Skip to content

What NaNoWriMo has taught me about writing

November 21, 2014

You’ve probably seen a hundred posts out there about NaNoWriMo at this point. There’s a plethora out there ranging from ‘it’s the greatest’ to ‘it’s the worse thing ever invented.’ I can’t speak to the more negative side as I am firmly on the side of participation (if someone wants to). Here are some of the things I’ve learned from participating over the past few years.

What NaNoWriMo has taught me about writing

You’ve probably seen a hundred posts out there about NaNoWriMo at this point. There’s a plethora out there ranging from ‘it’s the greatest’ to ‘it’s the worse thing ever invented.’ I can’t speak to the more negative side as I am firmly on the side of participation (if someone wants to). Here are some of the things I’ve learned from participating over the past few years.

  • When I first started NaNo, I’d only written a few short stories and had no idea if I could actually produce a work of 50,000 words. Truthfully, the idea scared me the first time but my husband was participating along with some other good friends online, so I said “Why not?” Joining the challenge and putting it out there publically made me accountable and I am far too stubborn to admit defeat, so I jumped in and kept going– even when it’s looked hopeless at times.
  • Take things one step at a time. As I said in the last point, that 50,000 word goal was terrifying. Just looking at all those zeros made my head spin the first year. In order to keep my sanity, I began to pay more attention to the daily goal of 1,667. By committing to that small goal each day, it made things much more manageable.
  • Be prepared. I usually wing NaNo, otherwise known as pantsing. Whether or not you outline ahead of time (which I did this year and am glad I did), you should be prepared for the unexpected. For example, the first CampNaNo I did, I had saved my doc to a removable but hadn’t backed it up on my computer or e-mail as well. When I came back to it, I discovered the drive was now corrupted and I had lost the whole day’s word count. Now I make sure that it’s always in at least two places just in case something goes wrong. I also have been scheduling a specific time each day for writing and make sure I have music and all the other things I need when writing handy. I also have been writing a little more than needed each day in case something comes up and I can’t get the words in one day.
  • Write for you. Don’t worry right now about getting feedback on your novel or how marketable it is. Just tell the story you want to tell and let the muse take you on a journey. The more I think about what I am writing in terms of how people will respond to it, the more I freeze up. That first round of self-edits is the place for questioning the muse.

These are just a few of the things I have learned since beginning the NaNoWriMo challenge. I apply these same lessons to writing outside of NaNo as well and while some projects have been shaky, I’m working on them and not giving up. I’ve already published two NaNo projects and two other NaNo works are coming through a publisher next year.

I think that might be the most important lesson: Apply it outside of NaNo months. Keep writing, revising, and getting feedback. Once they’re ready, I’d suggest setting something aside for self-publishing while submitting works, should you choose to go the traditional route with your other work. Having a variety of experiences only serves to help us grow and why let that manuscript languish forever in a drawer?

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, either through participating in NaNo or through your own publishing journey? I’d love to hear about them.

Advertisements
4 Comments
  1. November 22, 2014 10:25 pm

    NaNo can be a point of contention, but I agree that it has a ton of value. First and foremost, the amount of public awareness that it creates is priceless. This awareness humanizes the writer, and it brings the dream of publishing a novel closer to the realm of reality for the average person. “You can write. You can publish. You’re one of us!” It’s very good for bringing new talent into the industry.

    That being said, NaNoWriMo is responsible for my first 72k word manuscript, written in 2010. Until that year, I never imagined that I could write a single, coherent story of that word count.

    – J. Paul (thirdphasebooks.com)

    • November 23, 2014 8:57 pm

      Agreed. And they do a lot to encourage teens to write as well. That is great about your first novel. 🙂 Did you end up submitting or publishing it?

      • November 24, 2014 12:55 am

        It was a mess! I have a lot of faith in the story that I developed while writing it, but it needs a LOT of work. I’ve tried rewriting it several times, but I always get hung up. Since then, I’ve written quite a few pieces of fiction, including a ~120k word novel (my new high point). That wreck of a manuscript helped me to see that I could do it…almost like a really long stretching exercise. I do plan on rewriting it properly some day, though!

      • November 24, 2014 3:04 pm

        Yeah, the best part is finding you’re able to do it. 🙂 Best of luck! Consider taking it to a critique group and see if maybe they can help with suggestions when you’re ready to dive back in. I have a couple of WIPs like that myself, but I am determined to get them fixed up this year/early next.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: