As the month of November comes to a winding close, I want nothing more than to talk about my experience with National Novel Writing Month this year.
While 2015 isn’t the first year I attempted to write a 50,000 word novel (I tried once back in 2012. But I didn’t get too far because I was too busy with college life and just wasn’t able to fully commit to participating), it has been such a great experience for me for many reasons.
It has changed me. Changed the way I write, the way I see my own writing and my own understanding of how the writing process works. It has made me understand myself too in ways I didn’t understand myself before. Made me understand why I write and what I love the most about the whole writing process.
But with my NaNoWriMo 2015 experience, I’ve also experienced a lot of ups and downs. I’ve crossed some hurdles I didn’t expect to have to overcome and made it through all in one piece. And while I didn’t come close to reaching the 50,000 word mark, I’m glad that I got to have this experience and that I was able to challenge myself through the written word.
During the month of November, I experienced a lot of challenges that I believe were a major part of why I wasn’t able to cross the finish line and make the 50,000 word goal. While I know I really have nobody but myself to really blame, I think the challenges I have faced are what a lot of writers experience when putting themselves to the difficult task of completing a novel in one month.
Writers block: During November, I faced a lot of periods where I just didn’t want to write. At all. I just wasn’t able to find the inspiration or motivation to want to add to my story and bring it further to life. And as a writer, I am the type of person who whenever they go to write a story, wants to write the story chapter by chapter in chronological order. Because I have a difficult time going from chapter to chapter and writing segments from further chapters to be included in the story. So whenever I’m writing and just lose momentum, I lose momentum. And once it’s lost, I can’t get it back. So I have to wait until the cloud of writer’s block isn’t hanging over my head before I can go back to writing again.
However, there are ways to combat writer’s block that makes the time you’re stuck in it pass quickly. One of the things I do the most whenever I face writer’s block is find other things to do with my time until the cloud goes away. This allows the writer the chance to give their mind space from the story, even if it’s for a little bit and come back to writing the story whenever writer’s block is no longer hanging over them. The reason I find keeping myself preoccupied whenever I’m hanging in a writer’s block cloud to be a good way to deal with it is because I already know I can’t completely get rid of writer’s block so instead of fighting it, I embrace it and allow myself the chance to take a break from whatever writing project I’m currently working on.
What makes writer’s block a challenge during NaNoWriMo is that it makes reaching the 50,000 word count a difficult task. It also makes you possibly loose interest in wanting to write during NaNoWriMo altogether too. However, writer’s block can also be seen as a peaceful break from your novel. Because while the task of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is daunting, your mind does need some down time too so that you have space left in your head to write the novel so that you can reach 50,000 words.
Personal life: Whenever you have a lot of personal stuff going on in your life, finding the time to write and wanting to write at all can sometimes make the month of NaNoWriMo difficult.
While at times I’m very happy to have participated in NaNoWriMo this year, there were some moments where I didn’t want to participate at all. And you can thank that for all of the personal stuff that decided to happen days before NaNoWriMo began.
The personal stuff that happened to me helped inspire me to write The Swan & the Crow but also hurt me too.
Originally, I had planned on making The Swan & the Crow based off of Beauty & the Beast because I’ve always wanted to write my own adaptation of that fairy tale. While there are some elements of that story hidden in my novel, The Swan & the Crow is actually inspired by my own recent heartbreak.
This year, I met a really wonderful guy. During the course of our relationship, he made me feel like the happiest I’d ever been in a really long time. He made me feel loved, important, special. Like he would always be there whenever I needed someone to talk to during my darkest moments and that he cared about me as much as I care about him. I opened up to him in ways I’d never been open with anyone else and with each moment I talked and spent time with him, I fell deeper and deeper in love with him.
For the first time in my life, I found love in the most unlikely of places. But then, my heart was broken in two. He decided that he no longer wanted to commit to being in a relationship full time (his exact words for why he ended our relationship) and ended our relationship this October. Since then, I’ve been experiencing a train wreck of emotions from pain and sadness to anger and frustration. I’ve had some good days, some bad days, and felt everything in between.
This heartbreak at times made writing this novel a difficult task for me.
However, I used the pain and my new experience to push me onward. Instead of letting it control me completely, I used it as inspiration for my new story. I used it to help get me out of what I still feel deeply and begin the process of opening myself up to healing. Of letting go, moving forward into brighter and better days and an endless future. Of accepting what happened and not letting my anger and frustration over the breakup control my actions. Of opening myself up to further love and learning forgiveness.
Personal life getting in the way of writing is one of the things writers have no control over. If something in life gets a writer down and they need time to heal and adjust, they do the best they can under the circumstances to write.
But for me, whenever I’m down and feel as broken as I have, I use writing to heal. I write about whatever experience is hurting me so as to express myself completely and so as to get a better understanding of the problem and why it’s troubling me.
Because writing is one of many things that helps me whenever I find myself in an emotional funk. It is the one of many things I feel like I can do to get out of that feeling and begin the process of healing.
And while I would like to say writing this novel while all of this personal stuff going on was easy, it wasn’t. Not at all. I had some days where I just didn’t want to write and choose not to because my emotions were getting the best of me and I was getting nowhere with my story.
But in the end, I pushed on. I didn’t let my personal life get in the way of writing my story. And while I haven’t finished The Swan & the Crow and am nowhere near close, I wrote until the last day of November.
Self-doubt: One of the biggest challenges a writer faces while writing is self-doubt.
Is my writing good enough? Why does any of this matter? Who would want to read my novel anyway? These are some of the many lingering thoughts that enters a writer’s subconscious at any given moment when writing.
When a writer finds themselves at the end of their rope, they begin to experience self-doubt over the work they’ve created. They begin to question every thought, idea and story they’ve created. They begin to doubt, to seriously believe their work isn’t good enough. That nobody would want to read it and that every person that reads their story will absolutely hate it.
Every writer goes through this. Every writer experiences the feeling that their work isn’t good enough. That their work is flawed and that they will be criticized for it.
And I know I was no exception. During NaNoWriMo, there were many moments where I experienced self-doubt while working on my novel. I doubted every character I created, every action I allowed my characters to make, and every decision I made with regards to the story I built up.
But despite my own personal thoughts on my novel, I pushed on, ignoring the voices in my head telling me it’s not good enough. And I created it. I created a story that is uniquely my own and despite my self-doubt, I did the best I could to make it work.
I did the only thing a writer can do when they experience self-doubt: ignore it. Because no matter what, you’ll never think your story is good enough, no matter how many times you edit it to perfection. So the best thing a writer can do in order to get their voice heard is ignore it and make the most of the story they’ve put their hard work into writing.
Despite facing these challenges during NaNoWriMo head on and not getting past the word count, I’m extremely proud of the writing I’ve produced because of it. While I don’t think The Swan & the Crow is the best work I’ve recently written, my plans are to continue working on it.
Overall, I found my NaNoWriMo experience to be very rewarding. While I dealt with a lot of difficult challenges during the month of November, I also felt like I learned more about myself with each word I wrote. I learned what I do to cope with personal problems and what some of my strengths and weaknesses are in my novel writing.
NaNoWriMo was a very rewarding experience for me and I’m looking forward to participating in it again next year.