About that month when I wrote a lot AKA NaNoWriMo 2023

I did it! I don’t know how! But I did it! I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. Actually, I wrote them in 21 days. But saying that makes it sound easier than it was. Let me remind you of the first week that included a road trip up from Cape Town and Zombies and pretty much the general chaos that is my life.

That initial enthusiasm faded in week two. It’s not that I didn’t want to write the story, but that’s ALL I wanted to do. I envied the people on the Jozi Wrimos WhatsApp group chat who were able to just write. Imagine a whole month to write in the morning with a cup of tea, or in the afternoon on the patio with a cold drink of sorts? And doing all that without having to work? Alas, seeing as I have not yet won the lotto, but also…

I am convinced that I’ve gotten into a habit of filling every minute of the day with something to do. I have also taken to habit stacking where I reward myself with what I want after I finish something I have to do. This usually involves the dishes or cleaning rewarded with chocolate or McDonald’s. Either way, there isn’t enough time in a day for all the things I want to do. But the problem is I want to do everything all at once.

Let’s be clear, this is not the same anxiety-driven need to feel useful and therefore worthy that I suffered from most of my life. It took many years of practice and many hours of therapy but I let that one go. I am perfectly capable of sitting and doing nothing now. And I don’t feel guilty for it. Doing nothing IS doing something. In that moment it is just being. And that is perfectly OK. 

This is quite literally wanting to do the things because they make me happy and I love seeing results and I wanna know what it’s going to turn out like that I want to do ALL the things. My ADHD brain operates like this and it’s a lot of fun. Sometimes. But after a month jam-packed with “fun”, the year-end fatigue is real. 

So, as much as I can think I would get more writing done if I didn’t work, I think it’s because I work all day and created the pressure to have to write every night that I did so many words. If there’s no pressure then it’s not gonna happen. It’s gotta be lastminutedotcom or bust. 

I also think that because I had the goal of 50,000 words to write in the month I pushed to achieve the minimum word count per day until I got there. Then I let myself off the hook somewhat only adding 12,000 words in the last 9 days. Let’s compare, first 21 days my average word count per day was 2,493 versus the last 9 days where it dropped to 1,334 words per day. I could have written a lot more.

This begs the question – should my goal have been higher? Then the dude on the other shoulder says, what if the goal is so high that it’s not achievable so I don’t push at all? 

We are complicated beings and there’s a fine line between a motivating goal and something ridiculous. But this also goes back to my original idea that the book would just be done at the end of Nano and there’s nothing more to do. 

I’ll tell you more about the book in a different post. I might even drop a teaser here and there to pique your interest although I’m pretty sure you’re all as excited as I am to see where that story goes.

In terms of Nano, here are some interesting stats.

  • I wrote:
    • 50,000 words in 21 days (more accurately I ended the 21st of November on 52,359 words).
    • the minimum of 1,667 words on 22 of the 30 days.
    • nothing on 2 of the 30 days.
    • an average of 2,066 words per day.
    • a record 4,488 words on the 12th day.
    • 62,003 words in total in 30 days.

I am super proud of my first official Nano. 

I achieved something that I didn’t know I could. I tested my discipline on days when I was exhausted and didn’t want to write but I did it anyway. I played around with perspective and point of view, starting over in a different POV when I was already 16,000 words in. I completely changed a character midway through, only to go back to my original concept in the home stretch. I lost focus too, forgetting where I was in the story to know what to write next. I even stopped dead in the middle of a scene not liking where the story was going. 

I came out of Nano with a much better understanding of my writing style and of myself – my abilities, my passions, my limits, my shortcomings – and all of it will just make me a better writer, cause that’s what I’m here for. 

I will be back for NaNoWriMo 2024. I’m a sucker for punishment like that, but it’s also such a phenomenal community to be a part of. And it’s the perfect way to launch myself into a new book project every year. But! I will do some things differently. 

Firstly, I will set a total word goal for the entire book, to achieve the first 50,000 words during Nano. This should prevent me from feeling the “what now” when the month is over and keep me focused on my bigger goal.

Next, I will not pants it again. Generally in life, I am a pantser – doing things spontaneously, impulsively or by the seat of my pants (which now that I typed that out sounds weird but I’m going to stick with those words cause I’m pretty sure they’re right and honestly I’m not going to google it – I suspect inappropriate things might pop up if I do). 

Being a pantser works for my adventurous spirit. I go “hey, this looks like a good idea, let’s try it” and end up with an epic story to tell but with writing, I feel like I need structure. Just as Nano ended I came up with the idea to create a storyboard on my closet doors. I used scrap paper and scribbled notes, stuck them up with prestik, and then stepped back. 

I rearranged the notes into characters, settings and scenes. Then I called my daughter into my room and told her the highlights of the story and how I thought it should flow. By saying these things out loud I could hear the contradictions and fix them. I could hear when a scenario didn’t make sense or wasn’t true to the story and come up with a better way to tell it. 

The next day I rewrote every category, name and scene note on colour-coordinated papers (of course cause stationery obsession!). I went back to my story, inserted a scene outline and rearranged by cutting and pasting it into the correct order. 

The next step is to review the already written scenes, make sure they make sense, and transition them into the next scene. This is a challenging area for me. I like abrupt endings to chapters or scenes and readers like them to flow. We will meet somewhere in the middle. Thereafter I can fill in the scenes I haven’t written anything about yet. 

Lastly, I will put every effort into winning Nano, but I wont stop doing the other things I love and need to feel fulfilled. Like writing more updates here, and posting to social media, and reading, and learning new things.

1 thought on “About that month when I wrote a lot AKA NaNoWriMo 2023”

  1. Pingback: It’s official! I’m writing a book. – Corenne Tavares

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