Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Over on uber-author Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog  he has this little exercise called The Insecure Writer's Support Group where, on the first Wednesday of the month, you're supposed to post your thoughts, feelings, and insecurities about all things writing.

Since today is the first Wednesday of June (06-06-12), that's exactly what I'll be doing here.

As a fairly new writer, one of the  biggest and most ambitious things I've done, so far, was attempting to do National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last November. Maybe you've heard of it? It's where you write a 50,000 word novel in a month's time...coming out to around 1,666 words a day.

 Now I'm going to be honest in stating the following.

I never believed I could finish.

Sure, I figured I'd give it a decent try. I had signed up in 2010 and thought, very briefly, about trying it then, but procrastination (as well as talking myself out of doing it) got the best of me and, before I knew it, it was mid-November and I knew I'd never catch up, not 'win', and decided to leave it for 2011.

So, last November (2011) I made the decision to give it a shot. Then I started thinking about having to write over a thousand words a day. Before that, I had written some (very) short stories, sometimes taking days to finish them. Writing over 1k words a day seemed very daunting at that point. I sighed and shrugged as I do with certain things and resigned myself to fail before I even got out of the gate.

Then, a strange thing happened. I filled out a profile on a fairly new 'social media' site called Google Plus. I don't even remember how, but I ran across some people talking about doing NaNo and slowly began building my circles, adding people, and talking about the upcoming event in November.

The more I talked to the people in my circles, the more confident I became that, yeah, I could really do it.

I could 'win' NaNoWriMo.

We would share when we would meet or exceed our word count goals for the day and lend support for those who didn't. The accountability and encouragement really helped get me through that month and I'm still convinced, to this day, that I couldn't have done it without G+.  I had quite a few days where I didn't think I'd make my word count but, my G+ buddies gave me a nice prod in the right direction.

I had gone total 180 degrees from "I can't." to "I can."

The best feeling was when I got to say "I did."

I had "won" NaNo and I put 'won' in quotes because you really don't get anything from doing it, besides a certificate that you print out and the satisfaction of knowing you can start something and see it through.

For me, though, the satisfaction was the best and most important part of the whole thing.

The lesson learned from doing NaNoWriMo was that, like the Nike commercial tells us, all we really need to do is 'Just Do It.'

Sit down.
Do it.

I did just that and, now, I need to apply those 'rules' to finishing my story and editing it.

Maybe by this November?  We'll see....


LynnRush said...

Although the Just Do It phrase is old and some would say overdone, I LOVE IT. It's so true. Short, sweet and to the point. JUST DO IT!!! I'll always love that and live by it best I can!

Vikki ( said...

Wow, that was exactly what I did :)

Hi, just stopping in from the IWSG *waves*

I did exactly as you did in 2010....and now, I'm trying to edit that novel lol. I put it away for a whole year (please don't do that, I should have never left it so long lol).

Good luck hon, with the editing. I met Chris Baty the other day and he said we should all remember that "novels aren't written by novelists, they're written by ordinary people."

Keep going! ;)


sydneyaaliyah said...

That is so great. I did the same thing with NaNoWriMo last year. I signed up and then found myself on November 1st not really having a thing to write about. So, I quite. Then I signed up for JuNoWriMo and I am on day 6 and am ahead of the word count goal and am loving every minute of it. The community that is formed and the encouragement they give makes all the difference in the world. I am still early on in the process, but I am confident that I will finish. I am really excited for that day. Have to go, get back to writing, but I really like your blog. Keep it up. Great post.

Mark Means said...

"novels aren't written by novelists, they're written by ordinary people."

Wow, I like that...a lot!

Hi Vikki and thanks for the comment. I'm glad to know that I'm not alone in my experience with NaNo and it sounds as if we traveled a pretty similar road.

Best wishes and good luck in your editing, as well.

Mark Means said...

I know exactly what you mean! I'm always hesitant to use 'Just Do It', but it's just so darn applicable that not using it would be a shame.

Thank you for checking out my blog and the comment :)

Mark Means said...

I totally agree. The community formed is one of the best sources of encouragement you can get. It's unconditional and honest because we're all in the same boat, pretty much

Sounds like you're doing great for JuNoWriMo, so keep it up!

Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by, I appreciate it :)

Hildie McQueen said...

It is as simple as that! But those simple things are the ones that we fear at times. Do it Mark!! Nice meeting you.

Mark Means said...

That's very true, Hildie and thanks. Nice to meet you too!

Siobhan said...

Love the title of your blog! Popping by from the IWSG. Congrats for doing this! I'm still daunted to do NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words with a 1-yr old and a 2-yr old? Well, my son does start school next year, so maybe I'll consider doing the next challenge ...

Mark Means said...

Heh, thank took me quite a while to come up with it, actually.

