Writing a Novel in 30 Days

I did it. I won NaNoWriMo again! I finished writing my 50k word novel in not 30 days, but 27! For the third year in a row, I wrote a novel in less than 30 days.

In 2012, my third year in graduate school, I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time. I had heard of it since high school and always wanted to participate, but never had the courage to try. My graduate advisor pushed me over the edge. During a conversation in his office, I agreed to participate. I left his office feeling like I usually did after inspirational conversations with him- thinking Shit! When am I ever going to have time for this?

But I had signed up, so I didn’t want to give up before I even started. I got more and more excited as November grew closer. I imagined my amazing success as a famous novelist. Day 1 came around and I put on my headphones, sat down at my computer, and began to write. One hour and about 700 words later, I gave up for the day. I barely managed to get out those 700 words and that was less than half of my daily expected count. What’s more, they were awful. Truly terrible.

I was ready to give up. The biggest thing that stopped me from giving in right there was an inspirational quote from another Wrimo. She told me, “It isn’t the things you do in life that you regret, but the things you don’t do.”

That really resonated with me. All my life I wanted to write a novel. I couldn’t give up on Day 1, less than 700 words into my novel. And I didn’t.

I used that motivation to keep me going for all 50,000 words. I finished my novel in 30 days. It was crap, but I never felt prouder. I was elated. I was on top of the world. I came so close to quitting on day one, that I never thought I would get anywhere close to finishing a novel.

But the story doesn’t end there. I wasn’t done after one crappy novel. I realized that my goal wasn’t to write a novel, but to write a good novel. One that was good enough to get published.

So I kept working. I did NaNoWriMo in 2013, though I didn’t finish. I won again in 2015, 2016, and now in 2017.

Do I have good novels? Not yet. But they’re better.

Now I’m learning that you don’t usually get it right on the first try. You don’t just write a novel, you re-write it. And re-write, and re-write, and re-write.

I’m learning how to do that.

But most importantly, I’m not giving up on my dream. Each year, my novels get a little better. Each year I learn more about writing (and re-writing). Each year, I find that I actually love the hours I slave away at the computer trying to make my word count during one of the busiest months of the semester.

I write because I love it. And I’ll keep working toward my goal.

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