What it’s Like to Write Every Single Day When You Have ADHD

NaNoWriMo is upon us and we’re 4 days in. I’ve been participating since roughly 2005 and this is the time where I start ‘feeling it’.

“But Des!” You say, “It’s only 4 days in. Surely someone who has been writing books for a number of years can go longer than this.”

I can. I can write every single day for 5 months straight if I have to, but would I want to? No. I get burned out really easily from having dyslexia and ADHD and I need frequent breaks from my manuscripts so I don’t go insane.

With NaNo, I don’t get that luxury.

Yesterday I went on a cleaning spree before I even sat down to get my words in. Even then I had to break up my writing by watching YouTube videos.

See, I have a very difficult time focusing on things like writing when I don’t take frequent breaks to do other things.

If I focused on writing for a full day, I could pull 20,000 words out of my ass, and trust me when I say I’ve done that. I’ve only ever done it once, but I’ve still done it.

But after I did that, I proceeded to not write for nearly 3 weeks. I can’t do that during NaNoWriMo. I would never finish.

So instead, I trick myself by allowing my brain to get all happy from watching a TikTok compilation, a crack video, or maybe even a 20 minute episode of something that I know makes me happy and then I force myself to write for 3-5 minutes.

It’s a huge time suck, but it works out really well for me. I’ve made word count every year I’ve done this. And I know how it must look to the people who are watching me, but trust me when I say I am definitely working. This is just part of my process.

What NaNoWriMo Means to Me

When I first started doing NaNoWriMo I could barely get past the first few days without giving up.

I remember talking about NaNo on my old LiveJournal for the first time in 2005 and how I struggled with the grueling task of writing roughly 2,000 words a day.

That year I didn’t make it past day two.

Source: Andrew Neel

It didn’t stop me from trying it again in 2006, 2007, and 2008, however. I thought that if I could force myself to write every day and follow the grueling NaNoWriMo schedule, I’d be golden.

It didn’t quite work out that way at first.

In 2006 I quit after 4 days, in 2007 I made it a whole week, and in 2008 I only wrote for the first day and didn’t even make the full word count.

After 2008, I forgot about NaNoWriMo for a long time. I actually didn’t participate again until 2013 when I tried to write A City of Glass and Sand, a novel I still haven’t finished but occasionally go back to.

I lasted 15 days that year, writing a good chunk of City of Glass, but not coming anywhere close to finishing it. With all the work I’ve done on it over the years, you’d think I’d be done by now, but I’m not. The story is only 40,000 words so far and that’s very lacking for a dystopian SciFi novel set in the last two cities on Earth.

Source: Leah Kelley

So what changed? How have I won the last 5 years of NaNoWriMo and why now in 2019 am I suddenly writing encouraging blogs about it for other writers?

It all started in 2014 when I finished my very first novel-length work. I didn’t do this for NaNoWriMo. In fact, I did it in January-March of 2014 for a Star Wars anthology I was tapped to be a part of.

I had never done an anthology piece before, and they never gave me a length limit so I wrote a 52,000 word novel based on merging the worlds of Star Wars and Aladdin together. It was equal parts terrible and awesome, but after that it was like something in me changed.

Writing a 50,000 word story seemed easier somehow now that I’d actually done it.

Source: Ann H

I would struggle to write my first original novel, Tranquil, that same November, but I would make it to 51,000 words. Tranquil is nowhere near finished, but…at least I made word count for NaNoWriMo.

The following year, in 2015, I would do it again. Another unfinished slog of a work at 50,000 words with no real ending and it’s one I barely even care about or read, but I proved to myself that I could do this. I could write a 50,000 word work in a month if I stuck to it, tried hard, and believed in myself. As ridiculous as that sounds.

In 2016, it finally happened. I finished a novel for NaNoWriMo. Sure, I’d reached word count the past 2 years with these stories I didn’t love and forced myself to work on, but in 2016 I would write Wixen.

Source: Joy Marino

Wixen is the story that started everything for me. This was the first story I ever fell in love with. I pumped out 70,000 words that year for it and then spent the next 2 editing it every few months to the point where it slowly became this 150,000 word book about what it means to have a family.

