These Fingers are Made for Flying

The month of June was, without a doubt, my most prolific month as a writer. Ever. So much so that it actually eclipsed the entire year before.

So what did I learn during the month of June? Sometimes you just need to sit down and write.

I’ll admit it: I was never a believer in NaNo (National Novel Writing Month). I thought there was no way one could write a novel in a month. A month! And the daily time commitments! And the stress! Good God, how could anyone work through that?!

Basically, I was that person running around peeing in everyone’s Cheerios. (Sorry ‘bout that.)

And then JuNoWriMo popped up in my twitter feed, and I was intrigued. One of the hiccups that had always been present during NaNo—the seasonal time crunch—was zapped away immediately. Writing a novel in a month on top of Thanksgiving and Christmas prep? To me, impossible. Writing a novel in a month with…nothing going on?

…Okay. I could maybe do that.

I was still just toying with the idea when my close friend and critique partner issued me a challenge and a deadline. And. Well. I don’t want to say I’ll take whatever dare gets tossed my way, but if someone says, hey, I bet you can do this, I’m gonna try my damnedest to prove them right.

So, two days before the start of JuNo, I signed up.

1844671On May 30th, I started fleshing out a plot bunny that came to me a couple weeks before.

On May 31st, I had two-4,000 word character sketches with more details than I could ever possibly need to know about my characters, plus a detailed outline.

On June 1st, I wrote just over 5,000 words, and thought…okay. Maybe I can do this.

On June 17th, I completed the JuNo goal: 50,000 words.

On June 30th, I hit my personal goal of 70,000 words.

On July 1st (yeah, yeah, a day late, but whatever), I finished my first draft, ending at just over 72,000 words.

And that was after having a total of 5 days with zero writing time. I was speechless. And shocked. And excited and revitalized and passionate about what I’d accomplished. This burst of words just poured out of me and made me realize that perhaps I’d been approaching my writing wrong all along. This was the longest piece I’d ever written, and I wrote it in the shortest amount of time.

So what did this exercise teach me?

A) I’m, apparently, extremely competitive. I loved getting the first of an achievement, and—not gonna lie—I stayed up till 2 a.m. one night to be the first person to reach 50k.

B) Deadlines do my body (and writing) good. Having a definite goal at the end, the light at the end of the tunnel you could say, pushed me. When I can see the finish line, I am more productive.

C) Fumbling through and pantsing it, from outlining to character sketches to writing time, is not for me. I do best with a definite outline—story concept, characters, and time-frame to write the book. That said, I was still able to let my characters take me on little detours because I was so far ahead of my goal. I didn’t sweat it. If they wanted to do X instead of Y in a chapter, I listened to them. Basically, outlining to a ridiculous degree allowed me to relax on that outline and allow other things to pop up.

Some people might buckle under this sort of structure. Some might find it fizzles their creativity completely. Or, like me, some might find they thrive. I’ve heard of some amazing (now published) books that started as NaNo projects, and I have to tip my hat to all those authors. And say: I’m sorry I ever doubted this glorious, glorious writing process.


These Fingers are Made for Flying — 10 Comments

  1. Nice, Brighton! I’ve never done NaNo either, but I’m a fast-drafter. I think my best, though, is a 60k book I drafted in two weeks at the pace of about 6k words a day. I haven’t ever done that speed since, but I’d love to do it again!

    Best of luck with this book!


  2. Congrats on such a successful NaNo experience, Brighton! I love NaNo. In fact, participating in NaNo is what got me writing fiction again. Making the First Move which releases this month and my December 2013 Carina Press release were both NaNoWriMo projects.

    I also learned many of the lessons you did through my NaNo experiences – my need for some structure while allowing for the freedom to deviate from the plan and that I do far better with a definite deadline in mind. I’ve done the November NaNo event for several years, but I haven’t been able to make any of the others happen. Maybe next year.

    • That’s awesome, Reese! And, yes, exactly that. I think I’ll maybe give it a go this year. After completing JuNo, throwing Thanksgiving in there isn’t quite as intimidating.

  3. I’m still in awe of how you flew through this manuscript. And I love what you say about your process and accepting that outlining is the way to go for you. I feel like so much of being a productive, confident writer is about learning how *you* work and going with it. All the advice in the world doesn’t help if it isn’t appropriate to your writing style. Good on you for figuring yourself out and then kicking ass and taking names :)

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