With the new month here (I’m writing this in December 2019) and the end of NaNoWriMo, I wanted to write about my experience as a book editor and writing coach taking part in this popular writing challenge.
My Fiction Writing Background
Before we get started, I think it’s important that you know where I’m coming from as a writer, because my background certainly affects my current experience.
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, but I stopped writing fiction in college because, well, life! I was an English and political science double major, so I spent all of my waking hours either reading or writing. Even in grad school, when I was studying editing, writing fiction was the last thing on my mind.
But after graduating, I found my way back to fiction writing.
My Work Background
Just as my fiction background is important, my experience as a book editor and writing coach definitely influenced my NaNoWriMo experience.
One of my greatest skills is time management, and while I don’t think my formal education taught it to me in the classroom, I had to learn time management to balance everything. Back in school, if I didn’t stick to my schedule, my anxiety would consume me.
You can even read my book about productivity! I use the tricks in the book to plan all of my projects and work, NaNoWriMo included.
My point is that this skill plus my understanding of story structure as an editor influenced how I set myself up for NaNoWriMo.
Speaking of which…
My 2019 NaNoWriMo Goals
The project I worked on for NaNoWriMo 2019 was the third draft of a story I’ve been working on since early 2018. (That’s almost two years at the time of writing this post.)
It’s a new adult (ages 20+) fantasy novel set in an entirely different world in an era with 1920s technology. (You can learn more about my novel over on my Instagram.)
In September 2019, I started the aforementioned third draft. I knew I wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo, so I gave September and October to rework the first half of the story. I wrote around 50,000 words in those two months.
In October 2019, I began crafting my NaNoWriMo plan.
My goal was the classic 50k, but I kept a few things in mind when I was planning this:
- My travel: I knew well in advance that I would be traveling for four days during November. I counted those days as non-writing days because let’s face it: it’s really hard to focus on writing when you need to pack, do laundry, get to the airport, navigate a foreign city, etc.
- My story goals: I wanted this manuscript to be right around 100,000 words told from four different points of view. To pull that off without giving myself a major headache, I knew I needed to have my outline set.
- My editing schedule: The winter holidays are actually my slower season for freelance work, and I thought that would work in my favor for finishing this third draft.
- My previous NaNoWriMo experiences: You know what they say about the best laid plans. In my last few attempts at NaNoWriMo, I got derailed by illness. There’s not a lot you can do about that, but I wanted to take it into account.
- My Instagram challenge: Author Julia Scott (one of my awesome clients!) asked me to co-host an Instagram WIP share challenge for NaNoWriMo. It was a full month of prompts and questions for anyone working on a project in November. We called it #NanoOrNot19 and you should go look at it on IG! As fun as IG is, I knew I had to be smart about balancing social media with actual writing.
My plan looked like this:
- Subtracting a total of six days from my NaNoWriMo writing days (for travel + two ‘sick’ days), I determined I had 24 days to write 50,000 words.
- If you divide 50,000 words by 24 days, you come out with roughly 2083 words per day. NaNoWriMo’s suggested daily word count is 1667, so it wasn’t a huge jump!
- Considering my editing schedule, I knew mornings or evenings would be best for my creative writing.
- I already had an outline, but I went back through and assigned POVs where necessary.
- And with the Insta challenge, I wanted to write my captions and take my pictures in batches. I decided each Sunday would include time for taking new IG pictures and writing captions.
All in all, I still think that was a solid plan!
So, how did my 2019 NaNoWriMo go?
My 2019 NaNoWriMo Outcome
Let me just say that 2083 words per day is more than you think, at least on days you’re super tired or just don’t have any creative energy.
That being said, I won NaNoWrimo!
I officially completed the NaNoWriMo challenge on November 27th with a total of 50,084 words. That was 22 days of writing.
In total, I wrote 51,634 for my novel in November 2019.
Here are some statistics from my month:
- It took me 22 days to cross the 50,000-word mark.
- My highest daily word count was 4,078.
- My lowest daily word count was 284.
Even with the bumps in the road, I don’t think I’d do anything differently pre-NaNoWriMo. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take away some new lessons, though.
First, NaNoWriMo just reaffirmed something I already knew: writing is hard. Even when you have an outline and plans and scheduled time, it’s so hard to make your brain put words together. Some days are easier than others.
Second, even when you tell yourself you won’t compare your word count to others, it happens. Even when I was ahead on my word count, I would see others more ahead and think, “Wow! Amazing! Why can’tI do that?” Our brains are silly, and our culture reinforces competition. But writing isn’t a competition, and as long as you’re growing and chugging away, that’s a great accomplishment in itself. I had to remind myself of this fact about three times each week.
Third, writing is easier with friends! The #NanoOrNot19 challenge I co-hosted on Instagram was so fun, and I grew closer with the writing community. And though I only went to two of my NaNo region’s events, they were incredibly helpful!. It’s nice to be able to talk about writing and its many struggles with people who get it.
Fourth, November is the month I get sick. All year long I can be perfectly healthy, but apparently November is the month I’ll get sick. 😂 This year, I only got a minor cold for one week, but it always seems to come in early November. I also shouldn’t expect myself to write on my birthday, though I did this year.
Fifth, revisit your outline (if you have one). To all you plotters out there, it’s okay to revisit your outline as you go. It’s easy to say, “No, I wrote it out, it’s fine,” but sometimes you get a stroke of creative genius and need to make adjustments. Make those adjustments to stay on track with your muse and your story!
Finally, making writing a (almost) daily habit is easier than you think. I write on a weekly basis for my blog and podcast, but working so consistently on one major project is something I haven’t done in a long time. Even when I didn’t meet my lofty 2k word count for the day, I felt proud knowing I’d still made an effort to work on my novel.
This post is already long, so I’ve detailed my process in its own post. If you want to read about how I finished my novel draft in less than 90 days, check out this blog post.
How Can I Help You?
Whether you’ve just finished NaNoWriMo or not, you may be looking for a fresh set of eyes for your manuscript. I offer an array of professional editorial services, so be sure to check out my services page!
And if you aren’t ready for an editor, that’s cool too! Feel free to leave a comment with your questions or email me via my contact page.