Yup, I did it! I crossed the 50,000 word finish line in NaNoWriMo the day after Thanksgiving, and went from being a Participant to being a Winner!
At first I was confused when I read about “winning” NaNoWriMo. I thought, “It’s not supposed to be a competition, is it?” But then I discovered that everyone with 50,000 verifiable words by November 30 is considered a winner, and I like that idea. The only tangible thing you “get” for winning is a downloadable color certificate with your name on it. Well, there are tee shirts, but you have to pay for one of those, and I assume you can buy one even if you don’t “win.”
But oh, yeah – you get a novel, or at least the first draft of a novel. I mean, how awesome is that? That’s what it’s all about.
Full disclosure, my story is nowhere near finished even though I’m now around the 54,000 word mark. There’s at least a quarter of the way to go before “The End” (maybe more – the last thing I wrote opened up a new idea with an added character that may end up being just a few paragraphs, or might become a whole new side story) and one of the major plot points hasn’t been addressed yet. To be honest, I haven’t even decided how that major plot point will play out (I do have a lot of options, though, so it’s not like I’m stuck, just stymied). And I’ve become dissatisfied with what I had always envisioned as the ending. After fleshing out the ideas into a cohesive (more or less) whole, the ending that’s been sitting in my brain all this time feels way too trite.
It also bothers me just a titch that I’ve stopped writing. I could have hit the 50,000 word milestone on Wednesday, but was caught up in Thanksgiving preparations and didn’t want the “winning moment” to be an afterthought. So I actually put off the last 500 words of the 50,000 goal for a couple of days, and haven’t written much for a good part of the week, other than Friday.
Part of me worries that, having reached “the accomplishment”, I’ll lose momentum and let this first draft fade without ever finishing it. That perhaps I was all about the fabricated goal, and not the story.
But then I reflect on what I’ve learned through this entire process: the joy of letting a story take flight; the freedom that comes from pushing everything aside to focus on one thing and one thing only; the sense of accomplishment, not in a word count, but in looking back and seeing a complete and engaging scene where before there had only been a vague idea. And perhaps more than anything, the pride of knowing that when I felt like stopping, I just kept going. When I wasn’t sure where to go, I put pencil to paper (figuratively) and just kept going. When I felt my attention wavering and distractions cropping up, I reapplied myself and Just. Kept. Going.
So yes, after a bit of a break, I’ll keep going. I’m sure of it. I’ll finish this story, I’m just not sure when. But soon. Because you know what? That “Just Keep Going” thing? It felt mighty fine.
And folks – thanks for taking this journey with me. Maybe next November, for NaNoWriMo 2016, we can do it together, eh? I can tell you, honestly – it’s totally worth it.
~ Sharon Browning