NaNoWriMo Update 2: A strong start, then a steady decline

Turns out, my word count isn’t my biggest challenge. It’s actually sitting down to write.

 
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How many words per day do you have to write to beat NaNoWriMo? If you’re looking at the nitty-gritty, it’s 1,667 words. It turns out that’s harder than you’d think.

Related: I’m attempting NaNoWriMo for the first time. Here are some tips I’ve learned while prepping.

If you had asked me how my writing was going at the beginning of the week, I would have answered with an enthusiastic “Great!” By Nov. 3, I had over 5,000 words saved and thought that this was going to be a breeze.

However, it is Nov. 7 (as I am writing this) and while I had hoped to have 12,000 words written by today, the truth is, I am at barely 8,000. It’s disappointing, but not a deterrent. I will get to 50,000 by the end of the month. Mostly because I have told everyone I know (not to mention all the people reading this) that I would. But I have to figure out how I can practically accomplish that.

So what happened this week? Well, as easy as it would be to blame it on the stress of the election (which was definitely a factor, don’t get me wrong), the truth is that I struggled with motivation issues.

I learned that all I needed to do to write 2,000 words a day, was simply sit down for an hour to an hour and a half and write. The first few days that I accomplished this felt incredible. I had been building this up in my head as something that would consume all my free time and leave me feeling totally drained. Instead, I quickly completed my writing for the day and was pumped to update my word count.

By the time I actually considered writing, going to sleep seemed like a much better option.

The problem was that once I made this realization, I started procrastinating that hour of writing. It was easy and felt good. Of course, I would get around to it, I didn’t need to do it right away. But by the time I actually considered writing, going to sleep seemed like a much better option.

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The writing felt like it took no time at all, what was the harm in pushing it off until tomorrow? Well, the harm was that I might just end up doing the same thing the next day. And while 2,000 words per day to beat NaNoWriMo might seem easy, 6,000 or even 8,000 are suddenly much bigger mountains to climb.

I have to stick with it, everyday, in order to finish this thing in a month’s time. Turns out, procrastination might be the biggest hurtle for me to overcome.

But that’s not all I learned in my first week of NaNaWriMo. So, if you are looking for more tips on how to get started, here are some of my nuggets of wisdom.

Don’t go to bed until you have written something

It’s too easy to push things off until tomorrow. Going to sleep is always going to feel like the best option. But the truth is, unless you want to write an entire book by Nov. 30 (24 hours with 2,000 words/hour would only give you 48,000 words, so that’s not even going to work!), you need to chip away at this thing every day.

Even if it’s just a few paragraphs and you’re not even sure where you’re going with it, don’t let yourself end the day without adding something to the word count. Your future self will thank you for it, and you might just enjoy squeezing in a bit of creative thinking before bed.

Encouragement is key

This was another idea that I understood in concept, but didn’t fully appreciate until I experienced it in practice. My best friend and I have a weekly phone call (because we live in different cities) and this week she asked me how the writing was going.

It was so nice to get to share my experience with someone. Before I realized it, I was laying out my plot, talking through where I was stuck and sharing my ideas for where I might take the characters next. I got a shot of joy from simply having an answer to that question and a big motivating factor for me is making sure I have something new to share when she asks me again next week.

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Among the many reason I love her, my best friend is my constant cheerleader. Having someone to ask you how it’s going is important, but it’s even more important that this person is encouraging no matter the answer. Also, make sure they don’t accidentally influence what you’re writing. You would be amazed how quickly a romance can become a ghost story, with just a few ill-advised suggestions.

The power of mini stories

NaNoWriMo sometimes seems like an impossible objective, so it’s not surprising that sitting down to write 2,000 words per day can feel overwhelming. To help with this, I have broken my story up into a bunch of mini-stories.

Each time I sit to write, I try to push the bigger picture out of my head and instead focus on the thing my character is experiencing in the moment. That can be a day in their life or even just a single conversation they are having. Breaking it down makes it feel a lot more manageable.

It’s also a helpful planning technique. I don’t have to have everything perfectly mapped out, but if I know what each day’s mini-story is going to be, I can track that my overall plot is headed to some kind of satisfying conclusion.

Reach that final sentence

Speaking of conclusions, I find that sometimes I get stuck describing every little detail, or following every wild and distracting train of thought. This has a tendency to halt my forward momentum.

My book, for example, starts with the NHL draft. I quickly realized that, left to my own devices, I could end up writing 50,000 words about that alone — which might be fine, but that isn’t the story I want to tell.

So, before I start a new mini-story, I decide what the last sentence is going to be. If I know how it ends, then I can spend those 2,000 words trying to get to that moment. It keeps everything moving forward and allows me to let the little details go. If they don’t make it in before I get to that final sentence, then they probably weren’t that important in the first place.

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Whatever you do, DO NOT REREAD

You can’t edit what you never finish. So the only thing that any of us can really do is just keep writing.

I will probably say this with every update because I need the reminder as much as anyone else. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be FUN! And for me, so far, it has been. Surprisingly so. I was shocked to realize how calming it was to sit and tell myself a story. And that boost to my word count each day is an excellent reward, encouraging me to come back tomorrow.

However, the one thing I will not allow myself to focus on is the quality of the writing. I am trying to write a novel, not publish one. Therefore, if I am telling a story, I am doing what I set out to do. I think the only way I could truly get off my goal, is if I got bogged down in whether what I was writing was “good.”

Honestly, who cares?!? I’m writing a book and I’m having a good time doing it. If I want to edit it when it’s done, I can. But here’s the thing: You can’t edit what you never finish. So the only thing that any of us can really do is just keep writing.

How is NaNoWriMo going for you — are you keeping up with 1,667 words per day?

Read My Other NaNoWriMo Updates:

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Chelsea still can't believe that she lives in NYC and works to make movies happen. You can find her checking out way too many books from the library or getting lost in an audio book on a long walk.

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