Since first attempting NaNoWriMo four years ago, I’ve learned a great deal about writing and about being a writer. I’ve read articles and blogs, listened to podcasts, watched videos and interviews. I’ve also learned a great deal about being in a relationship and having a family. Yet most importantly, I’ve learned a lot about life. The most pertinent of these lessons for my current task is this: life does not make time for family, friends, and personal passions. You have to make time for them yourself.
As I have said before in these blogs, NaNoWriMo is a challenge of scheduling and consistency as much if not more than actual creativity and craft. As the cliché goes, life is a great balancing act. These words could ring no truer than at the present: striving for a personal goal while keeping your loved ones safe and sane against the backdrop of a global pandemic. I never thought it would be easy, but I will admit I also did not account for it being so hard.
How have the challenges affected me? Fortunately, the NaNoWriMo website has a stats page that provides us with a fair amount of useful data for tracking my progress. Browsing that page, I can see in the first 22 days of the challenge I have not written—or at least not updated my word count indicating I skipped my normal writing window—seven of those days. An entire week of an intense month skipped. Going by the handy words per day tracker I’m about two days’ worth of words behind so at least I’ve made up five days’ worth of words in the other fifteen days that I actually did some writing.
That means I miss on average about writing about one out of every three days, but I also make up for a missed day of writing in writing for three days. So, on average, I write four days’ worth of words in four days. Yet I am behind as I write this post because a larger portion of the missed days were recent. It’s hard to say when it is best to miss days in NaNoWriMo: early, late, or well spread through the month. Simply put, you should not miss days even if you only write for ten or fifteen minutes, maybe eking out 300 words. It’s worth putting that time in rather than giving up the day.
It has not been easy yet it has been fun. I have found that has long been an issue of mine in many facets of life, but writing especially. Sitting down and making myself write shifts quickly into letting myself write. If you are competing in NaNoWriMo, odds are you are someone who loves to write. Maybe you just have trouble motivating yourself without a deadline or forcing yourself to sit down and start writing. You are in good company.
In this way, I can compare writing to working out. They are both activities I enjoy once I get going but have such resistance to beginning. It’s as though my comfort and lethargy have imposed this inertia upon me, preventing me from doing what truly makes me feel my best. If I look back at the past three weeks as a case study, I would say it is a fairly accurate statement. There have been days or nights when I have not wanted to write. Those days involved sitting and watching TV; a far less fulfilling activity.
Nevertheless, I love writing and so I continue to do what I love.
I’ll take a moment to share a little about my story. It is a fantasy story taking place in the desert and a bordering city-state. In this world, powerful storms can produce magic stones that contain their power. A person must go out into the storm as it rages to get a stone or else it will dissolve. In the Harasa Desert, which is an anagram for Sahara, the great sandstorms or haboob manifests a magic heliodor often referred to as the Sandstone, which is the title of the story. The mentor character of the story points out that sandstone is technically completely different and that the Heliodor should be called the Sandstormstone but no one ever calls it that, which is fun for me.
The main character is a young woman of twenty named Nija. The story revolves around Nija proving to this new and enigmatic mentor character that she is worthy to be the Keeper of the Sandstone, though as she is also trying to find her place in the world, her motivations are rather transient. Nija wants to leave the life she knows as part of the desert fairing people of her mother, yet she is haunted by the hatred and prejudice she feels toward her father’s people from the local city-state and the grandfather that disowned her family. Her journey is one of meeting new people and having her prejudice and motives challenged, continually finding ways to grow and reason to keep getting up when she is knocked down.
The story will culminate with Nija having to face down her fear, hatred, and prejudice to accept the mantle of Keeper and protector of all peoples. Only in doing so could she face up to the monumental task presented for her at the end of the story with any hope of survival, let alone success. Presently I need to move her character development forward about two stages to get her to the pre-climatic meeting with her estranged and loathed grandfather, which is my last planned milestone. I already have a quote from her grandfather for the scene:
The worst thing in life isn’t lying on your deathbed, thinking back on your life, and dying with regrets. It’s living with them.
Now I’m going into the homestretch, and I am a bit behind the gun. I feel pretty confident still, so expect my next post to be a declaration of victory. I’ve had to make a few concessions. One being that I can no longer make excuses for skipping my writing window; two hours of working on the story unless something urgent comes up. Even if that happens, which it is bound to, I will use any remaining fraction of that time to write. I’m also going to focus my NET time such as bathroom breaks to do some writing or at least note taking and not aimlessly browse social media or play the one game I have on my phone, which is a great game but I’m not going to endorse it here. Excuses and distractions will have to be mitigated to achieve success, and I have every intention of doing so.
The toughest compromise to make is in accepting this will not be a pretty product in the end. It will be a rough draft with much rewriting and editing to be done. I’ve mentioned before that 50,000 words is fairly short and for my writing style and preferred story length, it falls significantly short. The story I’m writing could use another 20,000 words to round off the character development as I would like. I’m having to accept that to complete this rough draft, some character arcs and subplots are going to be rough and quick if not outright jarring. I’m telling myself it is something I can come back to when I don’t have a goal and deadline fast approaching.
I feel like these blogs are also a story in themselves. First setting and introductions, then the rising action, and now we reach the climax. Will the hero succeed or fail? Unlike in most stories, there is no guarantee of success.
You’ll just have to check the next blog post and see.