Updated: Mar 2, 2020
I have never been a long-form writer. I write essays, short stories, blogs, articles, and the occasional poem when I am feeling really angsty. I follow a few people on Tumblr who have participated in NanoWriMo the last couple of years and that is how I originally found out about it, never thinking that I would participate. But then I started working with The Writer’s Workout, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing, and had been slowly trying to make my way into the writing world.
I don’t know exactly when I decided I was going to participate but I have had this idea for a story for at least a year. The basement of my house flooded, and I had to clean everything out and throw away the things that were ruined from the water. And of course, because I’m me, I thought “what if I found a body down there?” That became the premise for my novel for November.
A couple months before NanoWriMo started I was getting nervous. I had never written 50,000 for one project in my life. I needed to prepare. So, I took the whole month of October to create a chapter by chapter outline (another thing I had never done before). I got to know my characters, I created a Pinterest board for each one, and I got to see how my story was going to play out. By the time November came around, I could not have been more ready.
The month started out great. I wrote by 1,667 words per day, sometimes more, and I was on track to finish early. And then I got the flu. I was sick for a week and during that week, I took two days off from writing. Like I said, I don’t write long stories. Writing over 3,000 words in a day to catch up seemed impossible. But, to my surprise, there were some days where I did write 2,000 or 3,000 words per day and eventually was able to catch up.
But then I came to day 20 and my story was done. I even wrote an epilogue just to get some more words in and because I wanted to give my precious characters a happy ending (well as much as they could. There was a murder). Still, I needed more words. I was stressing. But then, as usually happens with my brain, scenes popped up into my head throughout the week. I added scenes between two characters who didn’t have as much interaction together as I wanted, and I added a whole other point of view, splitting my novel into three separate parts when it had been two before.
And as much fun as writing was in those first weeks was, writing the new additional scenes was even better. They were the lighter scenes that my dark story needed. They were the in between scenes that needed to be there to break up the meatier chapters. I actually cried writing a piece of dialogue and laughed at a couple of my own jokes (although that is nothing new!). The last 10 days of NanoWriMo was tough but I was writing scenes that allowed me to explore different sides to my characters and to have a bit of fun as well.
I ended up writing a little over 51,000 words by November 30th and I still can’t believe it. I wrote a novel! Sure, it is going to need some massive editing and restructuring, but I did it. I wrote a 50,000-word story. That being said, I don’t know if I will do it again. It was a fun challenge, but grinding out that many words each day was very stressful and my life has enough stress as it is. I definitely want to write more novel-length stories (I have already started outlining one), and NanoWriMo really cemented the habit into me of writing every day, but the mandatory word count per day I can do without.
Overall, NanoWriMo was a great experience. I got to achieve my goal and watch as others achieved their goals as well. Whether I was on Twitter or in the Writer’s Workout group, I never felt like I was taking on this task alone. It felt very communal. While I may not participate next year, I will definitely be checking in to see what other writers are working on and to offer any support I can. Just keep writing!
About the Author: Sarah Perchikoff is the Brand Curator at the Writer's Workout and a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing. When she isn't writing, she is playing with her minature dachshund, Gracie, navigating through fandom posts on Tumblr, or eating another extra-large order of french fries. You can find her on Twitter @sperchikoff or running The Writer's Workout Tumblr page
*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month