Reflections from Week One of NaNoWriMo 2016

By Ash Thoms

The first week of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has come to a close. While I’m sure many of you reading this know what NaNoWriMo is, I’ll give a brief overview for those who don’t.

NaNoWriMo is an event that occurs during the month of November, in which writers all over the world try to write 50,000 words in thirty days. That’s about 1,667 words a day; on  day 7, all participants should have written 11,667 words by the time the clock strikes midnight.

I’ve attempted this event before (a few years in a row, in fact) but never successfully completed it. However, my friends “gently encouraged” me to join them this year, and I’m not one to back away from such encouragement.

The first week has been full of new experiences for me. Here are some of the lessons that have come from those experiences:

  1. My time management skills need serious work.
    • I know most college students don’t sleep, but in the first week of NaNoWriMo I took this stereotype to a new level. My caffeine consumption increased, and the duration of my sleep decreased by a factor of about three (which, yes, I did calculate for this post). Trying to maintain my normal schedule and write 1,667 words a day is incredibly challenging. I’m not expecting it to get easier, but I’m in the process of adjusting my schedule to figure out how I can get through the rest of the month with a bit more sleep.
  2. Outlining is so necessary.
    • I created the outline for my novel on October 31 (refer to my point about time management above). I knew I needed an idea of what I was going to write about and where it was going to go, but I’ve always been a write-what-I-feel-in-the-moment kind of human. The very basic outline I created has saved me so much time and made my story more readable. Had I not created an outline, there would be no continuity to what I’m writing, and it would have zero chance of turning into a novel.
  3. Snacks? Company? Hugs? Breaks? All great things.
    • Being a participant in NaNoWriMo this year has taught me the value of human connection. I tend to write by myself in the middle of the night, but at the University Writing Center we’ve created weekly write-ins (Wednesdays from 5:30 pm until close–come by!). These write-ins have allowed me to experience community in writing. While writing is still considered a solitary activity, there’s something to be said for being able to bounce ideas off of others. Also, who doesn’t want tons of snacks, hugs, and a few minutes of conversation as a break from writing a novel? Writing’s hard work, and you have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself while you do it.
  4. I have a lot to say, and I deserve to say it.
    • I spent years hiding from myself and everyone else, and this year’s NaNoWriMo has been such an amazing opportunity to make myself write in a way that I have always wanted to. In general, writing for me is an emotional release, but it has also proven to be a healing force throughout this first week. I have found my voice in what I’m writing in a way that I have never previously experienced. In finding my voice, I have also discovered that what I have to say is incredibly valuable—even if only for myself.

One week down, three to go! At the time of writing this blog post, I have written 13,000 words for NaNoWriMo. To complete the challenge, I need to write 37,000 more.

I am more than ready for it.

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