Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Final Lessons from NaNoWriMo

As you can see from the little icon at the top left of my blog, I am a winner! By writing over 50,000 words during the month of November, I officially "won" the National Novel Writing Month challenge. What was my prize, besides a feeling of accomplishment and a nifty certificate I have to print out myself? A feeling of accomplishment, a nifty certificate, and a load of chores and errands to catch up with. Oh, and some interesting lessons I've learned about writing. Here are some of them:
  1. Any writing is better than nothing. I came back from chaperoning marching band nationals a little bit behind my target average of 1667 words a day, and the following week got really behind while I was catching up on work, craft fair signs, and other chores. Some days I only got in about 400 words, hastily typed at night while I was watching the local news, but that was better than nothing. It kept my mind in the story and my fingers in practice. Even though it was discouraging seeing my progress bar fall behind the target bar, it was still a little bit of progress.
  2. You have to snatch your writing moments when you can. Sometimes it's while the rest of the family is watching TV. Sometimes it's early in the morning, after Boy is off to school but before I have class. Sometimes it's while everyone else in the family is lined up for Thanksgiving dinner (and the line is so long, you might as well keep writing). Steal those moments when you can, because any writing is better than nothing.
  3. It is possible to write 5000 words (or more) in a day. By the time I got to the last four days of NaNoWriMo, I still had one-fifth of the novel to go. For you math-challenged folks, that's 10,000 words, meaning I needed 2500 words each of the last four days. And actually, since I wasn't quite 80% through the story, I actually ended up writing about 12000 words those last four days, including about 5000 on Sunday the 29th. I will admit that I might not have done it without brainstorming or outlining beforehand, but I still did it.
  4. Writing is fun! It seems silly to have to say this, because if I didn't think it was fun (even the business articles) I wouldn't be doing it. But even with the pressure to find time and produce word count, I was having a lot of fun. Even though there were many places I was wincing at all the crutch words (which still count, by the way!) I was using, there were a few times I was really pleased by a certain turn of phrase I had used. And by the time I got to the end of the novel, when my button-downed protagonist finally expressed her feelings to her controlling mom and had a possibility of rekindling a romance, I was genuinely excited. I got the same emotional reaction and feeling of discovery I get when I'm reading a book and I get to those big moments—and yet I was writing it. It doesn't get much more fun than that.
  5. You can find inspiration in all sorts of weird places. I had a lot of fun with my encyclopedia format, and made several trips to the dictionary and Google every day to find fun facts to include in the text. Some of them I couldn't have made up if I'd tried. I was brainstorming entries for "R" and thought I needed to get back to the animal shelter portion of the story, so I put in "Rabbit." I googled "rabbit weird facts" and discovered that you can hypnotize rabbits by putting them on their back and stroking them. (Again, couldn't have made it up if I'd tried.) More interesting, though, is how I've felt inspired by my main character. I made her take a lot of chances and change her life, in ways I hadn't planned when I started writing. And she has inspired me, in turn, to try something new. I don't want to get into a lot of detail, in case I crash and burn and give up the first week, but it involves a certain exercise I hate to do. If the inspiration sticks, I'll definitely write more about it.
So overall, I'd say NaNoWriMo was a valuable experience and I got a lot out of it. Will I do it again next year? It's going to depend on what my schedule looks like, but right now I would say no. I got the kick-start I needed to get back into writing fiction, and hopefully I won't need it again 11 months from now. Instead, I may have to join NaNoRevisMo (National Novel Revising Month) to work on structure and crutch words and all those other things I ignored while churning out the words. I'm sure I'll find just as many lessons in that!


  1. So what would happen if you set yourself a deadline like this for your novel, and just got the words down on paper, even if they were in very rough form? If you were inspired(?) to just get the story told by writing wherever and whenever there were a couple of moments to spare. Would it make it easier to finish the novel, or would the rewrites be too daunting?

  2. I will most likely work on my current WIP this way ... a bit here, a bit there. I don't want to set a deadline because I haven't outlined the story and don't know how long it's going to be. Besides, I have enough deadlines as it is!