Reflections of a NaNoWriMo Winner

My sister recently won a ballot place for the London Marathon. Being more of a country stroller and book shop browser I was interested to learn more about the psychology of running such a long way. Sara Kurth has written a fascinating article on the Eight Stages of Running a Marathon. I had these stages in mind when I embarked on the gruelling journey that is NaNoWriMo this year.

1. Days One – Three – Starting Nerves

The build up to NaNoWriMo is quite similar to training for a marathon. We plan, we dream, we order in food and drink, we clear our schedules as much as we can. Now day one has arrived and we are full of excitement. There is the temptation to go too fast off the blocks in the first three days and set a pace we cannot sustain throughout the month. I was really nervous, but at the same time excited, when I began, but I didn’t let myself go over the 1,667 words per day during these days in order to set a realistic pace.

It felt weird to be writing every day like this, especially when my writing has often been haphazard and spontaneous before. I also felt overwhelmed and intimidated to read the enormous word counts coming in from others, and felt pressure to go faster. However, I didn’t, and stuck to the basic word goal.

2. Days Four – Nine – I’ve Got This

By now, I’d settled into a routine of writing as soon as I woke up every day. I didn’t even let myself get a cup of coffee, but instead made do with the water that was by my bed. Once I’d reached my word goal, I could get on with other things with a clear conscience. It also meant the inner critic, who is much slower to wake than me, could be bypassed and I could just get the words on the page. I actually felt confident during this time period.

3. Days ten to fifteen – Settling In

The routine continued into days ten to fifteen. However, on one day I got distracted by a phone call when someone woke me up early, and ended up getting a coffee before sitting down to write. The words didn’t flow as freely that day. The next day, I didn’t feel like writing at all and started to feel the burn so to speak as I realised I wasn’t even half way. To combat this I just pushed through, recreating the routine over the next few days, making sure I didn’t skip meals or not get enough sleep, and kept on writing. It wasn’t a very pleasant part of the writing journey but I persevered.

4. Days sixteen to eighteen – The Wasteland

I actually started to get bored at this stage. The inner critic didn’t seem to sleep and was constantly whispering in my ear how utterly droll my story was and how no one would be interested in reading it. I ceased to be interested in reading it. It felt like every word I put on the page was a blur of nothingness and tedium. But having been warned that this might happen, I kept going, just putting one word in front of the other and reminding myself that it could always be improved in the edit.

5. Days nineteen to twenty-one – The Dark Night of the Soul

Talk about mental anguish. This was when I almost gave up. The only blessing that helped to keep me going during this time was the fact that I went away on a Writing for Wellbeing course which inspired me to get excited about my writing all over again. This is definitely a good time to go away or join a write-in if you can.

6. Days twenty-two to twenty-four – Wow! I’ve Come a Long Way!

I seemed to get over a mental hump at this stage, probably spurned on by the retreat. I spent a few moments reflecting on what I had achieved so far and I kept looking at my daily word count and thinking, “Wow, I’ve come a long way.” I allowed myself to get excited at the prospect of completing the challenge, but this made me think more about the finishing line than the next words I needed to write. As a result it started to become difficult again for me to get the words on the page. Instead, I reminded myself to keep it in the day and to only do my 1,667 words. This seemed to help me to keep going. I also created a new playlist of birdsong and bubbling brooks, and ordered some Bergamot which seems to ignite my creativity.

7. Days twenty-five to twenty-nine – I’m Never Doing This Again!

These were the days when I cursed ever having signed up to do NaNoWriMo. Every day was excruciating. I felt like I couldn’t breath, much less write. But when I look back on my word count I see I actually started going over the daily target at this point and reached my goal early. However, I didn’t want to stop there as my other goals were to finish the thirty days and to eventually finish the first draft of my novel.

8.  Day thirty – Collapsing in a Heap

Okay, so maybe not literally, but definitely metaphorically. I only wrote ten words on the last day but it didn’t matter because I’d achieved my goal and had become an NaNoWriMo Winner! I’m proud of what I’ve achieved but I know I still have a long way to go. I have about ten thousand words left to write on this first draft and then the hard work of editing and re-writing will begin. I’m looking forward to it though, but have planned a trip away for a few days before I sit down with my big red pen.

This has been an amazing journey and I’ve got to share it with some wonderful people for which I am thankful. I have taken from it the need to write every day, although I don’t think I can sustain 1,667 indefinitely. I’m probably more of a 600 word girl myself. That being said, this blog is already over 1k so I’d better draw it to a close and ask, what are your reflections from your NaNoWriMo experience this year? Do you think you’ll do it again? I, for one, am all in and can’t wait.

Susie

The Liv Interviews: Derek Weisman

Fireside Chats With New Writers

the-badlands-sagaLiv: This month’s Liv Interviews is with author Derek Weisman. Hello Derek, welcome. Tell the readers a bit about yourself. How long have you been writing?

Derek: Thanks Liv, good to be here. I started writing when I was about fourteen. I had just read The Stand by Stephen King and thought the ending was lame. It made me want to write a book of my own, so I started writing. I have Aspergers which I found particularly difficult to cope with during my teens. I learned to channel this into my writing and now see it as an asset. I always have plenty of things to write about.

Liv: That’s amazing Derek. So did you go straight into writing a novel or did you try other things like poetry and short stories first?

Derek: I wrote one and a half novels when I was fourteen. Looking back at the writing it makes my eyes bleed: bad grammar, bad plot, bad characterisation. It was worse than 50 Shades of Grey! [laughs]

Liv: [laughing] I think we’ve all got those first attempts lying in a drawer somewhere. So where did you come up with your idea for your debut novel, The Badlands Saga?

Derek: I screwed up with a good friend of mine. She had this smile that turned anything to gold. One time she shaved her head and it made her look like a Neo-Nazi. I was devastated beyond belief. “Why would you shave your head?” I thought to myself. Yet her perky attitude and positive outlook made me look past her shaved head, beyond her outward appearance to something deeper. So much so that one day I kissed her on the cheek! She is the inspiration for my leading character in Badlands.

Liv: Sounds like an amazing girl and a strong character for your book. So can you tell us more about it?

Derek: It’s about a princess trying to save her kingdom from a cancerous virus. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the character better as I’ve written it.

Liv: Sounds fascinating. Which publishing route did you go down?

derek-weismanDerek: I self-published on Amazon. It would have a been a difficult process for me to go down finding a traditional publisher. The important thing for me was to show people that anyone can publish a novel. If I can, others can certainly do it.

Liv: That’s fantastic. What an achievement! Do you have anything new in the pipeline?

Derek: I do. I’m working on a story about a wizard who is trying to solve a murder but ends up revealing a conspiracy. It’s about the detoxification of body, mind and soul.

Liv: I can’t wait to read it! You’ll have to come back and visit us when it’s published. That’s about all we’ve got time for today. Derek, thank you for taking the time to visit us.

Derek: Thank you Liv. It’s been a real pleasure.

The Badlands Saga is available on both Kindle and paperback through Amazon today.

Click here to buy now.