The goal of this annual frenzy is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That's it. Those words could be arranged in iambic pentameter, back to back flashbacks, stream of consciousness, doesn't matter. The point is to get it done come hell or high water and some days that is what it takes. I have pulled off this feat on three occasions so far. Come November 30th, 2015 I completed 31,583 words of my next novel. But I consider myself a winner and here's why.
There is a blissful euphoria that you can experience doing something like this, probably similar to a runner's high. It's an amazing feeling to look back on just 30 fast and furious days and have over 200 pages to show for it. It's a mess, sure, but you can't edit nothing. Progress is still that. You've moved forward on a project. It does however, consume every waking moment and every spare thought. I block off my calendar and send out a mass e-mail to friends and family to announce my disappearance for the month. I have a day job so my only opportunities to write are after work and on weekends.
This year, I didn't want the all consuming fire that is NaNoWriMo. But I did want to ride the wave of momentum that comes with meeting with other writers in the act of writing. It's very encouraging to be in the company of people who have your same obsession with imaginary people and places. I really needed the jump start but not the stress. So I decided to make my own goal of doing 30,000 in 30 days. Since I have accomplished the 50k in years past this could seem like I was not challenging myself. However, I had been suffering from writer's block for about ten months. I attempted the same goal 30k words for Camp Nano in July and didn't even break 15k. So while doing 1000 words a day is achievable it still felt considerably more daunting.
Then about a month before NaNo I found my idea. In the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep it stared back at me in the dark. I turned on my light and started writing it all down. At the time I wasn't even sure of the full implications of what had come to me but I as continued to turn it over in my mind the ideas began to bloom.
This was the difference between Camp NaNo and NaNoWriMo.
Here's the thing about a 1000 words. If I'm on a roll, I can do that in an hour. Two hours if I'm struggling. Just one hour. That's it. I could make dinner, go to the gym, watch a show, or take a nap and still have time to write. And I don't mean me up until 2am when I can no longer see the screen. It was liberating. It was FUN! The burden that I had felt trying to get in the standard 1667 words a day was no more. The burden that had been the last ten months had vanished. At a 1000 words a day I could still make steady, valuable progress and still enjoy the process.
Here's the other thing about 50,000 words in 30 days. My experience has been that only two-thirds of that material is useful so I figured, I am actually being more productive because I am not writing whole chapters that have to be scrapped later because I was trying to pad my word count. So 30k is what I normally end up with after the fact anyways.
Lastly, one of the great benefits of NaNo is that it gets you into the habit of daily writing. Once your brain is used to it, it is very easy to maintain and with that 50k deadline you can't let up, no excuses. You've just got to do it. For me once that habit is there, I really want to do it. The daily word count moves from a "have to" to a "get to" ritual.
So I won NaNoWriMo 2015 because I had fun, didn't waste my time, and now a have regained a solid writing routine that fits with my life. Every writer has to find their own way to the sweet spot and mine is 1000 words a day. What's yours?