Yay! I did it! As you can see from this handy-dandy banner, I won my very first NaNoWriMo by writing at least 50,000 words during the month of November, official National Novel Writing Month. My skeleton of a draft clocked in at just over 56,000 words and is not much more than a quivering mass of word vomit at the moment. I expect that my finished draft of this same project will probably end up about 25% longer and a whole lot different. Still, the act of writing this draft and winning NaNoWriMo was absolutely gratifying and something I’m so glad I tried. For those of you still working on your goal (or thinking about doing it next year), here are some things that worked for me.*
- I chose a project I love. Doing this helped me more than anything else. I woke up each day excited to dig in to my story. At night, I tossed and turned, thinking about my characters. This is a story I really want to read, and though of course it didn’t come out as the perfect, lyrical dream of how I hope it to read someday, the act of living in this world for several hours a day to write it was a giant step in the right direction.
- I shot for a higher-than-average word count goal a day. 50,000 words is 1,667 words a day, but I shot for 2,000 a day, and wound up averaging close to 2,400 words a day.
- I outlined the heck out of this project (in advance). There is nothing more intimidating to me than the idea of something immense. A huge plate of food in front of me? Thanks, but not so much. A little at a time works much better for me. I started this project by mapping out the key plot points, developed that into a chapter-by-chapter outline, and then wrote out a description of what should happen in each scene and piled that all into Scrivener, where I easily broke it down into digestible word count goals. The idea of 50,000 words is somewhat terrifying, but 500-word chunks are much more manageable to me.
- I did a ton of research (in advance). That included reading all of these books well before November 1, as well as some really helpful online research that turned up some great articles I hadn’t been able to find before.
- I kept several of these books at my side the whole time. A day didn’t go by when I didn’t look something up, and having the information readily accessible was essential.
- I tried to get an early head start each day and squeezed in chunks of words whenever I could. I get up by 5am every day, but I also brought my laptop along to my children’s music and chorus classes and sat spewing out words in the hall while they sang and played.
- I work part-time from home, and I found it more helpful to work in those duties throughout the day, trading off writing for work anytime I got stuck, rather than dedicating 100% of my time to writing or working blocks.
- I still exercised every day and ate pretty well. I swim a few days a week, practice flamenco with my children, and was also doing physical therapy this month, so I was glad for all the excuses to get moving. Our refrigerator unfortunately died about halfway through my draft, which made for a tricky few days, but for the most part, we were fully stocked on fruits, veggies, and proteins to keep me going.
- I also ate a lot of candy. I blame Halloween for that one.
- I did almost nothing social. I’m an introvert anyway, but was even more of one this month. The only exception was an outing I made was to a rare Weimar-era film, Mädchen in Uniform. That wound up a lower word count day, but was totally worth it.
As a final note, congratulations to all the other NaNoWriMo winners, and to everyone still trying to get there. I’d love to hear what works for you, either for NaNo or for fast-drafting in general. Best of luck to you all!
*Disclaimer: probably obvious, but what worked for me might not necessarily work for you!