Well, it’s official: Yesterday morning I hit my 30k word goal that I set for myself for Camp NaNoWriMo this year. I must say, it’s been a mix of feelings; the predominant one being more of a question than a feeling actually. Did I really win if I didn’t write 50k?
I was sitting in the library yesterday when I wrote that thirty-thousandth word, “Rosalind” (the name of one of my characters, who’s actually quite unpleasant). I pretty much went and validated my word count straight away, wanting to make sure the site recognized my efforts (even though I still have 6 days to write).
A mixed rush of feelings started after that. I’ve only won NaNo once: back in November 2012 when I first got involved with it. It was a great feeling back then: I hit 50k on November 30th, just before dinner, and I happily skipped downstairs to brag to my mom while she boiled a pot of spaghetti. I was so excited and relieved and just utterly proud of myself for hitting this 50k mark. I did it. I proved that I could do it.
Since then, I’ve never won NaNo again. I came close that next July during Camp, writing a total of 48k words, but I’ve been disappointed in myself every NaNo event for the last four years. I did end up finishing that July 2013 novel in the off-season, and that just made everything worse. Here I was, having written a book, and I couldn’t get past 15k words in any NaNo event. Some months in the last four years, I haven’t even tried, worried that I was going to fail before I even began.
But I made it this month. I did it. I hit the goal that I set out to hit, and 6 days early too.
On one hand, I’m incredibly proud of myself. I’m out of this slump I was in, and I’m even more confident going into July this year. This month was one of the busiest months I’ve ever had in my life too, but I still found ways to carve out time for this world and these characters I invented (albeit at the sacrifice of sleep some nights). But there’s another part of me that was disappointed upon hitting that goal. I won, sure, but only with 30k. The NaNo goal is usually 50k, and I felt like I couldn’t say I truly won if I didn’t hit that number.
Thankfully, I’ve got some wonderfully supportive cabinmates this month, and they reminded me what really matters: NaNo is about writing a story, and allowing yourself the time to write a novel when so many other people keep putting it off. As long as you’ve written something, you’ve still won. You have more words than you had at the beginning of the month, and that’s a success for any aspiring novelist.
50k is arbitrary anyway. Everyone’s schedule is different, but if you’ve made time for your story when you otherwise wouldn’t, that’s all that really matters, especially for an event like Camp NaNo, which, at the heart of it all is about setting your own pace and achievable goals.
So that disappointment has dissipated by now, and I’m just basking in the glory of doing what I said I was going to do. I’m still working on my novel of course: 30k has barely gotten me into the beginning of my story. But that’s okay. As I get more involved with my plot and my characters, I’m even more motivated to finish this story. Things are falling into place, and my characters are becoming even more alive than they were at the beginning of this journey. I’ve got to finish this novel now; I owe it to them.
There’s 5 days of NaNo left (who knows, maybe I can hit 50k after all…), and I encourage everyone to keep writing, because I most definitely will be. And when Camp is over, write beyond that too. Whether you hit your word count goal or not this month, you’re here to write and to finish your story, no matter how long that takes. Use any success you found this month as motivation that you can in fact write a novel and create characters and a livable setting. You’re a writer, gosh darn it.
And like my supportive cabinmates have done for me, I’m here to cheer on anyone who’s trying.