NaNoWriMo Journal: Week 4, The Homestretch

November 21st, 11:45 PM. I typed the final 900 words to meet my daily word count. Instead of writing first thing in the morning like I usually do, I checked emails, searched for open English teaching positions, and cleaned the bathroom. After lunch, I finally got down and dirty, writing 500 words. I hit a mental wall and stopped. Tutored a high school student online for an hour, ate dinner, and played some video games. I didn’t return to my writing again until 9:00 PM. I’m exhausted and want nothing more than at least one day off from writing to recharge.

But the finish line is in sight: 37,164 words down, 12,836 left to go. I need to write at least approximately 1,426 words for the final nine days of November to cross that finish line.

I used to teach a creative writing unit to high school students. The seminar was only a few weeks long, but during that time I told my students that it’s important for writers to write every day. Now that I have forced myself to write every day, I can say with confidence that this advice is hooey. If you can write every day, then great! More power to you. But what this first NaNoWriMo experience has taught me is that self-care for authors is important. The burn out is real. Take care of yourself and give yourself time to unwind and relax. Writing is still a job, so treat it like one. Weekends exist for a reason. Vacations too. Writing every day may work for some people, but I now believe that it’s more realistic to say write as much as you can without burning out.

Writing is still as much fun as it was when I was seven, typing out my first short story on my grandmother’s old electric typewriter back in ’95. But I need a break. When this month is over, I’ll take a couple weeks off from writing so I can read for fun and return to my editing business.

Speaking of which, I hear him now. My inner editor is screaming and banging on the door to the basement. He wants to eviscerate the garbage I’ve been vomiting into Scrivener for the last month. I assure him his time will come. Just be a little more patient. Grind that axe in the meantime, my friend.

NaNoWriMo Journal: Week 3

Halfway through NaNoWriMo and things still look pretty good. Current word count is about 25,050 words, which puts me a little ahead of the curve. I appreciate the resources, forums, and sense of community that the official NaNoWriMo website offers to writers, especially the virtual write-ins on YouTube. It reminds me of the creative writing classes I took in college almost a decade ago. It feels good to be involved in community of creative people again and it inspires me to continue my passion for writing.

Although I am happy with my overall progress so far, I must confess something.

Writing every damn day is exhausting.

Even if it’s only for two to three hours, it’s mentally and physically draining to force your mind to process so many complex layers to a novel. Are the characters believable? Is there enough description to make the setting clear in the reader’s mind? Does the plot make sense? What happens next? Is the pacing too slow or too fast? And on it goes. I want to take a day off to recharge and do other things, but I don’t want to fall behind in my daily word count. I’ve already committed myself to this challenge and I’m going to see it through. Once I hit 50k, though, I’m going to take a week off from all writing before going back to edit and write something new.

With that said, 50k words is an arbitrary number. I’m thinking the current novel I’m writing will need at least 70k words before it can feel “complete.” As I keep hearing over and over again in the forums and in the write-ins, it doesn’t matter if the words or the story is perfect. You can write 50k words of complete garbage. This challenge is about the joy of writing, of experimenting, and reminding yourself why you love reading and writing in the first place.

Writing is a process.

Write without fear; edit without mercy.