NaNoWriMo 2017: Why, What Now, and Welcome

Happy New Year, all! This NaNoWriMo recap post should’ve come right after I completed the grueling month of churning out a first draft of a novel (holy moly, right?), but I couldn’t bring myself to write about my experiences. The post would’ve been a lot of complaining about the back pain I’d acquired pumping out about 1,700 words per day, and nobody should have to sit through that. πŸ˜› To learn more about NaNo however, please follow the link to the official page!

So why the delay? Come December, I launched right into reading my draft. Okay, technically I took a break for two days, but that’s as long as I lasted. Generally, a longer break is recommended. It wasn’t that I was super excited to read my draft, if anything I was apprehensive because I knew it wouldn’t be exactly what I wanted, but more because I’m on a self-imposed deadline to self-publish my first novel this year. I can do a separate post on my decision to self-publish and not find an agent and publisher. (Long story short, my story isn’t necessarily something that will rake in big bucks by getting a movie adaptation, and that’s not my primary goal.) Let me know if that’s something you’re interested in reading!

I attempted NaNoWriMo in years past, like many people, but this was the first year I “won,” or finished 50,000 words over a November. For me, the target length of my book is 70,000 words, so I actually started writing in October. Before I say anything else about the lessons learned over this month, I truly marvel at people who win while working full-time jobs. They are the ones who deserve big super-writer capes!

Why NaNoWriMo?

Every person has their reasons for dedicating themselves to their stories during NaNo. Like many, I have always wanted to write a novel, having treasured books by other authors for so long. My actual writing journey started well before this year’s NaNo, but it was accelerated then. Without launching into my life story (no need for that eh), I took a break from full-time work halfway last year in order to embark on my writing dream, to bring a story fueled in equal parts by personal experience and imagination to a reader like my younger self somewhere out there. Of course, I carefully considered my circumstances and had prepared financially and mentally for the leap, so I am in no way recommending that people carbon-copy me. It is not at all necessary, and like I said above, there are people who win the month while working. For me, this decision coincided with an inflection point in my life, and I figured that now was the time to dedicate myself completely to this novel endeavor. I knew I had to do this because the weight of wondering whether I could write a novel would weigh on and distract me for the rest of my life otherwise. Dramatic, I know, but hey, I am trying to create a work that evokes emotion in people, right? πŸ™‚

From reading all the blogs about previous winners and attempters (no losers here!) and what they learned about themselves and their writing during NaNo, I knew the month would force me to do the difficult work of creating a first draft. I can’t understate the importance of being willing to cringe at your screen (or page) and just start putting words down. The desire for perfection often stops or slows people (myself included) down from their personal path to greatness. Even if you do not hit the 50,000 words, the official goal for the month, any number of words is more than zero. During my slow days when I felt like I couldn’t write more than a sentence, my kind friends reminded me of this simple fact (a true mathematical statement) over and over. Two months later, I’m a more resilient writer, instead of telling myself that I’m a failure on any given day I don’t get as far in my story, which I’m now rewriting, as I wanted to.

What’s Next? (Or What Now?)

As I mentioned above, I took a first read of my novel and am rewriting it now. (Cue tears, many tears. Some happy tears, I swear!) My word count goal for today, after finishing this blog post, is about 2,000 words. At first, I thought I could embark on a NaNoReviMo (a month of revising), soon to polish and release my work, but at the end of the day, I realized my story had a lot of weak points. Coming to terms with this and barreling on with the work of improving it has been humbling, but I wouldn’t trade the discipline I’ve honed so far for anything in the world. Like going through any other monumental challenge, once you come out the other side, you grow and appreciate your past self for putting you through the discomfort and pain to become a better version of yourself. I remind myself of this daily as I mold and mold my new draft.

jwang's laptop at cafe
Not writing in my room for once! πŸ˜›

Hopefully, by the end of this January, I will be able to hire an editor to help me with the next step of preparing my work for self-publishing. I try not to think too far ahead about getting a cover designer and book formatter, as exciting as these steps are, but I do let the thought of them motivate me.

Another reason for my rewrite, besides my desire for a quality narrative, is the simple fear of being negatively judged. Having really thrown myself into the process of creating a whole darn book, I find it hard to truly criticize any work I know someone has put their heart into. However, I know that my story will not work for everyone who reads the genre I’m targeting, so there will be people who point out things they didn’t like about the book. I won’t lie, I’m still preparing for the first bad review I get, but I try not to let this limit me in my day-to-day work. All I can do is write my tail off and hope the story resonates with someone else. I’m confident it will, and I hope it could inspire that someone else to tell their own story because one book can’t be everything for one person. This I know, since it’s what drove me to create my story.

Is NaNoWriMo The Only Way to Write a Book?

The answer is, of course, absolutely not. You can begin writing anytime. I think aspiring writers, myself included, often forget this, as simplistic as it sounds. Remember that you can file away (never throw away) those first few sentences or pages if you don’t like them, but if you have a story to tell, begin now. There is no way to be completely ready, and as with many things in life, you learn as you go. Your story can change as you go, but once you settle on an idea and find yourself needing a period of time to turbo-charge it into fruition, remember that NaNo and a community of like-minded, supportive storytellers is waiting to welcome you, including me.

Also published on Medium.

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