Yes, I did it! I climbed my Everest of the year- started and finished NaNoWriMo 2016. 50,038 words over 30 days. Phew. With sporadic bursts of frantic writing countered by long days when my daughter was sick, I am still in a dizzying state of disbelief (and awe if I may say so myself). I can still recall a day somewhere in the last week of the challenge when I was banging my head against a desk at 2am after seeing that silly Nano graph that calculated my finishing date as the 15th of December based on my writing progress. Aargh, all that brain cell destruction for nothing.
As a disclaimer, I must state that the end product is not really a book, more a mishmash of characters having conversations that can be randomly illuminating at times & descriptions of settings, people, clothes and even food. Really, sometimes I’d wake up, recall a vivid dream and spill it out into my plot somehow tweaking things here and there. At one point I was so starved of inspiration I picked up an Art history book and skimmed through the the various eras, trying to dig through the minds of Monet and Picasso in the hopes of discovering my own poppies or cubes.
One thing I did do correctly was not enter this challenge blindly. It’s been a six month preparation process, working up my word stamina slowly, reading up on the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo itself. Now that the whole ordeal is over, I can sit back and actually evaluate what has come out of this process and share my two bits on the subject:
- With a goal of 1,667 words a day, the focus is quantity, not so much quality; akin to digging up enough sand to let you build a castle later at your own leisure. There were several times I wanted to stop and dawdle with an idea, let it play out in my head slowly to see what could come out of it. But with the blinking word count reminding me of how much I had left to go, I had to ignore my instinct and move on. In retrospect, I feel a certain sadness for all the quality I may have sacrificed in the quest for quantity.
- I’m an over-thinker, which has always been a massive obstacle for me. The NaNo train really got me to dig up some pearls by pushing me. Granted out of the 50k words I’ve churned, possibly a mere 30 something percent is worthwhile, but I was only able to get there by indulging in uninhibited brain diarrhea. No stopping to check for cooler synonyms or spelling mistakes or ‘hey does this sound too cheesy?’. It was just Chug, Chug, Chug!
- When you’re crunched with a deadline, it’s really hard to create three-dimensional characters. So although I really like some of the invented folks, I find that I’m not loving them yet. Over the next few months, I will need to inject more pizazz into them, turn them into creatures who are not so straight-forward and easy to love, who are more human.
- I recently read ‘The Guest Cat’ by Takashi Hiraide in which there is a line, “Observation is at its core an expression of love which doesn’t get caught up in sentiment.” Nano has got me to recognize the importance of the observer in me; the woman wearing a crinkled silk scarf with bright peach lip gloss, the curly haired tubby boy at the supermarket with an orange fuzzy halo around his mouth from eating too many cheese balls, the tree that stands like a dwindling skeleton on the road I drive on almost everyday. A desperation for words can really open your eyes.
- Writing a book is so so so different from writing a blog in its need to plan and maintain engaging continuity. Whenever I got stuck with a scene,I picked up my Kindle and pored over all the highlighted quotes from books I’d read. It has magnified the respect I have for authors, making me realize how easy it is to relish and digest their pages and then move on to the next conquest. There will definitely be a change in the way I read books now with more efforts to understand the craft.
- And last but not least, the most important outcome of NaNoWriMo- I DID IT! For someone who has always struggled with self-confidence on the matter of calling herself a writer, I can bravely say now that I do have what it takes. Like a persistent dung beetle I plodded on, ignoring the stench of the imperfect shit I was digging up and choosing to move forward.