Hands down, 2017 was the best writing year I’ve ever had since I started writing seriously. This was the smoothest year in terms of drafting and it was my most productive year in terms of quality. If I could have another writing year like this, I’d be so happy. Heck, if all my writing years could be like this, I’d be so freaking happy.
I took a class called Writing Fiction all through the fall semester, and part of the class involved writing short stories. Over the course of the fall, I wrote about nine short stories, most of them on a weekly basis. I was also part of a three-person critique group with two people who became good friends of mine and really helped me improve as a writer. The whole semester was a really great experience for me and made me a much better writer because of how consistently I was churning out content.
The idea for my novel this year came about in January, as something that I jotted down during my Intro to Creative Writing class. Over the course of the following ten months, the story developed in my head and began coming together. I worked on it a little bit here and there between the time I came up with the idea and the beginning of NaNoWriMo, but it wasn’t really until October rolled around that I had a better idea of what I was doing.
One night before NaNoWriMo, I had to explain the premise to my roommate, so I basically told her the whole story from beginning to end. Verbalizing it made it easier for me to outline the story and figure out the direction it would go in, as well as figure out details that I needed for the rest of the book. There were a few things I knew I didn’t have down yet, and that was mostly related to the end of the book, but I don’t think I’ve ever really know how a book would end when I started writing it. If I have a general idea, that’s good enough for me, but a concrete end is rarely in place by the time I begin writing the book.
This was the first year I had friends writing alongside me. My roommate and two of our friends decided that they were also going to participate, and we got together the first night to get the first 1,667 words out of the way. Lots of tea and snacks were involved, and around 1:30AM, we had all hit our goal for the day. Over the course of the month, my roommate and I also made it a point to update our respective word counts on the whiteboard that hung on our door. People who came by made little comments during the month and it was a nice way to display the friendly competition (she won first).
Because I was also pumping out short stories on a weekly basis that usually amounted to 1,000 words, I actually wrote far more than 50K in the month of November. All the short story writing already had me in the zone and flow of creating stories on a fairly consistent basis and giving them to people who were there to help me make things better. I didn’t realize it until after NaNoWriMo was over, but writing all these short stories and having constant feedback made it so much easier for me to write a cohesive and coherent draft. 2017’s draft is the cleanest I’ve ever seen any of my drafts come into existence, and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been with a novel draft.
I also made it a point to write every single day, even if it was only a few sentences. I think the least I wrote in a day that round was 23 words. Forcing myself to write every day, even when I didn’t feel like it, made the experience easier. I was staying in the world of the story and getting to know my characters better each day. It also helped that I was building on my word count, no matter how little. Even as got behind on my daily word counts, it was easier for me to catch up because I was consistently writing each day. The number of words didn’t matter, it just mattered that I was writing and getting words down.
NaNoWriMo ended and I was still a few chapters away from finishing the book. I knew that I was going to finish it soon, so I set a deadline that I needed to finish the full draft by the end of 2017. And I did! I wrote out the rest of the novel in December and finished on the last day of the year. And from there, I sent it out to a few friends who wanted to read it, as well as my roommate and my critique group.
I really loved the writing experience I had in 2017. If I could have this experience every single time I drafted a book, it would be the most amazing thing in the world. For the first time ever, I could really say that I knew my characters and they weren’t terribly flat for a first draft. The plot flowed easily and there was something so comforting about returning to a story that I could say I knew well. These characters have stuck with me the most, and they’ve stuck with my friends too. My roommate at that time would ask about my characters as I was writing, and we still reference them from time to time. My sister still mentions how much she loves the awkwardness of one of my characters, and she will make fun of him to no end. I’ll see something and think about how much a certain character would like or hate that. I’ve never had a story stick with me this much, and it’s the reason I know that I have to visit this draft and begin revision.
Truly, this is the best writing experience I’ve ever had and it’s one that I want to recreate again. I’d love it if writing were this easy, but the truth is that it’s not. I learned a lot about how being in a consistent writing routine made a difference in my writing ability throughout the month. At the end of this year’s NaNoWriMo, I became so much more determined to revise my work so that it can be published in the future. I love this year’s novel so much, and it’s one of the reasons I will keep striving toward creating better work.