I did NaNoWriMo for the second time this year. Last year was not that successful for me:
After about three days I lost my drive, and motivation and dropped it for what was about a week. Then I dove into it again for another week before entirely giving it up. I did’nt even make it to half of the 50,000 words, but only to about 21,000.
This year I decided I really wanted to reach the 50k words, and after my initial experience in 2012, I knew it was absolutely possible if I just pulled it together, sat down and wrote something even if I thought it was absolute rubbish.
And that’s exactly what I did: Most days I wrote even though I wouldn’t always feel like it. The first week went along smoothly mostly, but somewhere around the 9th or 10th day my motivation left me. The kick I get out of starting with something new vanished, and I became severely unmotivated to write. I mean really unmotivated along the lines of detesting the project and rejecting it completely. Thoughts about starting with a completely different story occupied my mind and made me doubt my first idea.
But somewhere at the start of week 3 I got it together again and wrote about 8,000 words. And from then on I did the last two weeks almost without missing a day, catching up on the wordcount I was about 12,000 words behind on. I muted out the doubtful thoughts and my inner editor/critic and wrote whatever came to mind at that moment and fit the story I was writing.
So I wanted to create a list of things that I need to do in order to write the best I can. It is to remind me what helps to keep me going and to get out of a rut every once in a while.
What I learned from this experience for future writing endeavours:
- I personally am a writer of the planning kind. I can do spontaneous writing prompts and single scenes, but for a longer work I really need a basic structure and a rough knowledge where the story is supposed to go.
- This means I need to know my characters before I write their story, and I need a rough plan for each chapter/scene/part of the story. Otherwise I will be flailing and write any nonsense into the story that crosses my mind. Sometimes that’s a good thing and I will let it happen, but most of the time it is not such a good idea because I will not be writing the story any longer but really just something (anything) whether it fits the story or not. I will leave me frustrated and not happy about the story at all.
- Carving out time and prioritizing time for my writing is crucial and basically quite simple, even if I have a full schedule. So no excuses really work, not if I’m taking myself and my writing seriously. And I really want to do that now and in the future. I always thought I already did that, but as it turns out I was wrong about it. I took the idea of it seriously, but not the actual act of writing. I never really did it regularly except for keeping a journal and writing for the newspapers. But unpaid fiction writing? Not so much. It’s time to change that and November taught me that it is absolutely possible despite a busy life and schedule if I make it a priority.
- Sometimes the crap I write (or think I’m writing) is not so crappy after all.
- Planning a story and its characters can take time, so start early.
- That said, some ideas are great and exciting at the beginning but they also need time to mature like a good cheese or wine before they are turned into a story.
- Write down any idea for a story, a scene, a character as soon as they come to your mind. Keep a notebook with you for that purpose.
- If you finally start writing the story assign yourself to writing a minimum amount of words each day.
- Also, set up a time frame for the finishing of first draft. But chose something realistic. For this, the planning beforehand is crucial.
- Don’t let the doubts get the better of you. Rough patches are part of the deal, so deal with it. There will be good days and bad days and days of utterly miserable doomed proportions. Just go on and you will get through them quickly.
- Don’t put yourself under too much pressure. A draft does not have to be perfect, that’s why it’s a draft. Also, not every draft or manuscript must turn into something great or genius. It will make you proud to have finished something either way. Just try your best and you will get somewhere eventually.
- Don’t compare yourself and your writing to others and the texts they write. I always thought I wasn’t prone to that but apparently sometimes I am and I should be aware of that in order not to lose trust in myself and my work.
- Have someone you trust around who knows about your plans of writing a story/novel to cheer you on when you really don’t want to do anything close to writing. Make sure this is someone who supports you and who has a positive/optimistic outlook. Avoid people who are ignorant, jealous or way too competitive, they don’t help at all but will block your creativity and drain you of energy.
- Set milestones for achievements like finishing a chapter and give yourself a little break and reward yourself with something small.
This list is based on my personal experience, I do not claim that it is fitting for every writer because everyone works in different ways, and what’s helpful to one person definitely might not be for another. I would like to read what kind of habits, tricks or system you have established to write or be creative in other ways, so feel free to comment. 🙂
What do you do to prepare your creative work (whether it is writing or something entirely else)? What works for you and what doesn’t?