You know, in all honesty, I have it so easy that there's not really an excuse for me -not- to be able to do NaNo. We have no children (yet), my work is extremely flexible and I can, pretty much, come and go as I please.

My hat's off to anyone who completes NaNo and has things like children, challenging work, etc., slowing them down.

That said, though, it shouldn't be that hard to take an hour or two out and write a thousand words. You should try it this November. A support group (such as what I have on Google Plus) is -extremely- helpful.

Thanks for the comment and best of luck to you in your writing.

Ute Carbone said...

Congrats on finishing NaNoWriMo Mark. You may just get a certificate of completion, but completion is something big! And you're right, that writing a novel is largely about parking yourself in a chair and just doing it.

Mark Means said...

I agree 100 percent and trust me when I say I'm not downplaying the certificate...I printed mine out and have it hanging right above my desk :)

It's there to tell me that "yes, I can!".

Thanks for the comment, Ute :)

M.J. Fifield said...

I first signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2009 and I never thought I'd hit that 50k mark but I did and ahead of time too. I've done it every year since and while the last two years weren't as wildly successful as that first year, it's always a blast.

Mark Means said...

I agree! Even though it was a struggle, sometime, to get my word count, I did have a great time and the satisfaction of 'winning' was pretty nice.

I plan on giving it a go from now on.

Thanks for the comment :)

Karen Walker said...

I think that's an incredible feat for a new writer. Congratulations.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I had no idea if I could do NaNo either, but in 2010 I conquered. (And that manuscript became my second book.) Now I'm participating in BuNo and I know I can do it again.
You did it! Now set yourself an editing goal.
Thanks for participating in the IWSG!

Mark Means said...

Thank you Karen, I was pretty pleased with myself for actually getting it done :)

Mark Means said...

Yes, I definitely need some sort of structure to get that editing done but I have more confidence now that the actual novel is out of the way ;)

Thanks for the comment and the great idea of IWSG.

Allison said...

NaNo is a great way to push yourself! I've also done the 3-Day Novel Contest, which was even crazier. Great advice.

Allison (Geek Banter)

Jennifer said...

NaNoWriMo scares me :) Kudos to you for taking the plunge.

Mark Means said...

Yes, it is!

I've never heard of the 3-Day Novel Contest, but that -does- sound crazy :)

Thanks for dropping by :)

Mark Means said...

It scared me too, at first, but once you start and really get going with it, it's a breeze.

I know you could do it! :)

Thanks for the comment.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I remember my first NaNo - I was shocked at how productive I could be with a deadline! Took part in a crazy challenge last weekend at my writers centre and had to reach 30,000 words over the weekend. I did it! But admit it hurt.
I'll be NaNo-ing again this year, and will probably spend all of October plotting.

Mark Means said...

30K in a weekend?? Wow, that is insane. I'll bet it hurt!

Still, though, it's something to be proud of. I've found I do better with some sort of 'deadline' too...even if it's self imposed.

Best of luck with NaNo this year and I'll be there right along with you.

Marla Mayes said...

Congrats on completing the challenge!

I like the "Just Do It" + "Yes I Can" mentioned above, feel much the same way with just writing short articles (or blog posts for that matter-LoL!).

Mark Means said...

Thanks Marla, I appreciate the comment.

Haha, yes, sometimes I have to repeat it over and over again, mantra-like :D

I'm guess, as prolific as you are, you have a better handle on it than I do, at this point :)

Nancy Thompson said...

Hi Mark, I'm a new follower via the IWSG. I think it's a great accomplishment, certainly one I would never attempt. I don't have a problem writing 2000 words in a day, heck I wrote 85,000 in 5 weeks. But I just don't work that way, under that kind of pressure, real or imagined. But many writers enjoy that type of motivation. And if you've tasked yourself with the mission and finish, well that's something to brag about. I certainly would! Maybe someday I'll try it. In the mean time, I'll look at writers like you in awe!

Mark Means said...

Hi Nancy, thanks for stopping by and the kind words. I appreciate them :)

If you're writing 85k in five weeks, you ARE doing it right, no doubt! I look at NaNo as sort of a 'Boot Camp'. It shapes you up as well as give you that starting discipline you need to actually sit down and 'do it'.

From the way it sounds, you've already surpassed basic training and are an officer in the Writer's Army. I'm sure you could handle NaNo standing on your head but, as I'm fond of saying, if you have something that's not broken (in this case your own writing regimen), then don't fix it. :)

sjp said...

Great to see you succeeded in such a huge achievement! I really wish I could challenge myself to do NaNoWriMo but unfortunately studies make it impossible for now.

visiting from IWSG

Mark Means said...

I understand where you're coming from but, yeah, studies come first. There will always be time for NaNo (should you ever want to give it a shot) later :)

Thank you for dropping by!

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