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What 50,015 words taught me

Last month, I learned I can write 2,000 words of fiction in an hour and a half if I don’t think too hard. It’s not good fiction, but it’s grammatically correct.

I also learned that if I quit watching movies, reading novels and surfing the Internet, I can write a 50,000-word novella in one month, start to finish.

This year I participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, for the second time in my life. It comes every November and the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month just for the sake of writing. The first time I participated, I was a sophomore in college with nothing better to do besides watch YouTube videos. This time, I had an apartment and a full-time job. I even had to cook for myself. Was this really a good idea?

So I made a bargain. If I could manage it, great. If I started to get overwhelmed, if I lost sleep or if my concentration at work started to suffer, I would give it up immediately without the guilt of quitting.

But I hate to quit.

I’m just about convinced that the reason I actually finished NaNoWriMo was because I don’t have a family to care for, unlike most people I know; heck, I don’t even have a boyfriend to text endlessly. Yeah, I had to put off writing for several days over Thanksgiving, but the weekend after—when most people were traveling and I’d already done my road trip—I doubled up the writing (with the help of multiple naps and chick flicks) to recover the ground I’d lost.

Another big reason is that I don’t have Internet at home, so it was easy to limit my Internet usage: I made about 75 percent fewer trips to the library. (That also helped limit the number of movies I watched!) A laptop without internet is boring—or, not distracting, so I could write profusely in a comparatively short time.

So this is what I did: If I wasn’t out of town or completely exhausted, I tried to write 2,000 words every night (and double that the last weekend). That’s about an hour and a half to two hours of work, depending how much writer’s block I experienced. I’m not a fiction writer, so it might have taken other people less time.

In order to find that extra… 45-plus hours of time in the month, I quit watching movies almost entirely (well, I did watch five all month) and quit reading books, too, besides cutting down my time on the Internet. I put off dishes until the sink overflowed (not recommended) and simply skipped most cleaning (not that big a deal; I’m not an incredibly messy person to start with).

It’s not a lifestyle I could maintain indefinitely. But for a month, for the bragging rights and the chance to see how much free time I really have… it’s worth it. I wrote the 50,015th word at 6:50 p.m. Nov. 30, 2011. I am a NaNoWriMo Winner.


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