That Time I Went to NaNoWriMo


It’s that time of the year again… November is near and NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. I get excited about it since two or three years now, but I think I remember to have first heard of it already sometime around 2010. I liked the idea that you sit down each day for a month to write and at the end of it you have written your own novel. I knew that it would not be a finished book and that the whole idea is to get an early first draft ready during that time… just writing, not looking back, not listening to your inner critic and putting down 50000 words in one month. It took me some time to be brave enough to try it out myself though. I had no big ideas for a novel and I couldn’t imagine that one can just sit down, start writing and hope for the best. But somehow it got stuck in my head and so I decided to give it a try.

Two years ago I went for it. I knew that this November would not be the best month to do it, because I already had planned some weekend trips and had some appointments scheduled in the evenings, but I decided that I would make it work. I started to think about stories, put some ideas in mind maps to get a bigger picture and I even tried to outline some parts of it. When the 1st of November arrived I had some content to start with layed out in my head and I already prepared myself by doing some writing exercises. But then I chickened out. I started to think that everything is too complex, at least for my very first try to write a novel. It needed more preparation. It seemed I am a planner, not a pantser. The material I prepared is not lost, it’s still on my computer, waiting to be brought to life… and who knows… maybe I will do it some day!

But my mission was still there! I wanted to be part of this NaNoWriMo and though it seemed I’m a planner, I tried to run with another idea I had in mind but did not elaborate on. It was a good idea to start with and although I didn’t really know where it was going I was excited to see where it will take me. Maybe I’m a pantser overall?!

And so I sat down on November 3rd (those weekend trips!) and started writing. This is a post I put on my old blog, describing how my first day went. I put this on this site because I think it’s a great reference to how I felt during the process. And it’s interesting to see how feelings and memories change when you look back on the same thing two years later. Back then I totally ignored the fact that I planned a whole other novel before I started with this story. Crazy, but I was excited! It also shows what’s so great about NaNoWriMo… to sit down, write your story and to see the characters evolve. When you totally dive into it, your brain comes up with things you would have never thought of. At least I never thought that this is really possible, but then I experienced it on my own. I didn’t know that story I was writing and I had an idea where it might be going. But it turned out that the characters really were on their own and I just put into words what they wanted to do. Thinking about it, this really sounds esoteric… but it really works!

I managed to write about 13500 words. That’s a bit more than a week of NaNoWriMo. I also tried to write a little journal about my experience. Here’s another example. I came to a point where it felt like I drained my brain of ideas for this story. I was somehow exhausted. And after another weekend trip and some more busy days I lost the thread. Sadly, enough excuses to make a break. Sadly, I never went back to it. But I’m not sad I didn’t manage to write for the whole month. I’m actually kind of happy that I did try it out. I learned a lot and it was fun! When reading that manuscript it’s comically bad somehow. But that’s the point of NaNoWriMo… Get the story written, make it better afterwards. And that’s something I could do. The story itself isn’t that bad, it’s just the writing and the storytelling that needs improvement.

I know that I will never have enough time this year to really try it again… but I might try to just start another story, or dig out those mind maps and outlines of this other novel I had in mind back then. I’m not sure. All I know is that I feel that itch again and if it’s not this time, it might be next year or maybe I’ll just start writing on my own without the events and the community that’s built around it. I can only recommend to everyone who ever thought of writing a book to give it a shot. NaNoWriMo might not be the best fit for everybody, but it sure gives you a great feeling when you write the first chapters of your book! Nobody can take this away from you, so why not just sit down and start! As they say:

The world needs your novel