After that, writing got a whole lot easier. In 2017 I would finish Bloom: A Monster Love Novella for NaNoWriMo and then proceed to write 2 more books that year.

In 2018, I published Bloom on Amazon and then then wrote and published my first Marjorie Diaz Novel. I wrote the second Marjorie Diaz Novel for NaNoWriMo that year and published it this year in March.

Over the past 5 years I’ve written 12 novel-length works. They’re all in various stages of being edited and some of them, while over 50,000 words, are incomplete. I have also written over 100 short stories and novellas in the same length of time.

Source: Pixabay

All this because NaNoWriMo made me believe it was possible to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Having to stick to that regimen showed me so much about myself and what I was capable of.

In the past I was always trying to edit words as I wrote them. I wanted everything I wrote to be polished and perfect, but I learned that the first draft of any work isn’t going to be perfection. Sure, it’ll have some good, but it’ll have a lot more bad. It’s up to you as the author to fix that.

Build upon everything good about your story and weed out every bit of bad. I like to think of it as sifting for gold. In the words you wrote hastily to meet your NaNoWriMo word count for the day, there will be some nuggets of pure gold that you can use to build a better story from the word vomit you’ve flung onto the page.

Get your words out and worry about the rest later. Nobody has ever published the first draft of a book. Fine-tune it first and I guarantee you’ll be a better author for it.

For this reason, NaNoWriMo is important to all of us. It shows us what we’re capable of and even if we don’t meet word count or finish the books we started writing, we still started something and that makes a world of difference.

Source: Pixabay

If you guys want to track my progress or become friends with me, you can find me on NaNoWriMo at Gin-Keros. Because if the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that NaNoWriMo is much better with friends.

Today I’ll be posting the first 2,000 words I’ve written for NaNo on my Patreon, for my $1 subscribers.

If you haven’t become my Patron yet, I’d recommend joining. Since I will also be posting Chapter 2 & 3 of Rhinoverse this month for my $5 Patrons. So stay tuned for more about that.

Going in to NaNoWriMo

Since I just realized I ran out of scheduled posts and I haven’t posted anything for 4 days, I’m going to go ahead and start a brief NaNoWriMo series for the month of November.

I will also be posting all of my #SmoreWords and #LGBTRelease stuff here too since I haven’t yet and maybe I’ll finally get my #Rhinvoverse case studies underway and post the rest of my Avengers LTs here.

The world may never know 🤷.

After this I’ll do a quick Halloween post and then see what all I get done.

But, I digress.

Tomorrow is NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s short for “Everyone who writes is about to be real agitated and on edge for the entire month of November which is definitely not going to mesh well with No Fap November and No Shave November, so I guess November is just going to be a giant hell month and there’s nothing any of us can do”, Or “National Novel Writing Month”.

I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for the past 5 years or so and I’ve won it for the past 3, so I’m trying to keep that streak alive this year by writing my first YA novel called Don’t @ Me.

I’ll talk more about Don’t @ Me tomorrow (I’ve got a full list of blog prompts I just came up with for NaNoWriMo, so expect more from me tomorrow if I can get off my ass and actually post stuff.

So, going into NaNoWriMo I have a list of things I’ve done to prepare.

  1. Loose outline. Now, I normally do a heavier outline for my books, but I figured I’d try something different. I only have a loose idea of what I want this story to do and where I want it to go.
  2. Friends to write with. I only have a few people who I know will stay by my side every step of the way. My best friend Lisa and a few of the people I’m friends with on NaNoWriMo, but it’s better not to do it alone.
  3. Patience and Understanding. I might not finish this year. I’ve got a lot going on and tons of projects going at the same time. So there’s a good chance I might not be able to do this. I’m sure as hell gonna try though.

That being said, I still feel completely unprepared. Only time will tell if I’m going to make it through National Novel Writing Month.

If you guys want to track my progress or become friends with me, you can find me on NaNoWriMo at Gin-Keros.