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Achievement Unlocked: NaNoWriMo

Sure has been a while since I've done one of these, and for good reason! NaNoWriMo... National Novel Writing Month. The goal? To write 50,000 verified words in a project of your choosing in the thirty days of November. Aside from the number 50,000, that sure sounds easy.

Is it doable? Sure! Is it easy? Surprisingly not. I've attempted NaNoWriMo three times so far. This year was the first time I managed to pull it off. The other two years I didn't even come close.

"But Thomas, don't you like writing?" I imagine someone asking.

I do! I really do. The challenge comes not from the volume of writing, but the timeline. It's called a challenge and rightfully so. I love my books. I love my characters. I love the stories they tell and the adventures they've taken me on.

But writing an average of 1,667 words a day everyday for 30 days? The saturation was unbelievable. I’ve never experienced a sense of overwhelming from my own work like that before. I still love my work but I’ve never needed a break away from it as hard as when I reached December 1st.

And I want to really emphasize average. There is no way I could’ve written every day of the month. With holidays and my regular work schedule, it just wasn’t possible. I tried to do the smart thing and load up as many words as I could handle early on to make sure I had a buffer down the road when I inevitably fell behind. Boy did that not work. I found myself scrambling to catch-up repeatedly. Writing 1,700 words in a day is one thing. But when I suddenly found myself on a Saturday with a few days of no writing that slipped by and I suddenly had to pump out a minimum of 6,000 words over two days? I went into the last week of the month still about 20,000 words left between me and victory. Those last seven days were absolutely brutal!

But you know what? I did it. It was honestly kind of hard to believe on the last day when I submitted the section I’d written in the last thirty days and got my congratulations. It hardly felt real. 50,000 words? I mean, a lot happened in the content I’d written, but it was more than a little difficult to swallow that it had been that much when all was said and done.

So what did I learn from NaNoWriMo?

First of all, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible. Each day may feel more daunting than the last as you go on, but the sense of accomplishment of watching yourself hit your daily goals is beyond encouraging.

Second, having a sense of accountability goes a long way. My girlfriend was a huge source of inspiration for me, but so was posting to Instagram. I have no idea if anyone paid attention or not, but knowing that there were people that could see me hitting 10k, 25k, 40k words? It was just not an option to not be able to cap the whole experience off with a win.

Third, you can’t be too hard on yourself when you slip up. In previous years, any time I dropped the ball even for a day, I beat myself up until I gave up entirely. I didn’t even give myself a chance. I certainly planned to have a lot more done after the Thanksgiving weekend this year than I did. I could’ve accepted defeat right then and there and thrown in the towel. But instead of being overly negative (something I excel at sometimes) I just thought real hard about the best way to break up the remaining workload and set to task. And it worked!

Fourth, snacks were a must! This one may seem obvious, but try as I might to make healthy choices, sometimes the mind needs something to munch on to get by, at least for me. It’s astounding the amount of writing that comes pouring out as I slowly work my way through a 2-liter of Pepsi and a pizza. Yikes!

Fifth, there’s absolutely no reason not to try. For all the pros of NaNoWriMo, there really are no negatives. Whether you hit the ultimate goal or not, there’s always something to be gained. Maybe you finish a project that’s been eluding you forever. Maybe you start one that you were too busy or distracted or whatever to get to. Maybe you just add a chunk in the middle. Maybe the panic of the deadline finally breaks the writer’s block that’s been keeping things stagnant for far too long. You might write something that needs a world of editing when you’re done (I know I did), but the point is you did write something. All the best ideas in the world don’t do any good trapped inside your head where no one else can enjoy them.

I’ve still got a long way left to go in my next book before it’s done. Goodness knows I don’t want to rush it to the point of being subpar. But with the accomplishment of surviving November, I’m a lot closer to a finished product than I was before. I’ve got a lot of editing to do, a lot of things that need to be revisited and reworked to feel and sound better but Skye, Viktor, Reesh and the rest have been very busy this last month. It’s only fair that I should do right by them and keep working to tell the rest of their story.

Thank you for joining me in this extraordinary world. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve tackled in life that have given you the greatest rewards?

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