Tuesday Toss-Up

Novel Wishes and NaNoWriMo Dreams

Baby Stepping Through NaNoWriMo

kitten yawn
NaNo’s over. Time to paaartay!

National Novel Writing Month is over for 2012.

Whether you rocketed past the finish line or were miles away, you wrote words that didn’t exist before November 1.

Even if you never got past the first sentence, you made something happen. Seriously. Pat yourself on the back.

Celebrating even a tiny success can motivate you to succeed further.

I’m a huge believer in baby steps. Some people get jazzed by lofty goals. The mere idea makes me want to puke in my mouth a little.

Sure, I have lots of lofty goals (*cough* NYT Bestselling Author *cough*) but I get along only with lots of constructive denial.

Screaming pepper
Me staring down a big goal.

Constructive Denial: Willfully ignoring how far you have left to go and just seeing the next tiny step ahead of you.

When writing a novel, that means setting any goal that seems truly doable to you. 10 words or 1000+. 5 minutes or 15. The key is to set a non-threatening goal so that you can tell yourself “I only have to write __.”

You may end up writing more. Once your butt is in the seat, it’s easier to just keep going.

However, if you just do the minimum, you’ve still reached a goal. You’ve kept a promise to yourself. When you keep your promises to yourself, you gain confidence in your ability to do it again and again.

If you fail, don’t beat yourself up. Use those failures to motivate your future success.

Once you’re comfortable with that pace, bump it up another notch. Every time you do, tell yourself, “Just a little further.”

You may find yourself zooming along at finger-breaking speed in no time.

Then again, maybe you won’t. Maybe you (like me) will take a little longer to start busting out word counts in the thousands. Maybe you’ll take a lot longer.

jumping kitty cat
The KT Bomber at Mach Fur.

In any case, know that, if you keep putting one word after the other, you will get to your lofty goal. Once you’re there, it doesn’t really matter how long it took you.

So what does this have to do with NaNoWriMo?

When I first heard about NaNo a couple of years ago, it scared the stuffing out of me. I had all sorts of reasons why I couldn’t join (I’m in the middle of a novel, in the middle of moving, in the middle of watching a Lost marathon). While some of those reason were certainly good ones, the deeper reason was fear.

50k in 30 days seemed like too much when my cruising speed was around 500, a horrible affront to my baby steps philosophy.

When NaNo rolled around again this year, I put on my big girl panties and joined up (as a rebel because I planned to add to my work-in-progress).

Going in, I had hopes and doubts. Lots of doubts.

I hoped to add 50k words and finish the first draft but I didn’t think I really would. I had a family vacation coming up after Thanksgiving and would not have internet during the last week of November.  And I still couldn’t fathom writing 1667 words every single day, let alone the 2000 I’d need to finish before I went internet free.

But…the writing nearly every day, regardless of my “slow” pace had worked some kinda magic deep in my brain.

When NaNo kicked off, I sat down at the computer and told myself I only had to write 500 at a time. Just 500. Then I could take a break and have a cookie. Once I started, 500 words didn’t seem like such a big deal. Even 1000 didn’t seem so bad (okay, so I used a few “tricks” to keep my word count up…mostly in the beginning).

funny kitten
That’s right. I’m a NaNo superstar.

At the end of the first day, when I’d actually passed 2K, I was stunned. I wasn’t convinced I could do it again.

But I did.

I marched my way to the 50k mark on last night before I left for vacation. I did it. I won NaNoWriMo (rebel status be darned). And not because I’m a turbo writer but only because all those itty bitty baby steps I’d been taking finally added up to something big.

So what if it took me a couple of years to get around to it.

Now, I’d like to say I got to type “The End” on my first draft at the end of NaNo. I didn’t. I’ve still a few miles to go but I now know that I can. I can reach my lofty goals and without freaking out over how far I still have to go.

I just have to keep going.

Wherever you ended up when the curtain fell November 30th and however far you have to go, you will get there if you just keep putting one word after the other.

Acrobat squirrel
I think I can…I think I can…

How did NaNo go for you? For those of you who didn’t join NaNo, are you going to give it a try next year?

Photo Credit
Upside-down yawn by twolittlemoos, on Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Screaming pepper by Rum Bucolic Ape, on Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
Jump! by ehisforadam (Adam Minter), on Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
funny animal by didbygraham, on Flickr | CC BY 2.0
Acrobat by Vicki & Chuck Rogers, on Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

6 thoughts on “Novel Wishes and NaNoWriMo Dreams

  1. First year attempted NaNoWriMo. It didn’t start out well. I was a day late to start with and barely made past the 3333 I was supposed to have by the end of day two by the end of November 3rd. On November 4th I smashed it, passing the goal for that day by enough to be ahead by an entire day. I was another half day ahead the next day. By the end of November 19th I was less than 600 words away from the 50,000. On November 30th I had 76,892 words completed for the month.

    Like you, I have not written the end yet. I’m still working on that.

    In the beginning what helped me the most was this word game where you take the last three numbers of someone’s word count and agree to write that many words. Then, you post what word count you will be at when you write that many for the next person to take up the challenge. After a week, I was pretty much good, using Write or Die to make my own writing challenges. My writing challenges went as follows:

    10 minutes to write 400 words. Real goal: 500 words. Actual word count: 415 words.
    5 minutes to write 200 words. Real goal: 250 words. Actual word count: 210 words.
    15 minutes to write 600 words: Real goal: unknown, maybe 700. I didn’t do this one often. Actual word count: 650 words.

    I never did a challenge for more than fifteen minutes and I only used the five minute one if I thought the scene was ending soon and didn’t have enough words left for a larger challenge.

    I had a lot of fun with this and I am glad to have so many words done for my rough draft. Here’s to hoping I finish that rough draft soon and that you two finish your rough draft, soon.

  2. Lol – in the middle of a Lost marathon. I think baby steps is the best way to get something done. If it’s manageable in your mind, you’re one step closer to your ultimate goal.
    Congrats on NaNo. I didn’t do it myself.

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