First time NaNoWriMo’er, all-the-time perfectionist

November 03, 2017

(Originally posted on my old book review blog, HilliterateBlog!)

Hi fellow book lovers! I've taken the plunge... I'm doing NaNoWriMo 2017! For anyone unfamiliar, it's National Novel Writing Month. Participating means attempting to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. If it isn't clear from the description, this is a really intense challenge. It's day 3 and I'm already a little overwhelmed, so I wanted to jump on and share a little about my process and hear from others about theirs in the hopes of getting some inspiration!

About a week ago, I started a free trial of the writing app Scrivener. I hadn't really decided to do NaNoWriMo yet, but I'd been curious about Scrivener for a while since a lot of my favorite authors use it and I wanted to see what it was all about. So far, I'm really glad I did it! I definitely think I'll buy the app after my trial is up. I completed the whole tutorial, which took a while but was absolutely worth it. Scrivener has so many interesting features that are really different from my normal word processing apps like Word or Google Docs. The tutorial was helpful in exposing me to all of those and getting me comfortable with using most of them.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo and declared my novel on October 31st (aka the last possible minute), but I don't think I officially decided to follow through until I started writing on November 1st. I'm going about this project differently from how I normally write. I've had the idea for this novel in my head for a while but just haven't sat down and flushed out any of the details. I normally like to plan and outline and to feel like I have all the plot points and characters figured out before I start a draft (because I'm a little bit crazy, okay?). Because I didn't decide to NaNo until the last minute, I've outlined nothing and it's kind of terrifying. The NaNoWriMo website refers to this as being a "Pantser" -- flying by the seat of your pants, which is something that has never ever in my life described me. I'm not good at it, but I think it's valuable for me to experiment with less planning. When I force myself to plan everything out and try to get all the details perfect, it ends up taking me forever to write anything, I stress about not getting anything written, and so on. With this novel, I'm just writing, writing, and writing more without stopping myself at every sentence and saying, "Does this fit with my overall goal for this chapter? Would this character really think in those precise terms?" I keep telling myself that I can work all of those things out in revisions; what I really need to do is get words on paper and to know that I can finish a novel-length project.

One of the things I really like about Scrivener and about the NaNo website is that they help me track progress and set goals. I can see how much I've written each day and see myself inching closer to the 50,000 word count. Having the little word-count widget pulled up as I'm writing in Scrivener is surprisingly motivating; I love to see that I'm actually meeting word count goals and to watch the bar turn from red to yellow to green as I write more.

I also appreciate the organizational format of Scrivener. Even when it feels like I am totally pantsing this thing, I don't feel like a total mess when I can see my different documents and folders all consolidated in one place, a whole section with my research all laid out as I find it, and character templates that I can fill in as I write and develop new details about each of my characters. It puts my perfectionist heart a little bit more at ease.

I still don't fully know where I want my story to go, which makes me anxious, and I can tell that some days it is going to be like pulling teeth to get my 1600 words on paper, but I'm excited about the possibilities and haven't yet lost my belief that I can do this. Maybe it's just newbie optimism? ;)

I would love to hear about others' processes and progress, so leave me comments and let's talk! I'm also down to make more writing buddies - my NaNoWriMo username is hilliterateblog. Also, if this wasn't already clear, my book reviews may be fewer and further between this month -- why don't I have enough time in the day to read all the things I want AND write all the things I want (and, less importantly, to stay sane and make money and support myself and eat food, etc...)? The struggle, people.

Good luck to my fellow WriMos - we (maybe, hopefully) got this!

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 3.30.05 PM
1/10 of the way there!



Leave a comment