The Best and Worst of the First Week of NaNoWriMo

Shut Up & Write! NaNoWriMo the best and worst of the first week

I’m simultaneously exhausted with writing and exhilarated; this is the roller coaster ride of NaNoWriMo, a commitment to writing 50,000 words in thirty days. This is my very first NaNoWriMo and although I’m familiar with the writing challenge (what writer living in the Bay Area isn’t?), I can’t say I knew what to expect.

Before signing up and before the start of November, I talked with writers who successfully “finished” and asked them the usual questions – what helped you, how did you feel at the end, were you happy with your novel, what did you learn and the ever so important, would you do it again? I talked with writers who didn’t finish and asked what challenges prevented them finishing, how did they feel afterwards, what did they learn from the experience and, most importantly, would they ever try it again?

Every writer’s experience was different.

Pantsers won as as often as plotters. Cramming your writing in on the weekends worked as well as writing every day. Family and friends were equally attention hounds and the cheering squad. None of that determined how a writer felt at the end of November or if they’d take the plunge again.

As for myself, it’s too soon to say. However…

…In light of the harrowing craziness and the race toward the 50,000 and accumulation of NaNo badges, here is a recap of the best and worst moments of my last 7 days. Take it with a large dollop of humor and complete and utter seriousness.

The Worst Things (so far)

  • The nervous anxiety that takes over my brain and body EVERY SINGLE DAY until I get my words done… only then can I relax.
  • Writing is exhausting. It’s hard, it’s using different brain energy, the writing is being sucked out of me like a vampire; call it what you will, after three hours of writing, I need a nap.
  • My Inner Editor – the one I’m supposed to give up or lock in a box somewhere? – it’s alive and well and bitting at my heels with every word forward. It tells me, in wickedly gleeful tones: that descriptive word is overused, that character name is actually a cartoon character from my childhood, that scene isn’t logical or realistic. Maybe by the end of the month I’ll deal with it better; for now, I’m muttering “shut up” through gritted teeth ad nauseam.

The Best Things (so far)

  • I’ve given up pretending that I know anything about writing. It’s become an act of pure instinct. Whatever I’ve learned in the past about crafting a plot, making dialogue seem realistic, or a character emphatic and three dimensional to my readers, it’s out the window. And there’s something freeing in that lack of self questioning and simply telling the story as fast as I can.
  • I really really like my story. It doesn’t matter that there’s so much work left to do to make it something I’d actually want to share with anyone, the very act of uncovering a scene, of witnessing a moment between my characters, gives me a thrill of excitement (and keeps me writing).
  • It’s not over yet. There’s 23 days hellish, panic stricken, adrenaline filled days left to go. What’s that… moi, masochistic? Quite possibly.

For my fellow NaNoWriMo writers out there, let’s be writing buddies! And for writers who have chosen not to succumb to such insanity, I’ll see you at the next Shut Up & Write! event. I’ll be the one in the NaNoWriMo beanie hat.

PS – No, this blog post didn’t count towards my daily word count.

Published by Catherine Ellsworth

Catherine Ellsworth is currently working on a science-fiction novel and runs a monthly critique group in the Bay Area. When not writing and reading, she eavesdrops on commuter conversations, monitors the development of AI, and fantasizes about living on other planets.

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