Image Credits: Cristian Mihaid

I have just successfully completed the first week of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). How am I feeling? Tired doesn’t even begin to describe it…

I had planned to attend my first write-in at Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) this morning, but upon further consideration, opted out. It didn’t sound like many people were going to be attending and it just seemed more practical to stay home to write. I have a tentative date of surgery scheduled for December 14th to get my second cochlear implant. It’s coming up fast and it’s crucial that I stay healthy until then. Now with flu season being upon us and many college kids getting sick from restlessness and end-of-semester stress as finals approach, a college campus is probably the last place in the world I want to be.

I felt half dead for most of this week. I needed to sleep in today. Sleep felt like the most magical thing in the world. I can’t remember the last time my bed felt as comfortable as it did this morning. I don’t think I could’ve made it to the write-in this morning even if I wanted to.

I knew that NaNoWriMo wasn’t going to be easy, but I think I strongly underestimated just how intense it could be. 1,667 words a day is no big deal at all. Yesterday was the only day that I didn’t reach this goal. On most days I far surpassed it.

I think that one of the biggest problems I have been facing with NaNoWriMo is extreme exhaustion, most of which is caused by me pushing myself too hard. My daily goal is to get 1,667 words done so that come the end of the month I have 50K. But do I really need to write 50K words this month? I entered NaNoWriMo with 33,173 words. Adding 50K words on top of  that would bring me to 83,173 — that is a really long novel, especially for a memoir like the one that I am writing. Am I really interesting enough to have over 83,000 words written about me? Does anyone really want to read over 83,000 words about me? Probably not.

I hope I’m not pushing myself too far. For the first couple days of NaNoWriMo I wrote nearly 3,000 words when I really only needed 1,667 (possibly less due to my head start). I think this is why I’ve been so exhausted lately. Writing 3,000 words a day on top of my full 8+ hour work day, a trip to the gym, and all of my other daily activities is extremely draining. My body needed rest. I haven’t had a break or a time to rest in forever.

I wrote over 5,000 words today, but it didn’t feel too tiring or exhausting. It was exciting. I’m finally getting to the main point of my novel — the part where I begin to seriously consider getting a cochlear implant and taking the steps to make it happen. I was ableto pull a lot from my blog ( which certainly made for easier writing today. I should be able to do that much more moving forward which will definitely make my writing process much easier. I surpassed the magical 50K number today. I have a total word count of 50,171 words now, meaning my novel has reached official “novel length”. Even though I know I still have a long way to go with my novel before it’s really complete, that is still such an amazing feeling.

There are a few things that I’m wondering if I should have done differently as far as my writing process goes. The main thing is I’m beginning to think I should’ve organized or prepared better for NaNoWriMo. An outline that breaks my book into sections probably would have been very helpful — but would that have hurt my creative process? I’m thinking that once my first draft is complete, I’ll create an outline and put everything into a binder with subject dividers to help me to better organize my novel.

As for as the quality of my novel right now I feel like it can be summed up easily in one basic word: “crap”.

I have been just spilling out word after word after word. Some days this comes easier than other days. But I am aware of the fact that some of my analogies make no sense at all (I compared my hearing aid audiologist to a fisherman — what in the world?!?) and I’ve been using a ton of cliches and bouncing from idea to idea. In one section I started writing about meeting my surgeon for the first time and then went off topic and started writing about Sean Forbes for 10 pages or so.

My novel is very, very, very messy right now. It is nowhere near being ready for publication. But it’s over 50,000 words long with many more to go. It is a first draft. It is supposed to suck. It is supposed to not make sense. It is supposed to be blurry and confusing and a total disaster. That is why it is a first draft. The important thing at this stage in the game is getting the words down, the ideas out there. I can always make it pretty with originality, organized structure, and better analogies in the next draft, and the draft after that, and so forth.

NaNoWriMo has been a fun challenge and a great experience in the first week for me. I feel like I’m developing further into who I’ve always been: a writer. Not just any writer anymore, but a dedicated one that is determined to finish writing this book and publish it all in due time.

For many years I criticized NaNoWriMo because I figured, “Why do people go crazy every November trying to write a novel. What is stopping them from writing a novel any other month out of the year?”

But I get it now. It’s not about writing a novel in November. It’s not about the word count. It’s the fact that people are writing. They are becoming disciplined. They are making a habit out of writing and possibly really turning it into their career. Everyone does it in November, that is the official month for it. People feel pressure and have a support team around them encouraging them throughout the month of November to write.

It all starts in November with NaNoWriMo, but if you really truly win at NaNoWriMo, your word count doesn’t matter at all.

The true NaNoWriMo winners don’t have 50,000 words.

Some have 150,0000.

Some have 5.

The real, honest-to-God true winners of NaNoWriMo are the ones that don’t quit. They develop writing habits through NaNoWriMo and carry them on for the other 11 months out of the year, making an identity out of being a writer. NaNoWriMo is just the initial push they need to become who they always wanted to be and who they were always capable of being in the first place, they just may not have realized it.

I hope that at the end of November, I can declare myself a winner. And I’m talking about far more than the number of words I write for the remaining month of November.