NaNoWriMo 2013 — Won!

So I’m writing a book. I can’t begin to describe the thrill it gives me to be able to say those words. I’ve known for years that I wanted to be a writer of speculative fiction. I’ve toyed and dabbled with my craft, honing it and shaping it to the point where I feel like I’m actually a pretty competent storyteller. I’ve penned quite a bit of short fiction, mostly micro-fiction and flash fiction that have shown up in various places around the internet. But I’ve yet to write a story to be sent to a publisher, I’ve yet to write anything that anyone has paid me actual money for, despite the fact that for the past few years, whenever someone asks me what I do, the first word that comes to my mind is always ‘writer.’ It’s who I am, and ultimately, it’s what I want to do for my primary occupation.

NaNoWriMo is one of those things I’ve always noted with passing, casual interest every year when it comes around. In October, something would come along in one of my news feeds to remind me that NaNo was coming up soon. I would think, “I should really participate one of these years,” and then find an excuse why I couldn’t. This year, I decided I was done with excuses, partly due to the gentle prodding of Mary Robinette Kowal, whom I had the privilege of meeting in person in early October when she came to Indianapolis to do a reading with three of our local authors. At one point in our conversation, she asked if I’d ever done NaNoWriMo. I said I hadn’t but that I had always wanted to. Her response, if I recall correctly, was to smile and say, “You should!”

And so I have. For the past two-and-a-half weeks, I’ve dedicated almost every free minute I’ve had to spare — and there aren’t a lot of them in my daily schedule, I assure you — to penning as many words a day as possible. Yesterday, I hit my 50,000 word goal for November, becoming a NaNoWriMo winner, on my first try, in just 19 days! Not too shabby for someone who hadn’t really planned to participate a few weeks ago.

screenshot.22 My goal for the month, aside from writing a minimum of 50,000 words, was to front-load as much of my writing at the beginning of the month as possible. I mentioned in a previous post that I started out using the Reverse Nano Reward System, which starts you out writing more than 3,000 words a day for the first couple of days followed by gradually decreasing numbers each day after that. The philosophy behind it is to hit the writing at a sprint, building up momentum early on so that the writing is less arduous and demanding a couple of weeks in when the writer’s fatigue hits. It works like a charm. By the end of the first week, I’d already cleared the halfway point at 25,312 words.

That was good because week two was a lot harder. By that point I’d been up until at least midnight every day for a week, and I was tired — and starting to realize just how weak and pathetic my plot and characters really were. I struggled through the next couple of days, ultimately deciding to rewrite the first couple of chapters — something every NaNo veteran tells you that you’re absolutely not supposed to do — in order to shore up some of the more critical problem areas. It was scary and terrifying, but it paid off in spades. The end result was stronger, more confident characters and a much better plot. And what I have now is a partial manuscript for a book I’ve been trying to write for nearly ten years and the self-confidence to keep pushing forward with it to the finish.

Now pardon me while I disappear again for a bit. There’s a book to be finished, and I still have a lot of work to do.

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