NaNoWriMo and Dragons: Anything to Finish a Book

I had never tried NaNoWriMo before, but I had a manuscript that needed a rocket strapped to its word count to get it over the line. I decided that NaNoWriMo could be a way to give myself a target, accountability, goal or whatever you want to call the Endgame. I threw my hat in the ring. Now, a disclaimer. I wasn’t aiming for the official 50k word count. With my schedule, I just knew it wouldn’t be possible. But I thought a thousand words a day was reachable, and 30k would have taken my book to 60k by the end of the month, which would have put me almost over the finish line for a terrible first draft.

I have to say, there were some challenging days, but all in all, it was surprisingly smooth. There were some days when I didn’t make the thousand words, but I was disciplined and caught up in the following days.

So was it NaNoWriMo that helped me hit the 30k word target? Was it a particular month of the year, or a hashtag and thousands of social media posts to help me get through it?

Nope. It wasn’t.

I have learned that I need someone to turn in my work to. I need a teacher, boss, needy friend, or fellow Pens writer to expect my work to be at their desk at a certain time. I need to hear them tutting at me as I fall short of the target. This sucks to admit it, but I think I’m driven by guilt. The guilt of not reaching the target, letting down the team, and letting down myself. I can only start letting down my hair once I make the team happy (and I’m in that team too).

We all live by deadlines. Heck, life is a deadline, split the word up and The Dead Line feels pretty ominous. So whether we like it or not, deadlines, either set by ourselves or others, get shit done.

A wide-eyed cartoon dragon stands on an open book
A wide-eyed cartoon dragon stands on an open book (AI generated)

Now don’t get me wrong, I always resented a bossy boss. Such a person would make me nervous and help me hate my job even more than I already did. But that’s a different set-up. That’s a boss telling you to do things you don’t really want to do anyway, which adds a layer of yuck to the overall arrangement. When I write my stories, I really want to do it, but my lazy, procrastinating, dreamy brain tells me to put it off, and that’s when I need a fiery dragon around. I don’t need it breathing down my neck with rage and terror, as dragons do so well, but to simply ensure I get the job done. I know it’s a dragon without the heat, and that’s enough.

Now, I’m not sure that being driven by stomach-crunching guilt for missing my own goals is a great way to live my writer’s life, but look at it this way. I still don’t have this book over the line, and I only need about another 7000 words. Without the pressure, I don’t seem to perform. It’s almost like I need to request another mini-writing goal to get it finished with someone shouting at me, “GET IT FINISHED”.

So, I don’t need NaNo, I need nagging.


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