Falling Into Old Patterns

I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for *does math* a lot of years and in the months between Novembers I forget how hard the day-to-day writing is for me. Every year I make plans to break my writing into chunks throughout the day, to write on my lunch break, to sneak some words in while dinner is cooking. And every year I sit down at nine or ten o’clock at night and frantically pound out some words while hating myself.

It’s not a great pattern. On this, the sixth day of NaNoWriMo, I find myself turning back to familiar habits. I have not written this morning. I will probably not write on my lunch break. And I’m consistently running about a day’s worth of writing behind par.

My NaNo stats always take on a sort of roller coaster feel (worse in some years than others). I have one really good day, followed by a day or two where I lag. Then another really good push, and maybe a 200-word day. And then I panic on Saturday and write 5,000 words, only to follow it up with a useless Sunday. Because 1,667 words per day is just a little too much for me. It’s just a little out of reach. I’m comfortable writing 500-800 words a day and finding 1,667 words inside of me does more to exhaust me than to energize me. So I need some recovery time sometimes. And that’s okay.

This year started the same way. 1,700 words on day one, and then about 500-800 words on days two and three. Writing those words was like pulling teeth. Everything felt trite and contrived. I flew through some plot points like I was checking them off a list. Girl meets boy. Check. Girl likes boy and is stereotypical about it. Check. Girl is mistaken for spy. Check.

These scenes are placeholder scenes. I’m getting to know the world that I’m writing and my characters, still. The early scenes are almost certain to change as I learn more and the plot/world/characters start to become richer. I know that, but it’s still demotivating to sit down and write only to have crap pour out of your fingertips.

And then on day four the heavens opened up and I remembered how scenes work. My characters started to take on personalities and bits of their backstories became clear. Description started writing itself. I hit my word count and tried to sleep as my brain unfurled the next three scenes for me (semipro tip: Write down your ideas before bed. Your brain is about to fall asleep and hallucinate vividly for eight hours. It’s got other shit to deal with than remembering the intricacies of your novel’s plot).

And none of that would have happened if I hadn’t slogged through three days of nonsense to get here.

Dianne Williams lives in Lawrence, Kansas. She grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and classic science fiction. She once dreamed of being an astronaut. Or maybe a lawyer. Or an artist. She settled for being as many of them as she could all at once through fiction writing.


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