Last year, I did a three part series during November all about NaNoWriMo. This year, I just got so caught up in writing (and being behind! and now, trying to finish the draft) that the skeletons of those posts are still sitting in my drafts folder. But the way I see it -- with a little "find + replace" action, those posts are relevant to the writing process in general, so I may just tweak them and post them later. Not that I had to explain all that, but eh, I did.
Anyways, one "tradition" I did stick to this year (for the most part) was the NaNoLessons I posted on Instagram. And like last year, I figured I'd recap NaNoWriMo by talking about all the things NaNoWriMo taught me about writing.
The first few days of NaNoWriMo were rough for me and I fell behind because of it. The issue was that I built up this epic tale in my head for months and was almost counting down the days until it began. But when it came time to write something, the fear of starting a project that I really cared about, pressure for it to be brilliant, the desire for things to just click right away, kept me from writing the story.
Just start already!
Don't let fear scare you away.
First drafts are for you.
Just like last year, I realized that pushing through writer's block can be one of the most rewarding experiences. They say when you push yourself to your breaking point, you find out what you're truly made of. I think that's true of writing as well. So I pushed myself. I fell into the story and described what I saw, I allowed myself to slip into first person narration so I could feel the story and get lost in it, not just tell it. It's on these days, when I had to just sit my ass down and type something, anything, that I feel like I began to tap into the heart of my story. These were the days I began to fall in love with it.
Write through it.
The words you never planned can surprise you most.
Focus on the details.
...but don't be afraid to let feelings guide you.
Get lost and found in amazing places.
Towards the end of last year's NaNo, I learned that sometimes you just had to give your characters the reign. So when I found myself stuck, I tried that tactic earlier on. It elevated my story into a level of complexity that I hadn't even dreamed of. Characters started living on the page, twisting the story into territory that I hadn't even thought of and making it a million times better. Interesting characters popped out of the woodwork as I struggled to bring my protagonists from Point A to Point B and I found that they were fully formed people and they quickly wormed their way into my heart... Praise be the squad :)
Your characters know themselves better than you know them.
Characters may surprise you.
Give every character a trait.
Interaction can drive a scene.
I'd finally happened upon THE SCENE. You know, the one from which the entire story sprang forth. And there was this halo of excitement and trepidation surrounding it. I wanted to tell it so bad but it almost felt to blessed to touch. For the better part of a day, I pushed off writing it, puttering around complaining like a child. As if it were some great cosmic misfortune to - gasp! - have to write the scene I've been dreaming about. Then I put on my big girl panties, put the song "Make A Shadow" by Meg Meyers on repeat, and just wrote. I wrote quite a bit of it with my eyes closed, feeling instead of seeing. And when I opened them, I had both the scene and tears on my cheeks. Dramatic? Perhaps, but it's my favorite piece of writing all month.
Nothing can become something.
Heed the call.
With writing highs come writing lows. After pouring myself into THE SCENE, I felt so tapped out. It didn't help that said scene was a flashback and jumping back into the present of the story made me feel like floating in unknown waters. I just wasn't sure where to take the story. I really had to push myself to write those couple of days, instead of just waiting on something to come to me. And although I don't think it was my best writing to date, writing is kinda like life - its goes on.
Go out in search of inspiration...
...but don't you dare wait on it.
"Sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position." So says Stephen King. And I believe him. Sometimes there's no way to spin it - writing is hard and tedious but it's your story and sometimes burrowing down into it is the only way to get it out there.
Writing is hard...
...but this hole's not gonna dig itself.
Ideas can legit come from anywhere. I found myself inspired by a commercial one day, when I'd previously ruled the idea too ludicrous to fit into my story. And thank goodness I'd written it down anyway, because it wormed it's way into my novel a bit later on. Lesson learned: don't just dismiss things out of hand; sometimes enlightenment comes in the form of the seemingly ridiculous.
Ideas can come from anywhere.
Never toss an idea aside.
When I was over 30,000 words in, I could feel the burn out around the corner. Despite a major break-through with the story and really feeling like I was getting somewhere, it got to a point where I just needed to come up for air! So I spent two days falling head first into Winter by Marissa Meyer. Funnily enough, it reminded me what I love so much about storytelling, and I felt ready to jump back in afterwords.
Sometimes you just need a break.
Reading reminds you how to write.
When I initially got the idea for this years novel, I only had 2 main characters and a cast of incidentals. But while I tried to eek out words during the month, characters began popping up out of nowhere. By the end of it all, I ended up with another POV character that intrigues me tremendously, and two supporting characters that like to pretend they are the stars of the show. They are so cute and I love them all and I can only hope that my love for them translates into something others can enjoy.
Love of characters (hopefully) translates.
Winning NaNoWriMo for the second time was awesome. But what was even cooler was the fact that I felt like I learned so much about my own story. What began as a story about two pretty badass assassins turned into something so much more complex than I could have imagined. At the start, I knew I had a story a liked, but now, it feels like a story others could also like, and I'm so excited to continue telling it!
Writing is learning.
A book is a pile of words.
And special note: while I was doing this crazy thing during November, there have been so many people who have commented on how "amazing/dedicated/insane/accomplished" I must be for attempting it, usually followed by saying they've always wanted to write a book but didn't think they were good enough. If you are one of those people, know this: you can to write a book. It will be messy and frustrating and God-awful in some places, but it will be yours. Don't let self-doubt find a home in your heart.