I don’t know if anyone has ever told you this, but writing is hard. You know what’s even harder? Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. That’s an average of 1,667 words per day – basically an essay’s worth of writing, per day, for 30 days. It is currently day 23 of NaNoWriMo, and we’re only a week until the end of the road. How quickly a month passes by!
At the time of writing this, I have just surpassed the 33,000 words mark, and that’s wonderful. It’s a fantastic milestone to hit, especially since I absolutely flew past personal best in NaNo history (in past years, I usually tap out at the 20,000 mark). But oh boy, was it hard to come by.
Despite my best efforts, I’m still technically lagging behind, in all senses of the word. I have been consistently behind my word count targets for the best past of a week. At day 23, it is suggested I should be at the 38,333 word mark, and at this current point in time, I would need to write 5,000 words today to hit that target (spoiler alert: it ain’t happenin’).
I’ve been lurking the NaNoWriMo forums this month and the general consensus is that week two is generally the hardest week in the month to get through, and I am testament to that. For example, the weekend before last, I had a rare free weekend to myself. I wasn’t seeing my boyfriend, and there were no events on, so I had a whole two days of laying in, cleaning the house, and getting my novel writing-on. Except it didn’t quite work out that way. I had this grandiose idea before that weekend that I would get my word count doubled on both days, getting 6,668 words in by Sunday night, rather than the regular 3,334 to stay on target. On the Saturday, I wrote a grand total of 700 words, and I think I only made it over 1,000 on Sunday. So even though I had a whole two days cleared to dedicate to writing, I only just managed a day’s worth of work collectively in the 48 hour period.
That weekend, I started second guessing the process. I was asking things like, “is it really possible to achieve 50,000 words (or a finished first draft of a book, whichever comes first) within a space of a month? Am I stupid for thinking I can even do this?”
And then I started reading the Nano Pep Talks that they have on the site, and found out some interesting things. For example, did you know the novel Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (ie. one of my favourite books published in the last 5 years) was written as a part of NaNoWrimo? And that Japanese-British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, probably best known for Never Let Me Go, wrote an earlier novel, The Remains of the Day, in four weeks. Stephen King wrote The Running Man under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in a week. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his most famous work, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in three days, and then again for another three days after his wife burned the first draft. Mental!
A lot of what links all of these cases is that the writers are either a) full-time authors who can afford to dedicate hours in a day solely to their craft, or b) bed bound with nothing else to do but write. I work 40 hours a week at a job that doesn’t involve creative writing in any capacity. More often than not, after a long day of crunching numbers and back and forth emails, when I come home I am too tired to write. This coming weekend in particular, I only have one day off, and that day is being spent travelling to and from London to attend Laura Jane Williams’ writing workshop, Superlatively Rude: How To Write Words That People Want To Read (I am super excited for this, but acknowledge that the writing I do for this workshop will be more blog-centric than novel-centric, but you never know!). Adding on top of all this the burden that is poor mental health (here’s looking at you, anxiety and depression), I have come to terms with the fact that I may not make it to 50,000 words this month.
But you know what? That’s okay. The point is, I have 33,000+ words towards my novel that I wouldn’t otherwise have, had I chosen not to participate in NaNo this year. That has to count for something. And even if don’t get to 50,000 words by 23:59 on the 30th November, there’s nothing stopping me from writing into December until I do.
I think with a lot of creative pursuits, such as creative writing, painting, crafting, photography, what have you, people think it’s super easy. That because it’s something you like to do, you will breeze through it, overachieve your personal targets, and come out the other side all sunshine and rainbows. I will tell you something right now – I love writing, it’s definitely up there in my top three favourite things to do, along with bingeing shows on Netflix and eating a good burger. But in the last three weeks, I have also never had so little sleep that wasn’t directly mental health related. I’m not trying to make up excuses for not hitting my writing targets, I’m just saying, I’m doing very well at dealing with the hand I was dealt.
It’s hard work, this writing business, but I will perservere. I will contuinue writing a little bit everyday, even if I don’t reach the 2,000 words a day I need at this point to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo. The point is that I tried, and will keep on trying.
Stay tuned for a NaNoWriMo ’round up’ of sorts next week when it’s all over, where I will show you my stats and talk about my thoughts and feelings for the month as a whole.