It’s been a while since I posted on my personal blog, so I’ve decided to give it a little bit of love.
And what better subject to talk about than this year’s NaNoWriMo? My fifth year attempting the craziness, no less! After 3 wins and 1 loss, I was eager to correct the course and win one more time. But to be honest with you, it’s been a really tough one, and several times this month I thought I wouldn’t make it.
But here I am, proud winner of the 50K NaNoWriMo marathon against myself, and reflecting on these 30 days of madness.
Let’s roll the clip!
My Original Plans
Long long time ago (aka in October), I decided to plan NaNoWriMo. Very much like last year, I knew I would be a rebel. I’ve been a rebel pretty much every year, with only one NaNoWriMo where I actually wrote a brand new novel. I like rebelling – nobody ain’t gonna tell me what to do, right?
I had one project that was a priority: my new non-fiction book “Happy, Not Tortured: A Mental Health Guide For Artists And Creative People”. This was my main goal, in alignment with my yearly writing goals. It’s been exactly a year since I wrote The Part-Time Artist, and I really wanted to follow-up with a book that would concentrate on mental health, because it’s been a subject that I’ve been researching a lot this year. I am also in the process of being trained as a mental health first aider, so I thought it was the perfect timing to write about my experiences and my tips in this area.
So the plan was to write that book for NaNoWriMo. However, I knew that this book would probably not reach 50K words. From last year’s experience with The Part-Time Artist, I knew that I was really comfortable with a shorter format, somewhere around 30K. I estimated that I would need 18 days to finish this book, then I would have to find another project to reach the 50K.
That’s when I decided that it was more than time to venture back into fiction writing. I haven’t written fiction since the last edits of Healers, in July. I haven’t written a first draft of fiction in so long, I don’t even remember when it was. I am DYING to write fiction again, after a year of non-fiction books, podcast and blog posts. And coincidence: an idea for a short story knocked at the door of my mind shortly before the beginning of November. So I decided that, after I finished “Happy, Not Tortured”, I would branch out to fiction and write that short story. And not just write it: PANTS it. I would not plan it at all, I would not study the characters before I wrote, I would just write. Somehow, I thought this was a good idea (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).
I wasn’t sure how long the short story would be, but I doubted it would be longer than 5K, which meant that I still had to find 15K somewhere. This is where I decided that I would start Healers, Book 2. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting the second book while the first book is being queried. I feel strongly about this story, and I am itching to go back to this world to continue telling the story of my characters. The problem? I hadn’t started outlining this novel by the end of October. You have to understand that I’m the kind of writer who CANNOT write a novel without a detailed plot.
So, genius me thought that I would simply plot a little bit every day, after my writing sessions, and that the outline would therefore be ready for when I would start writing. Spoiler alert: DUMBEST IDEA EVER!
So here was my half-assed plan:
1. Happy, Not Tortured: 30K, perfectly planned, a lot of research done.
2. Short story: 5K, not planned at all, not even a little bit, just a starting sentence and a lot of hope.
3. Healers, Book 2: 15K, outline to be done while I work on the other projects.
As you can see, there were *tiny* flaws in the plan. LOL.
The NaNoWriMo Curve
I think this year’s graph is the perfect illustration of how you can start very strong and then be completely derailed:
Stay with me, while I talk about this whole mess.
Happy, Not Tortured
I am always worried before NaNoWriMo. In the few hours leading to the 1st of November, I always doubt myself. I always fear that somehow I’ve forgotten how to write. I doubt the solidity of the project and my capacity of accomplishing it. And usually, it takes me a couple of days of writing to relax, to find the “voice” of the book, and prove to myself that yes, I still can write.
This one was no exception. I was scared, I felt like the first few pages were pure trash, and it took some time to find the “good vibes” where the magic happens. But after that, I found my rhythm and was above the curve most of the time. I allowed myself 2 days off, due to other commitments, and I managed to catch up without any problem.
I REALLY enjoyed writing this book. I had planned quite a lot of it, but I had plenty of new ideas while writing and added more sections than planned. I even got great ideas from Twitter and it was very interesting to see other people’s experiences with mental health.
Of course, the book is going to need a lot of editing, and I have already booked my favourite editor Vicky Brewster to work on it too, but I’m already really happy with it. I think it’s going to be helpful for a lot of people, and I hope it can also help my coaching clients who come to me for similar issues.
It took me 19 days to write it, one day more than planned, and I ended up at 33,765 words. Not bad at all!
To Fiction or Not
At this point of the month, I was extremely confident that I would crush the rest of the month.
My other goal of outlining Healers, however, hadn’t gone as well as planned. I was so concentrated on writing Happy, Not Tortured, that I neglected the outlining work most days. And when I remembered to do it, I was often too tired to be able to do anything coherent. I did some good work, and managed to outline the arcs of both my main characters, but by the 19th, a lot of details were missing. But no worries, right? I still had a few days where I would be writing the short story.
