50k words, 30 days, utter exhaustion


Morgan White

The struggle of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWrimo as it has been abbreviated, has the potential to take a lot out of the even most experienced authors. Motivated only by the sense of personal success, one young writer endeavors to succeed.

Kayley Rapp, News editor

Every November, millions of writers undertake an enormous yet rewarding task: National Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNoWrimo. The task? Writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. On a last minute, impulsive decision, I decided to participate in the challenge this year.

Writing 50,000 words in one month remains a difficult task for even the most experienced writer. Back in 2009, John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, attempted the challenge, and despite his novelist background, found the process hard. Even as someone who has written since age eight, I was unsure how I would stack up. Despite my years of story writing, I had never actually completed a story. I would determine the stories unworthy of completion or become stuck half way through. NaNoWrimo looked like a way to prove to myself that I can write a novel. On October 31st, after much thought, I finally allowed myself to participate in this challenge.

In order to meet NaNoWrimo’s final word target, writers generally need to write about 1667 words a day. On November 1st, day one, I competed in a drama competition called One Act, and therefore, wrote nothing all day. November had barely begun, and I was already behind.  I possessed a vague idea of what I would write about, but never officially plotted the story out. All I planned was a setting, two characters named Eleanor and Ruth, and a two sentence opening. Somehow, on day two, these underdeveloped ideas turned into over 3,000 words.

For the first time, I wrote without worrying whether my story possessed decent ideas. When there are thousands of words to write down in such little time, there becomes no time or use for worrying about plot holes and overused character tropes. There is only time to write. With this mindset, my 3,000 words slowly turned into more and I made up a  story. By 20,000 words, I realized I could accomplish this.

20,000 words, however, is where everything came together and fell apart at the same time. Experienced NaNoWrimo participants will tell new-comers that planning remains fundamentally important throughout the entire challenge. Even if writers normally determine the plot as they write, planning at least the basic outline of the novel ensures they will always understand where the story leads to. I however learned this too late and by the halfway mark of 25,000 words, I struggled every day just to meet the word count. Long before I started NaNoWrimo, people warned me about the high before the fall. Sure enough, one day I excitedly write my way to 25,000 words; the next, I barely write 100 words. Then, after a painfully long time of setting up a situation, I knew how to keep the story moving forward.

I needed to ruin my main character’s life.

After I made my characters crash and burn, the story seemed to progress by itself. I reached 30,000 words around a week after 20,000, and suddenly all my thoughts revolved around my story. All my internet searches and late night Tumblr sessions revolved around my main characters Eleanor and Ruth. Despite schoolwork and pure exhaustion, I powered through to 40,000 with ideas and plotlines flowing through my mind to my fingertips. Even on Thanksgiving, when the threat of failing appeared again, I willed my way through it. My lack of sleep and sore eyes seemed unimportant when only three days remained to finish Eleanor and Ruth’s story.

Then, everything managed to come together. After 30 long and difficult days of nonstop creation, I completed NaNoWrimo with a final word count of 50,632 words. I printed out my winner’s certificate, shut down my laptop, and ate an unhealthily amount of chocolate.

Now comes the part where people ask me if wasting my life for a month was worth it. Honestly, participating in NaNoWrimo felt like anything but wasting life.

People expect writers to write day and night, but honestly, sometimes writing is the most difficult task for writers. We want what we create to seem flawless, but we never achieve that because of our own lofty standards. NaNoWrimo gives storytellers a chance to create without the worry of expectations and perfection. It gives writers the chance to simply write.

To explore the world of NaNoWrimo writers or to see how the process works, visit their website here.

Would you ever attempt NaNoWrimo?


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