NaNoWriMo 2018 reflections.
Those who have been following me will know that I spent this last month participating in the National Novel Writing Month, a month long challenge where try-hard English majors and other like degenerates spend an entire month pumping out first drafts of 50,000 word novels. "Winning" means you successfully hit the word count.
I tried in 2016, but I was in school and I lost. I tried in 2017, but I had just started a job and I lost.
This year I won.
It was a surreal experience, and I feel obliged to share some of the things I learned during this hectic month of word-sprints, isolation, and degeneracy.
1. Keep consuming media.
One thing I struggled with at the very start is that I let my writing take over my free time entirely. I stopped consuming the media I normally consume, and the only thing I was consuming was my own writing. This made my writing start to become extra bland and extra repetitive. I couldn't think of new sentence types or paragraph styles because I was so starved for media.
2. Structure can be good. Too much structure can be bad.
In my undergrad we learned of the manufactured aesthetic war between the Romantics and the Neo Classicals, but I find my stride a bit between the two. For my novel, I chose to bluntly steal the plot to Much Ado About Nothing, which was very helpful in many ways. I was never anxious about what to write next. I never had to spend time really thinking up plot points, and I had a crash mat to fall on for the most part.
Unfortunately, when I would get to a scene in the play that didn't really interest me, I feel as though my writing suffered. I enjoyed writing the scenes where I didn't need to have the play script up, and I could go just off the summary of the scene alone, or even the extra scenes I had to throw in to make sense.
3. Adaptation is really hard.
Things that were hard to adapt:
4. Even if you literally stole pre-packaged characters, you still have to understand them.
I don't think I fully understood my characters until like half of the way through the month. I stole them, but I also changed a significant amount, and the characterization changed with that. What happens when Hero isn't such a softy? What happens when Beatrice and Benedick no longer have gender to differentiate them? I didn't answer any of these questions when going in, so the first half of the novel doesn't have well fleshed-out characters.
This will be edited.
5. Washing dishes takes forever. Set aside some scheduled time for cleaning and life things.
I'm taking this first weekend of December to deep-clean the sinkhole that my apartment has turned into.
6. It's possible to overcome your sick day and holiday word deficits.
...but it will take a while.
I definitely went in with this 'oh if I take a day off I'll just go ham the next day and it will all be great' attitude. That was wrong. It took me like, a week or so each time to overcome the deficit.
7. There's no one good place to write.
NaNoWriMo has a very structured idea of how you do things: should you accept, write 1,667 word every day for 30 days and you'll be set. With that, I went in trying to have a structured writing environment to get myself in that 'professional' mindspace.
That died off really quickly. Some places that I ended up writing:
No points to the University Ave Starbucks that I planned on being a good little novelist and writing in one weekend day, only to find that the parking lot was entirely full and I had to drive through and go back home. That was not a good day.
8. Embrace the stupid little things.
I'm thinking of two things when I say this: My Daniel Handler-esque asides in my writing, and my graphic design work.
Writing the text of my novel, I would often fear that I was going through the plot too quickly, and that would prevent me from blasting through a writing session. If my writing was too dry, I would get through a scene too quickly, and 'oh no I'm not gonna have enough plot for the 30 days'. What helped (or hindered, I guess it depends on if you like the writing style) and what I enjoyed writing were the little quirky hypothetical asides akin to what Daniel Handler does in his writing. No, I don't completely detach from reality and spend four pages talking about the water cycle, but I will pull back and engage in extended metaphor for the sake of a cheap laugh.
I also probably spent just as much time designing my cover photos as I did writing. That's a lie, maybe half the time. But those photos were another creative outlet and they really motivated me to keep posting and keep writing, and get everything done.
So yeah, embrace stupid little things. Don't take it too seriously. Otherwise you'll have a dull dry manuscript that nobody wants to look at.