This week, I thought I’d take a break from sharing convention notes to talk about my writing.* Specifically, what I’ve learned from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — both this year, and in previous years.
For those who are unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo is the pledge to write 50,000 words (or 200 pages) during the 30 days of November. This averages out to 1,666 words per day, or about 6 double-spaced pages.
Now, NaNoWriMo is clearly not for everyone. As with all things writer related, you should do what works best for you. But for a lot of people, it’s a great starting place.
If you’re new to my blog, I feel I should inform you that this was indeed, not my first rodeo. I’ve talked about my previous NaNoWriMos before. The first NaNo I won was in 2013, and I didn’t finish the novel itself until I hit 131,000 words that following August. I took that year off to revise. The following year, I was moving that month, and then I was back. Since 2016, I’ve attempted and won 4 more NaNoWriMos.
CONFESSION: NaNoWriMo is NOT my natural pace. For me, it involves a daily grind, prioritizing my writing over chores and social events, and fighting burn out. I know this. It’s always like this for me.
But? All 4 of my rough drafts, plus this year’s near TWENTY short stories were written as NaNoWriMo projects. It’s not sustainable… but it gets the job done — for me.
So. I’d like to talk about what has NaNoWriMo given me.
3 – Understanding Your Own Pace — And Limits
Some people are sprinters, some are slow-but-steady marathoners (me!), and others vary depending on the day.
By taking on the challenge, you learn:
- How fast you write
Can you fit those 1666 words in before the clock strikes midnight?
- When you write best
Are you an early morning writer? Sneaking it in on your lunch? Maybe on your commute — hopefully you’re not the driver. Do you pull late nights? Or perhaps, long weekend sessions where you make up the whole week’s word count goals?
- What you’re willing to give up for your writing
For me, it’s chores and social time. For you? It’s all in what you say no to, and what you make sure to leave time for — besides your writing.
- What a reasonable pace looks like for you
Maybe 250 words were the most you could write per day. Maybe you were averaging 3,000 words per day. You might even be one of those 10k on the weekends people.
By pushing yourself, you learn your limits — or you learned that you can do more than you ever dreamed.
2 – There’s A Writing Community For Everyone
NaNoWriMo has a website and very active forum. When you join, you’re encouraged to also join a ‘region’ based on actual geographic locations. Regions are run by “municipal liaisons”. Who run events.
Some regions are more active than others. Mine is very active. There were OFFICIAL, in-person write-ins at libraries, coffee shops, and diners 3-7 days a week. Not counting the unofficial ones, or the solo-writers.
On a chat program called Discord, we also could hang out virtually. Which is what I mostly did. Including writing sprints — challenges to see who can write the most words in the next 15 (or however many) minutes.
I’m also part of the #AuthorTube community. They had their own Discord chat, as well as Live-streaming write-ins. In which multiple Authortubers would video stream themselves writing, and others could ‘hang out’ on the stream’s chat with the streamers, conversing back and forth.
It let you know you weren’t in this alone. If you wanted company, it was out there for the taking. You could find other writers in your genre, style, what have you. It’s a priceless opportunity to both make friends and find potential beta readers/critique partners.
1 – Pride in my accomplishments
I’m not going to say “everyone’s a winner”, but if NaNoWriMo inspired you to write more words than you otherwise would have, you ended up ahead of where you would have been without it.
So many people achieve more during NaNoWriMo than they ever have before.
Besides. What do you win in a contest where claiming the winning certificate is entirely on the honor system?
All you win are bragging rights and some discounts on writing software. (And I seriously prefer gDocs over Scrivener anyway, so… shrugs).
Okay. Maybe there’s one kinda big thing.
There’s the satisfaction and pride at having set a goal, worked at it, and learned you can achieve it.
Not counting, of course, the community, the knowledge of your own pace, and an understanding of what you need to write.
Now that November is over, what should you do next? Well, everyone has advice and here’s mine.
- Recover from the Hangover – Maybe you’re burnt out
- Now What: Next Steps – Maybe you’re looking to the next steps
- How To Recharge – Maybe, you need to recharge your batteries
Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? If so, what has NaNoWriMo given you?
* Okay, let’s be honest here, my dayjob sent me on travel and I forgot my notebook, but hey. This is more timely anyway!