So, on the 20th November, I started on the short story, which was a space opera type of story, starting with a ship and two characters. To say that I felt rusty writing fiction is an understatement. You know those fears about not being able to write at the beginning of the month? They came back, much stronger. I didn’t have any good feeling about this story, and it was very laborious to write. On that day, I only wrote a thousand words, none of them I would wish to keep in a published work, ever.
I figured that it was normal. I just needed to keep up with it, and that I would find the “good vibes” again after a few days.
Except that I didn’t have time to do it, because something unexpected happened: I got a cold.
The Mother of All Colds
I’ve been pretty lucky during the previous years of NaNoWriMo: I’ve never had a significant health issue during the month before, therefore I’ve never been impaired by something like this before. But this time, I got it. And OH BOY, this was a bad one.
It started as I was laboriously writing the beginning of the short story, and got much much worse the next day. And, of course, it coincided with the weekend I had dreaded from the beginning: the weekend where I had several very long shifts at my casual job. I had planned that I would be advanced enough in my word count to be able to write a bit less during that weekend, and then I would catch up during the week afterwards.
I hadn’t planned on being completely unable to do anything at all, losing my voice, and being so tired all the time that it would almost be impossible to write for several days.
I did another attempt at the short story and wrote a few hundred words in the middle of all of it, but due to the fever and exhaustion, I’m pretty sure these words can go right in the bin. Word count for the short story: 1848.
I rarely have a cold that makes me so weak and lasts for so long (I’m still suffering from some symptoms as I write these words, on December 4th!). Due to it, my word count completely stopped between the 21st and the 25th. By then, I had lost all my lead on the curse, and I was several thousands words late.
My attempt at fiction was thwarted by this awful cold. I lost all motivation for my short story, and in this state of tiredness, I was unable to improve the outline for Healers. At this point, I’m going to be honest: I almost gave up.
The Redemption Blogger
There’s an aspect of my personality that you need to understand for what will follow: I’m an extremely stubborn person. When I set myself a challenge, I will do anything, EVERYTHING, to accomplish it. I already lost last year due to external circumstances that forced me to give up, and it has been a real shame in my mind, so it was out of the question to lose this year. I would not allow it.
I know that NaNoWriMo is a personal challenge, and that it doesn’t matter if I win or not. Especially because my main project, Happy, Not Tortured, was already finished and it was the only thing that I really needed to do this month. But something in me pushed me to fight until the end. Perhaps because this year has been super challenging, perhaps because things sucked a lot of the time, and that I just needed a win.
Regardless of why, I needed to find a solution. In the tired state I was, writing fiction was out of the question. If I’m going to do justice to Healers Book 2, I’m going do it with all my energy. I don’t want to half-ass this story. I also lost complete interest in the short story, so there was that. This is when I had a brilliant idea: since I find writing non-fiction much easier these days, I would write more of it in the form of blog posts.
I’ve been a bit lax lately when it came to updating this blog and The Part-Time Artist blog. It wasn’t the priority with all the other things I needed to do for the business, so I haven’t updated either in a while. Therefore, I decided that I would write several blog posts to complete the 15K words I needed.
That meant I had to write 3000 words a day to finish on time. I admit, I almost gave up again, because it felt impossible to do while still feeling sick and tired. But there’s one thing that I remembered pretty quickly while attempting my first 3K day: I LOVE BLOGGING.
Seriously, blogging is super fun. Contrary to a full book, I can take one subject and really go deep with it, add videos, add illustrations, and just simply write a lot. Lately it had felt like a chore because I had so little time to really get into it, but when I give myself enough time and space to blog, it’s actually a fun writing activity.
And the Result Is…
I did it! Yes, I rebelled. Yes, I didn’t write a brand new novel. But I wrote a whole book, and 9 blog posts! It was not easy every day. One day, I’m not sure why, my cold came back strong and I had to nap most of the day. I swear, I haven’t had such a strong illness in a long time!
But I did it! I reached 50K, on November 30th. I think it’s the first year that I’m so close to lose, but it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t an easy feat, but I hope that this blog post will help you understand that even for a 5-year veteran like me, NaNoWriMo is never easy or automatically won!
In hindsight, I am most proud of finishing my book in the time that I had given myself, and it makes me confident that I’ll be able to write more non-fiction books on a regular basis. I am also very happy with the blog posts that I have written. I will allow me to post more on both my blogs, and it has renewed my love for blogging. I just need to give myself enough time to do it on a weekly basis.
Fiction-wise, however, I’m really shaken. This NaNoWriMo is the confirmation that I am not a pantser at all. I need to outline and plan a story for it to work. It also reminded me that I am the kind of writer who can only concentrate on one project at a time when it comes to fiction. I will continue outlining Healers Book 2 now, and start writing it when it’s ready and when I can concentrate on it fully. I hope I can find it in me to write fiction again, because it is my first love as a writer, and I really want to finish this trilogy one day.
All in all, this month was tiring like every year, and I’m happy to be done! Bring on Christmas lol.
Have You Attempted NaNoWriMo This Year Too?
Tell me your story in the comments!