What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

This was my first year participating in National Novel Writing Month, and all around I was completely unsuccessful. I think I went a good four days writing 2000 words a day, then got a week behind a decided to quit. I don't have any good excuses really, except I was kind of busy, though I'm sure there are more people who succeeded, yet were much busier than I was. I am going to spend December and January, and probably much of February writing the first draft of my new novel, which has a completed outline and about 4000 words. It's an idea that's been bouncing around in my head for about a year, and it's sort of a science fiction romance type of thing, a genre that is WAY outside my comfort zone.

So there's my little update. Here, I have complied a list of the top ten things I learned from participating (or not) in NaNoWriMo, some of which I already knew.

1. Writing is hard. It takes a lot of discipline to get to your word count in only 30 days, while simultaneously battling your inner editor.

2. Having so many people around participating in the same thing is very encouraging and makes it so much easier, plus it's fun to have competition.

3. When you don't meet your goals, it's very discouraging, yet it makes you more determined to do better next time.

4. After giving up and taking the rest of November off from writing is very cleansing. Stepping back from writing and just doing the regular day to day things gives a new perspective on writing and what it means to you. You should try it sometime.

5. Sometimes outlines bog you down rather than help you. I think that is part of the reason why I quit part way through. I think I'll give the seat-of-your-pants thing a try after I'm finished with the first draft of my next novel.

6. When faced with the decision to quit or keep going on something that gives no rewards whatsoever, it is actually much more difficult than you'd think. Even though you're not losing anything, you still feel disappointed.

7. If you are given a deadline, your writing usually sucks. This is another reason why I quit. It was probably a mistake for me to read through what I had written so far because I suddenly got writer's block and couldn't finish since what I wrote sucked so badly. Just writing the first draft then going back and reading later is the best way to go, unless your plot is ridiculously complex and you can't risk making continuity errors. This is what I did with the last novel I write. I got the whole first draft down without reading it because I knew I would get nervous and stop if I did. Unfortunately, I have not had the change to read it yet, as I took November off from my writing. I'm definitely going to get to editing that, probably when I've finished this new novel.

8. Not every word you write counts. Though each word takes you closer to your goal, not every word is going to stay where it is once you've finished. Odds are that when November is over and you decide to edit this short, sucky novel you've written, you're going to rewrite most of it. This is something I should have realized earlier on. Maybe then I wouldn't have given up. It's not like you're obligated to publish the thing right after you've written it.

9. When put under pressure like this, you learn a lot about yourself and your writing. In the four days that I participated in NaNoWriMo, I thought I could definitely do it, but then the weekend came with lots of distractions, so I got behind. But when I was on a roll, I really had faith in myself. I did learn, though, that when I write very fast like that, my plot sucks. It's something that's fixable though. And the story I chose to write in November was an idea that I'd had for a while but hadn't gotten around to writing. I thought it was great and clever, but once I started writing, I realized it wasn't, which is probably good for future reference.

10. Writing is fun! But I knew this already. That's why I do it, of course!

Peace, Aimee