NaNoWriMo Lessons

NaNo-2018-Congrats

 

I did it. I got my 50,000 words in 30 days. I actually did it in like 29 days, writing a bit during my night shift at work to finish it off. But in the end, I did what I set out to do.  What’s even more surprising is that I liked what I ended up with and plan to edit it. I feel like this is going to be something that I do something with. Even if the end result is that I publish it and produce one single print copy for myself, it will be worth it.

Now many people, authors, whatever, finish NaNoWriMo and then publish a blog post discussion things that they learned throughout the process. Well, buckle up, because I’m jumping on that hype train, choo-choo! The difference is that most other people who write these types of posts are actual authors with publishing credits, Youtube channels, or even something remotely resembling real experience. I’m just a guy who decided that he had more years behind him than in front of him, and it was time to put up or shut up.

So here’s what I learned during my NaNoWriMo experience.

  1. Don’t stop writing. Derp. Sure, this should go without saying. You don’t get fifty thousand words in a document by wishing them there. You actually have to sit at a keyboard and put fingers to work. What helped me hit my daily word count was doing word sprints. I would use the website Write or Die for my sprints. I would set my limit for 850 words or so, knowing I could do that in about twenty-five minutes or so. I’d do two a day – once in the morning, and once in the evening. Two quick blocks to get it done.
  2. Give your first draft permission to be shitty. I have read this literally for decades. I have read this online, in books, and heard it in talks that authors would give to aspiring writers. NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing a flawless draft. Sure, many authors who do NaNoWriMo use it to develop a draft for their next novel. They have the chops and probably live the NaNoWriMo life where they are writing every day anyway. But for first-time authors or people who have written little things before and have been told they should write a novel, it can be pretty overwhelming. Two days in and I hated what I was writing. HATED it. I actually stopped writing (breaking my Rule 1) because it frustrated me so badly. But then I thought about it and reworked my mindset. This was about putting words down. It was about giving myself permission to be horrible. That’s what first drafts are for. That’s why you have a second, third, fifth, tenth drafts.  Just put the material down. Clean it up in future drafts.
  3. Don’t edit as you go. This was kind of the lovechild between Rules 1 and 2. I started writing and felt the story changed as it went along. But rather than going back and making changes, I just kept writing as if those changes had already been made. “But won’t that make your draft hard to follow?” Why yes it would if I was silly enough to have anyone else read it. But since Rule 2 was in effect, I plan to wait and polish that turd before I let anyone else see it.  Edits take place in future drafts. NaNoWriMo was about getting it written down.
  4. Listen to the story. This was a bit of all the other rules. Things changed as I wrote, which made every chapter interesting for me because it was all stream of consciousness. I had an idea where I wanted the story to go, but how it got there I wouldn’t know until it happened. By the end, my story had gone places I hadn’t expected and redefined aspects of the world I had created. It might happen again when I go back for the second draft. Who knows!? That’s part of the excitement of writing. Some of it may be formulaic but some of it can pick inspiration and creativity out of anywhere.

That’s what I learned from the experience. But if there’s one piece of advice I could give someone who has never participated in NaNoWriMo but have that idea in their head, it would be this:

JUST. DO. IT.

A lot of people say it. I’m saying it too. The difference being I’m just a guy. I’m not an author. I may be one day, and might even dare to call myself a writer. For now, I’ll settle for being someone who wanted to get a story told, so I did it. Trust me, you can too.

See you in NaNoWriMo 2019!

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