Well, I did it. I completed NaNoWriMo with a grand total of 50,029 new words drafted between November 1st and November 30th. This was my second time attempting NaNoWriMo; the first stalled out due to student-related deadlines. Though completing the challenge in no way makes me an expert, I thought I’d take the time to share 8 things I learned from NaNoWriMo.
1) Getting started is the hardest part. People are good at making excuses for why they don’t have time to write. NaNoWriMo laughs at these excuses. It demands that you write every day to keep up with word count. This will be tough at first, especially if you’re unused to maintaining a regular writing schedule. However…
2) It gets easier with time. I consider myself a disciplined writer, but it felt strange at first to write every day. That wore off as I picked up steam: the ideas started flowing faster and I got stuck less. The frequency also made it easier to pick up where I left off each day.
3) Writing in increments is invaluable. 1667 words in a sitting is daunting; I broke the task down into sessions of about 500 words, spread throughout the day. This method made it much easier for me to fit the writing in around other responsibilities.
4) You will not make word count every day. Work, chores, commuting, the need to have some kind of social life, and my own fatigue levels sometimes got in the way of completing that day’s 1667-word chunk. Though I did write something on my work in progress every day, sometimes I had to compromise on word count.
5) You can make up deficits on days with more free time. Weekends were invaluable for me. I often wrote more than the minimum word count on weekends, so I’d know I had some flexibility on days when life made me fall short of word count. I don’t recommend relying on free days too much; those unwritten words accumulate a lot faster than words on the page.
6) Outlining is invaluable. Like so much in life, NaNoWriMo is a numbers game: not only in terms of daily minimum word count, but also in the amount of time you spend figuring out plot, character arcs, and other essential novel elements. Preparing an outline minimizes the time spent staring at your screen and maximizes the time spent writing your story.
7) Writing a novel doesn’t have to take years (or even a few months). Confession–my NaNo novel isn’t quite done yet. But it’s come a hell of a lot closer in just 30 days, going from 40,000 to 90,000 words. Before NaNoWriMo, that would have been a solid 5 or 6 months of writing for me. It doesn’t have to be this way! Fast drafting lets you get the words on the page quickly, giving you more time for those all-important revisions.
8) NaNoWriMo doesn’t end on November 30th. You can make any month an occasion for fast drafting. After all, the point is to become a more productive writer. I for one plan to finish my current work in progress–an estimated 20,000 more words–before Christmas break.
What about you, readers? Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year, and if so, what did you learn?