Tomorrow marks the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I’m not quite at halfway to 50,000 words. Ugh. I’d hoped to be at 50K by now so that I could actually complete the novel by the end of the month. Because, really, 50K does not make a novel, unless it’s a middle-grade chapter book. My own tend to be around 100K and to feel truly proud to say I wrote a novel for NaNo, I wanted to actually complete the entire first draft. I don’t see that happening.

I’d hoped by writing something completely brand-new (not a Soul Savers book), I’d be all excited about these new characters and world and would be going crazy when I had to take care of real-world stuff, chomping at the bit to get back to the story. That’s how I’d been when I’d started the very first draft of what is now Promise and Purpose. I was absolutely in love with Alexis and Tristan and wanted to spend as much time with them as I possibly could (and actually, that’s how it still is with them). The characters in this new series, however, have been harder to get to know, and it’s taking me time to fall in love with them. So when I’m not writing, I’m not constantly thinking about them, which makes it harder to sit down and write.

But that’s what we have to do to call ourselves writers: write. “Butt in Chair” is our mantra, and there’s a reason for it. When the excitement of a shiny new idea wears off, we still have to plant our hinies in the chairs and write. When we’re stuck and don’t know where to go next, we can take all kinds of showers, play solitaire, go for miles and miles of walks and even clean, but nothing’s really going to get done if we don’t sit down and write something. Anything. Just do it.

Although I know this, NaNo is teaching me in a different way. I’d always wondered why the founders of this great idea chose November. After December, this has to be the absolute worst month to hole oneself up to complete a novel. It’s time to plan for the holidays, start shopping, make menus, have people over for Thanksgiving, spend time with family, etc. Why couldn’t they pick a boring month like February or July? Why not January, when people can make completing their novel a resolution?

Well, the “why” doesn’t matter. It is what it is. And that’s what NaNo is really teaching me (or at least reinforcing for me). No matter what’s going on (or not) with the story or in the real world, we have to put our butts in the chair and write if we want to reach our goal. We not only have to get in the habit of writing every day, but we have to do so even when there are so many reasons not to. Even when there are more distractions than usual. And if we know there’s going to be specific times that we absolutely cannot write (e.g., Thanksgiving Day), then we must plan for it so we can still reach our goal.

So I’m learning to write with music that has words without being distracted. Maybe someday I can actually write in a coffee shop or airport. Since not having inspiration is new to me, I’m creating new habits of forcing myself to write even when I don’t feel like it. I’m getting better at planning my writing time around real-world happenings, which is good considering all the traveling I’ll be doing next year while still trying to get 2-3 books out.

In other words, I’m learning how to be a true professional writer. That’s not really the point of NaNo, but that’s what it’s doing for me, and just in time since I am now a full-time author and publisher. Even going into NaNoWriMo for the first time, I knew it was about more than writing 50K of crap just to say you did it. At least, for me it would be. And I’m happy to say that it is doing so much more. So even if I don’t finish a full draft by November 30, I’ll know this month has totally been worth it. And no worries – I will make that 50K goal no matter what it takes.

So what does NaNoWriMo do for you? Are you participating in NaNo? If not this year, have you in the past? What have been your lessons?