It has almost been a full month since November ended, and now that I am caught up on sleep and schoolwork, I feel like I can look back on NaNoWriMo with a (mostly) objective view. I learned a million things this past November, both about writing and myself, but five things stood out. Here they are, in no particular order.
1) Some parts of noveling are much easier than I expected. Maybe it was because I was constantly writing. Maybe it was because I felt the pressure of watching my bar graph increase on the NaNo website. Maybe it was because I am a literary genius. Though I seriously doubt that last one. Whatever it was, writing my novel was easier than expected in some aspects. I had, excluding one crazy weekend, enough time to get my writing done. My parents were super supportive; they even went as far to give me an extension on my clean-your-room-or-face-our-eternal-wrath deadline so that I would be able to hit my word count. Week Two, which so many people dread, was the easiest week I had. All in all, noveling wasn’t awful.
2) Most parts of noveling are much harder than I expected. I was angry with my characters, annoyed with my plot. My friends didn’t understand why my moods went up and down so seemingly randomly. (They figured out mid-November that my mood was dependent on how my story was progressing and then things made some more sense.) About 15,000 words in, I verbally abused my main character to tell her that she had to stop whining and crying. Essentially, she had to grow up. Week Three was the hardest for me. I was at my story’s climax and had no idea how to write the scene I so desperately needed. And I refused to give up with almost 40,000 words already written. I had no real social life. My characters were my best friends and my computer was my lifeline. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about my next scene. All I could do was count the minutes and try not to think about how many words I could have been writing in that time. As fun as it was, noveling was crazy difficult.
3) Having a completed manuscript is one of the most surreal things I have ever experienced. I just printed out my first copy of my manuscript for editing. Having it there in my hands, seeing my words on paper, knowing I wrote the entire thing—I almost didn’t believe it. NaNo 2011 was the first National Novel Writing Month I have participated in and my NaNoNovel is the longest story I have ever completed. Writing a novel seemed like something I would do when I was older. Definitely not something I would do before my seventeenth birthday. It’s weird and amazing for me to look at my manuscript and see what I have accomplished.
4) Talk too much or too little about your book and people lose interest. Whenever I would go off on a rant about my book, my friends’ eyes either glazed over or they looked at me like I was crazy. Sometimes it was a mixture of both. As for talking too little, a few people who knew I was doing NaNo asked to read my book. The thing is, I really don’t want them reading it. But I’ve discovered that people only have so much time and energy to spare when the subject isn’t about them. So if you want people to stop pestering you about reading what you’ve written, tell them they can read it as soon as it’s done…which could take months. Years, even. Yes, years, you tell them. They can read it then. Eventually, they’ll stop asking unless you bring it up.
5) Getting lost in someone else’s head is an awesome thing to do. While I was writing, I didn’t have thoughts of my own until my fingers stopped moving. I became the person I was writing. Her problems were my problems, her failures were my failures, her pains were my pains. I. Was. Her. I was not the girl waiting for her college decisions, the girl who was putting off her math homework to write, the girl who had to make dinner in a matter of minutes but had to get to the end of the scene first. I did not think about what I was writing, I simply wrote. Though my fingers moved and I stared at words on a screen, what I was really doing was walking around town and talking to old friends and delivering babies. I was baking pumpkin pie and getting into fights and saving the day. It’s a great, scary feeling, knowing that you were someone else, just for a little while.
Anyway, this is what I learned. You probably learned something totally different. Or maybe you learned the same thing in a different way. Or maybe you learned the same thing in the same way with different results. Or the same results. It doesn’t matter to me; I just hope you learned something.