I did it. I clocked it on November 29 with 50,167 words. And it felt good but a little anti-climactic. I'm definitely proud of myself. I've never had the dedication to slog through 50,000 words in one sitting - or 26 sittings, as the case may be. But the book is only halfway finished, so if I keep up with my word count, the true celebration will be on December 31, 2009 with a completed first draft.
NaNoWriMo was an amazing experience and one that I'm sure I will repeat year after year now that I've discovered its benefits. Things that I've learned:
1) I do have the discipline to write at least 1,667 words a day - every day. As I mentioned in a previous post, I tend to build up steam and take off on projects full speed ahead. Then on day four or five, I lose momentum and end up abadoning the project. Not so in this case. In fact, even when I skipped a day (or two when we had friends in town on the second to last weekend), I still had the willpower to face the keyboard the next day.
2) I can make the time in my day to crank out 1,667 words. In fact, using Write or Die, I managed to crank out an average of 1,800 words a day in 45 minutes. I used the online program and set the settings to Normal Mode with a Strict Grace Period. I did three word sprints each night at 600 word for 15 minutes each. At the end of each 15 minute sprint I pasted my words into my Word document, saved, took a breath and reset Dr. Wicked for the next sprint.
3) These were not quality words, but they moved the story along. And in the midst of the ramblings that will surely be cut in the second draft, some gems appeared. Whether it was a secondary storyline or a small scene that really worked.
4) Dialogue is my comfort zone. If I'm taking all the time in the world to write, I can create some good descriptve passages, but when I'm sprinting through wordcount, dialogue is a natural place for me to settle. My dialogue scenes help me work out character development. How a person talks tells me a lot about their personality. With each of the characters I've created - even the minor ones - I can hear a distinct voice. The conversations also help me reveal backstory and move a scene along. When I go back to edit, the dialogue passages will need to be significantly tighter, but for now it's a good tool to move the plot along.
5) The biggest obstacle for me is fear. Every time I sat down at the keyboard, I had to recognize that I was scared. Scared that I was wasting time on a pile of dreck, scared that was creating a document that would prove to the world that I'm incapable of writing fiction, scared that I was jumping into a great abyss not knowing where the story was going or how I would find my way out. I had to acknowledge this fear and type in spite of it. And believe me, that's not an easy thing to do.
6) But at the end of every night's session, I was energized. I typed through the fear and somehow emerged at the other end. Things happened in the scenes that I could never have predicted, a character took on a personality that I hadn't imagined. Standing on the other side of fear is much better than being too scared to give something a try. I may not always feel talented or creative at the end of a writing session, but at least I feel brave. And when it comes to greater life lessons, brave means a lot more to me than creative.
7) Although I didn't have very much interaction in the NaNoWriMo forums, something about knowing that other people were slogging along with me was spirit-boosting. When I sat down last night to crank out my first set of words for SaNoWriMo (Sara's Novel Writing Month - i.e, December), I suddenly felt very alone. Sure there were a lot of writers out there still writing, but the cameraderie was gone. It took every ounce of my new-found writer's bravery to continue putting words on the page. But, I did it!
NaNoWriMo came to a triumphant, albeit quiet, close. And SaNoWriMo began with a new found tenacity and bravery that I didn't know I had.