NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and is held every November. It’s a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days (or 1,667 per day). Writers and wanna-be writers come together with a common goal to write novels, short stories, memoirs, whatever it is they’ve been putting off or need a push to get started. This year I decided I would document my daily writing practice as I strive to finish a draft of a novel I’ve been taking far too long on.
Words Written: 1,754
Total Word Count: 5,199
I woke up early again today. I was torn between going for a run or starting my writing. And because I normally put off writing for something like exercise, and I actually wanted to get into writing. My kids are also off of school today so I reasoned that it would be easier for me to go for a run during the day than it would be for me to either find time to write in the house or sneak off to the library.
Why is it be easier for me to leave the kids to go run than it is to go to the library to write?
I started out great. I wrote about 600 words effortlessly and was surprised with my speed when I looked up. But then I hit a section where my character is looking at government documents that, in my novel are obviously fake, but in real life have a certain way they are written in both formatting and word choice.
I got stuck because I know the information that I need my character to learn but not how she’s going to get it. It would be great if she could just look at the document and see “here’s what you’ve been looking for” and it’s all laid out perfectly. But I need to portray the documents accurately and in a way that is realistic. She’s not going to find the final “clue” in the first paragraph on the first page.
So basically I started looking up how these documents are laid out and the type of language they might use. I thought about what information each document might have and how many documents she would need to look through to see the whole picture. By this time a lot of my morning writing time had been eaten up.
And this is the one “downside” to something like NaNoWriMo. Because I spent a lot of time researching and taking notes and brainstorming different scenarios, I wasn’t actually “writing” as in my word count wasn’t going up. But in the long run, this research and brainstorming time is just as important as the actual words you put on the page. Because if I didn’t do that, I have a really poorly written novel with no basis in reality or well-thought-out plots or characters.
But, in an effort to move forward with the word count, I decided to set aside the research and instead write a short few paragraphs summarizing what my character was doing (looking through documents) and what she was learning. I don’t feel great about this, and it’s probably going to be one of the first things I fix in December.
But, though this is a downside of NaNo, it can also be a positive thing. If I didn’t have this large word count goal looming over me, I might have sat and used the next couple hours of early morning writing time doing research (again nothing wrong with that), but now, I was able to move forward with the story and write another thousand words.
This sets me up for tomorrow when a really big thing is happening in my book and sets off the second act. This in a lot of ways is a huge breakthrough because I have had a giant wall up as to how I was going to get to this point.
All of this is to say that there is a time and a place for researching, and a place for just writing and getting the words out. And for where I am right now, I just need to get the story down and worry about the details later.