19 December 2012 - 9:04 pm

NaNoWriMo 2012 Part 1: the hard slog

This was my sixth NaNoWriMo, both as a writer and an ML, organising the local community and events. There’s so much to say about it that I’ve split it into four parts. Here’s the first instalment!

Firstly, let me tell you, it was hard going this year. This has probably been the most difficult one for me to get through so far.

November seems to be the month when everything converges. I had a huge changeover at work in the first week: dissolving the team I was running, relocating (packing up my desk and shifting everything to a new one), and setting up a new team. Once all that was done, it was a mad scramble to get the new team up and running before I went on leave for 3 weeks, to finish NaNo and then…

On top of that, shortly before November started, my family and I made the decision to move house in the first week of December. So I was also viewing houses and organising stuff around that through the NaNo period. I was determined not to do any serious work (like packing) until after NaNo was over, but there were still a lot of other things that needed to be done.

Then there was all the ML coordination around and before NaNo itself: finalising the calendar; sorting out co-hosted events with the QWC; arranging prizes and competitions; making up the giveaways packs; arranging the Writer’s Retreat (more on this in Part 4); and generally making sure everything was set up. During the month, there was the management of everything to keep on top of: the forum; the regional emails; attending and running the events; dealing with a few headaches that cropped up; and generally making sure that the whole month ran smoothly for our writers.

All of those things were buzzing around in my head – personal stuff, work stuff, NaNo stuff – competing for brain-space. I was lucky enough to have a lot of help again this year, including a wonderful co-ML, so I didn’t have to do everything myself. All the same, altogether, it was a lot.

Oh, and also, don’t forget to write 1,667 words per day. Don’t forget that we’re all gathered together to write a novel (50,000 words). Don’t forget to be creative and spin wonderful tales for your readers. Don’t forget that you can’t cheat; it has to be good enough to edit and post (more on this in Part 3!).

It’s no wonder that I fell behind after the first weekend. I don’t think I’ve been behind for so long before; I tend to be so motivated by the wordcount progress graph that I catch up pretty quick and strive to stay ahead of the curve. But not this year. This year, I struggled behind the goals and didn’t catch up (and cross the line) until the final day of the month.

I’ve never switched projects so much during NaNo before, either. You’re not really supposed to do it, but I’d rather switch to a different project than continue in one that I know isn’t working. My main focus was on Starwalker this year, and I got a good chunk of it written before I needed to take a break (over 30,000 words).

When I ran into a wall with Starewalker, I started a short story that was born of a weird dream, but I wasn’t sure where that one was going, so I soon switched over to a project that I’ve been wanting to start for ages. That one needs more planning and prep, though, and I struggled to get it started as a result. Instead of beating my head against it, I switched over to the steampunk novel I started last NaNo, and that carried me to the end of this year’s adventure and 52,000+ words in total.

It was a hard, winding slog, but I made it. I’m proud of what I achieved this year. There have been so many distractions, so much going on, and I haven’t been in a great state emotionally or physically. But I made it. I’ve made progress on several projects, and all of the pieces I wrote will be good and useful in the long run. I’m still getting done what I want and need to get done, and that’s something worth remembering.

NaNoWriMo is a great challenge and every year I learn something new: about me, my writing, and how I work best. I don’t regret an ounce of the effort I put in, and I fully intend to do it again next year.

Why, you ask? When it’s such hard work and takes so much out of me? When I burn out on a project and have to switch?

Well, the answer to that lies in one of the important learnings that I had this year, which I’ll talk about here soon (see Part 3). I know some of what I need to do to make next year easier on myself. It lies in the wonderful community (see Part 2). And it lies in its ability to be bigger and better and more challenging for me, as a writer and as an organiser.

Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean we should stop doing it. Every year I am reminded that it’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Plus, NaNoWriMo is giving me a cool pen with my name engraved on it. What’s not to love?

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