For better or for worse, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) of November is over. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been catching up on sleep. (I lost count of how many nights I stayed up until midnight to get as many words in as possible.)
It was a month of highs and lows. I completed NaNo with 61,571 words (way more than the minimum 50,000) and ended up in my “stretch” goal range of 60-65K words. However, I didn’t finish the story like I was hoping (mostly because the story is turning out longer than I planned), and I owe more emails than I care to think about. *smile*
Overall, I did what I set out to do. I pushed myself, I wrote every day, and I learned that I can write a decent, full-length first draft in about a month-and-a-half.
The Ugly Side of Perfectionism
Some of the other things I learned about myself aren’t as pretty. As you can see from the My Month Calendar on the NaNo website, I had a lot of yellow days in the second half of the month. Those are days I didn’t reach the NaNo daily word count goal of 1667 words.
Sure, the Thanksgiving holiday was in there, complete with my brother and his family in town, but many of those yellow days I still could have made word count if I’d pushed myself just a little bit harder. Many of those days I reached about 1300 words, well within reach of that 1667 number. So, being the perfectionist that I am, I’m torn about my accomplishment.
I averaged 2,052 words each day over the month, and I had a couple of 4K days in the second half to make up for those 1300 days. But there’s a serious amount of yellow-day slacking off in the second half of the month.
If I’d kept up my same pace in the second half of the month as in the first, I would have ended up at 65K words. And as my drafting was going faster in the section of the story I was writing in the second half of the month, it’s not unreasonable for me to think that I could have reached 68K or even 70K.
Keeping Writing a Priority
Many of those yellow days in the last week were caused simply by not starting my writing for the day until the last minute. We probably all have days like that. We’re working on day job stuff, or Twitter, or blog reading/writing, etc, and we keep putting off our real writing. Then by the time we finally sit down to write, there aren’t enough hours in the day left to make a big dent.
Should I still feel good about what I did do? Or should I chide myself for slacking off? What’s a perfectionist to do?
I think the lesson I’ll take away is that NaNo month or not, writing won’t happen unless we make it a priority. If we say we’ll get to our story after we finish all our other projects, it won’t happen.
This goes along with what others found about when they write best. During my best NaNo days, I fit in writing throughout the day as I had time. During my worst NaNo days, I put it off until I could get a big chunk of time—and that didn’t happen until it was too late. Many writers echo this idea with trying to get words in first thing in the morning.
So now I know about my bad habits too. Note to self: Do not wait until the last minute to start on projects. Second note to self: Why didn’t this lesson stick in your head from that science project you had to do back in six grade? Third note to self: Make it stick this time, okay? *smile*
If you’ve done NaNo, what did you learn about yourself or your writing habits? Do you consider your NaNo word count a success? (If you had more words than you had in October, that can be a success!) Do you struggle with the “I could have done better” perfectionist monster? How do you overcome that feeling?