewhere between a pantser and a plotter, so I'm going to call myself a plantser. I need to have an idea of where I am going, or I get stuck in the middle and walk away. To set myself up for success, I sat down and brainstormed several ideas. I discarded ones that seemed to need more research than I could handle in thirty short days and came down to one pretty solid idea.
Once I had my idea, I started jotting down what I thought might happen, who the characters were, where I wanted the story to end up, etc. This was the easiest part of the process for me.
Finding the Time
Plan in place, I figured I could squeeze time in before my kids woke up, or maybe after they went to bed. How hard could writing 1,667 words a day be? After all, I had a plan - sort of- who needed a set time?
Turns out I did. Some days I sat and 2,000 plus words would flow easily from my fingers to the page. Other days, I'd stare at the screen and wonder why on earth I publicly announced this crazy plan.
Much like needing a rough idea of where the book was going, I needed to have a time devoted to writing that was quiet and distraction free. I could never quite guess when my kids would wake up, and some nights, they stayed up later than I did. (Teens am I right?)
So, I decided to block off time. I would let everyone know I was writing, and unless the house was on fire, or someone was seriously hurt, they needed to figure it out until I was done.
Time doesn't just appear, you have to make it happen.
Losing the Faith
About halfway through, I started to really question my sanity. What on earth was I thinking trying to write a book! I'm no *insert name of crazy bestselling author here*. I am me, a mom, wife, business owner with a dream. No one would want to read this rubbish anyway, right?
Self-doubt crept in and sunk its sharp teeth right into my sensitive writing spots. Feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome quickly took the wheel. I leaned heavily on my author friend group for encouragement during this time. If you don't have a group of authors who write in a similar genre to bounce ideas off of and be encouraged by, I highly suggest you go get one.
Okay, I won't wait, but seriously look into critique groups, author Facebook groups, or reach out to your favorite authors. You never know where these people might be hiding. Having a group of people to support you and who understand this journey you are on is vital to success. Not just during NaNoWriMo, but throughout your writing career.
I won't pretend like all 50,000 words flowed from my fingers in a beautiful arrangement that left me with a #1 Best Seller on my hands. That's not how it works unfortunately. At least not for most people.
I *did* end up with a pretty good first draft though. So, what did I learn?
NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. The pressure of hitting a certain number of words each day can be overwhelming for some. For me, it was a great exercise in getting from the beginning to the end. Not stopping and getting sidetracked by other ideas and research was a challenge I had to overcome. It was great to have some experience with writing on a deadline as well.
Will I do it again next year? Not sure, it was tough to get done with the holiday season starting up, but that feeling of accomplishment... NOTHING BETTER!