Finishing NaNoWriMo

I haven’t posted anything on my blog for a while. Don’t throw things at me! I know I’m kind of stating the obvious here. But let me explain using a very drawn out analogy: you know how when you play Tomb Raider (or any other random adventure game that requires underwater swimming) and you swim underwater, you have this bar that tells you how much air you have? And that slowly (or sometimes not so slowly) shrinks down as you stay underwater for longer. Then, if you still haven’t come up for air by the time your air bar runs out, your life bar starts running out as well. So you come up for air, finally, but you only just made it and now you only have the tiniest speck of life left in the bar. And so you’re left to battle your way across land, searching desperately for a medipack, while also avoiding violent creatures who try to kill you before you can refill your life bar. But you eventually find a medipack, and use it to restore your life bar. Then, and only then, can you get back in the water and keep on swimming.

This is what NaNo-ing looks like. Except I didn't have the advantage of a harpoon gun.

This is what NaNo-ing felt like. Except I didn’t have the advantage of a harpoon gun.

That’s what writing during NaNoWriMo was like for me. You might have to go back and read that last paragraph again just to understand properly – or at all. Basically, my life bar is the amount I can write, being underwater is the state of writing, the medipack is the amount of time I have to wait before I can write more, and the violent creatures are the other parts of life that get in the way of writing (schoolwork and procrastination, mainly). Got all that? Hey, at least I tried with an extended metaphor there.

In human language, I haven’t been writing on my blog for the whole of NaNo due to my fear that, if I did that, I would be unable to write enough to finish my novel. Ah, logic. I really do admire you people who managed to update your blogs even the slightest bit during November and still finish NaNoWriMo. Seriously, give yourself ten points for the Hogwarts house of your choice, courtesy of me.

But I really wanted to write about finishing NaNo, anyway. To cut a long story short: I won! Hurray!! Yay! Cue the fireworks and three-layer cake!! Woohoo! (By the way, for those uninitiated to NaNoWriMo, “winning” simply means writing 50,000 words by the end of November.)

NaNoWriMo Winner's Badge

I’m really happy that I won, being completely honest. My novel is by no means the greatest in the world – it isn’t even finished yet, actually – but it’s probably the largest singular piece of fiction writing I’ve ever done before, so I’m pretty pleased with that. The question now is: what to do next? Do I go back and edit? Write in the bits that I effectively “skipped” in order to reach some sort of finale at the end, as per the advice of almost every single NaNoWriMo pep talker? Or do I *gasp* redraft the entire thing?

That last suggestion is the one that sounds most daunting, obviously. I mean, I basically killed myself for a month in order to write this novel, and now I’m expected to write it all again? Yep, that sounds terrifying. But the thing is that my novel isn’t finished. 50,000 words isn’t usually enough space to fit in an entire novel, let alone with the type of writing I use (I tend to ramble). So in order to reach some sort of conclusion at the end, I skipped out scenes, left plot holes to collapse in on themselves, and ignored the gaping lack of character development in some of my characters. This, my friends, is a novel in a month. Even if I don’t completely redraft the entire thing – which I have always disliked doing, even for short essays – I will most definitely still have to edit and add to it.

So to everyone who has asked to see my “novel” now that it’s December, please be patient. Something will have to be done to it before I can let another human lay their eyes upon it, even if I don’t quite know what yet.

Now I probably sound like the whole NaNo experience has completely drained me, don’t I? Well, that’s not true. Finishing NaNo was, and still is, a great feeling. You don’t really get much physically in return for completing the challenge, although you do get a nice little video from the NaNo staff saying “well done” at the end. I think the Young Writers Programme also has some sort of deal with CreateSpace that allows you to have 5 free copies of your novel if you win, but I need to look into that. I also got a NaNoWriMo winner’s t-shirt, but that’s only thanks to my very generous mother, who was so confident in my ability to win that she ordered it even before I reached 50,000 – although the sale that ended at the start of December can’t have discouraged her, either. But in spite of all this tangible stuff, it’s the sense of achievement that really matters at the end of NaNo, and you can tell I mean it because I risk sounding like a cheesy  motivational speaker by saying this.

So to celebrate that wonderful, yay-I-did-it-go-me sense of finishing NaNoWriMo, here’s a short list of Things I’ve Learned During NaNoWriMo:

  • November both seems like the shortest and longest month ever when you’re doing NaNo. It starts off long, then short, then long again, and then you finish and you can’t decide which it was.
  • 50,000 words is a lot of writing, but somehow not enough to fit an entire novel in. At least not in my case.
  • NaNoWriMo actually messes with your head. Literally. At one point, after too much caffeine and during the writing of a rather intense scene in The Other Town, I came out of my room to get a drink. When I saw my family all sitting around the telly, chatting calmly, I genuinely thought “Why are they so calm about this? There is a very serious, emotional fight going on right now!”. I think I realised how weird I was acting after one of my  family members saw my horrified face and looked at me, as if to say “What the heck is wrong with you?”. I’m better now.
  • The task of writing 50,000 words in a month is the one thing that can get me back into my coffee addiction, even after months of caffeine-related abstinence. I’m literally sacrificing my health for the sake of my writing.
  • NaNoWriMo = the shortest course to eliminating all human interaction from your life.
  • You might feel like the biggest hermit in the world in any other month, but come November you will feel like the most socially active person on the planet. And you will wish this wasn’t the case.
  • NaNoWriMo is completely awesome.

Now before I end this post, I can’t resist the urge to get a little bit of my overly-emotional-actor-accepting-award-and-talking-for-far-too-long thing on. I’d like to say thanks to my family for being completely, totally supportive of my doing this. You took about zero persuading to let me do it, and once I’d starting you kept egging me on until the end. Thanks as well to all friends – family, internet, or otherwise – for asking about my progress and being understanding if I wanted to lock myself away in a dungeon in order to get on with NaNo instead of actually socialising. And lastly, thanks to all you lovely people in the NaNoWriMo or blogging universe, who inspired me both directly and indirectly to keep going with this. Special thanks to Nevillegirl, too, for including me in the Teen Writers’ Word War after Liam, Head Phil dropped out. You’re all awesome!

Now I’m going to go and sleep. NaNoWriMo is tiring, people.

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6 Responses to Finishing NaNoWriMo

  1. Ruth says:

    I’ve been thinking of you throughout November so I’m so happy that you completed it and know how exhilarated/exhausted you must be feeling now! You’ve got so much dedication to get it done :) Sleep well and good luck for whatever you choose to do with it!

    • Mary says:

      Aww thanks! That’s so nice of you :-) Hopefully I should be able to do a quick revision of The Other Town and then upload it to a website where people can read it (if they dare!) – I’m putting it off for as long as possible, though! I hope writing up your Spanish adventures is going well :-)

      • Ruth says:

        My blog is updated with Dawkins’ Spanish adventures. A short summary of mine should be coming soon :) I’d love to read the Other Town, even if in NaNoWrMo form.

  2. Ruth says:

    I forgot to say, CONGRATULATIONS!

  3. nevillegirl says:

    I can’t decide if NaNo is too long or too short, either. :P

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