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Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Maddening Challenge

If you've been following this blog for at least a year, or have known me since 2012 and are aware of the time of year, you'll know that I am gearing up for the most (or one of the most) maddening challenge a writer can partake in.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)!

For those of you who haven't been following this blog, or if you haven't known me since 2012, I am a writer. I've been doing it since I was old enough to write the stories in my head down on paper. It is a beautiful hobby and a large part of my life revolves around it. It is also quite challenging and insane. I am insane! Most artists are. We're not clinically insane, but our lives are tremendously different – we feel our way through life, our minds are always buzzing about our next major (or minor) project, and we're... we're just different. And we're unapologetic about it. At least I am.

And for those who don't know what NaNoWriMo is, it's a month-long ordeal that challenges writers to write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th. Yes, 50,000 words is a lot of words, and yes, we're insane to undertake this, but insanity was already established in the previous paragraph. The goal is insane, but it is achievable. Many of my friends have achieved it many, many times over. Unfortunately, I am not among them. I have attempted the challenge since 2012, and have yet to clear 30,000 words for the month. Maybe this is my year.

How does one prepare for this insane challenge? Well, I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. I am a habitual planner. I plan the crap out of everything I write, including fanfiction. Okay, maybe I don't plan the crap out of everything, but I do plan. I plan, at the very least, the main scenes that are going to be the driving force of the story. I figure out who my characters are, and create their back-stories so they can drive those scenes. Once I have my major plot points, I let my characters guide me from point A to point B and beyond. Sometimes the path they chose is twisty and hilly and convoluted, but they, eventually, get me where I'm going.

I used to be a pantser. A pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants. They start writing and see where it goes. I used to be like that. But, I ended up with more unfinished stories than I knew what to do with. However, I also know several people who have won NaNoWriMo with a pantsed novel.

There is no right or wrong way to write. If you are a habitual planner (and subsequently, a world-builder), that's awesome! If you are a pantser, that's awesome too! The most important part of NaNoWriMo is simply starting. You can't write the novel you never start.

I also find stocking up on tea, hot chocolate, and food is immensely helpful for navigating the highs and lows of November. Staying caffeinated and well-fed (especially well-fed) is essential to just surviving the chaos that inevitable ensues. And when I say there are highs and lows, I mean it. You will have days when nothing short of the apocalypse can stop you. And, you will have days when the apocalypse is in full force inside your head and writing is nigh impossible. I know this, because I've been there. Back in 2013, I had a 5,000 word day. I surprised myself! And it felt wonderful! It felt amazing. But, that was only a one-time deal. I haven't had a 5,000 word day since. I've had a couple of 2,000 word days, but nothing quite so tremendous as that 5,000 word one. I've also had many, many lows. I've had zero word days, and days when I've struggled to keep focused. Any of my friends will be able to tell you that, sometimes, I have the attention span of a goldfish. This is due to my ADD, and some days are worse than others. I also struggle with dark moments when I doubt myself a lot. That doubt manifests itself in an inability to write when I really need to. This is when I'm glad I don't hole myself in my room for NaNoWriMo. I meet other writers to write with because of these low days. I often need the encouragement, to hear the voices of my friends telling me not to give up and to keep writing. The advice doesn't always sink in, but it helps knowing I have people cheering in my corner, people I will cheer on in return.

Oh, and something else that helps? My ever-present, all-round comforting, mascot, Perry. He's my NaNoWriMOwl!

Meet, Perry!

Am I insane for doing this? Definitely. But, I can't imagine November without it.

What are some of the ways you prepare for NaNo? Let me know in the comments below!