What NANOWRIMO did for me as a Writer…

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...
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With the onset of National Novel Writing Month (or NANOWRIMO to the initiated), there has been much discussion over the pros and cons of NANOWRIMO. 2010 was my first experience with NANO, and I must admit I was sceptical. But I learned a few things along the way. Valuable additions to my writing toolbox.

How to write fast:
 NANO’s first lesson for me was how to write fast. I had thought I wrote pretty fast to begin with, churning out 2k per night after the day job, but NANO showed me it was possible to write up to 10K a day. Somewhere within me was a super fast word churner and NANO helped me find it.

How to control the inner editor:
 My biggest problem when writing is my ever-present inner editor. I hear her voice, nagging me about apostrophes, spelling errors and attributive locations. NANO showed me it’s entirely possible to ignore or turn her volume down. I learned to put the idea or scene onto paper as quickly as possible. Very soon I was able to get the scene down but also keep certain things in the back of my mind like remembering to use all the senses. The more I wrote the more I was able to include all the different layers of writing into my piece – except for spelling and grammar. Unfortunately these were the two very important things I had to forego to ensure I got the story out fast.

How to plan/plot:
 Before my first NANO I thought I was a pure pantser. What I figured out during my first foray into the wilderness of NANO, is you have to have a plan to reach your goal without driving yourself insane (IMHO). The general plot is essential. What is the theme or the novel? High Concept? Characters? Goals? Major Plot Points?
To be honest I barely knew what these words meant when I first walked the NANO trail. I’d started writing my first book SECOND SKIN in February of 2010, a novel which took me ten months to write, edit and complete. I was still new to the whole writer scene, learning, making friends, learning, writing… NANO showed my I could pen a story quickly, that I could reach a total of 61K in the space of 18 days.

The need to plan your time:
NANO taught me, very quickly, that planning your writing time is more than useful. It’s essential if you want to achieve an acceptable first draft. This year, although I am not participating I am still writing. November is literally my month from hell, but that said, I have written 20K so far, a quarter of the way to my goal of 80K. This time I am prepared for the exams, birthdays, overseas visitors, Christmas work functions and other celebratory outings that require my precious time. Thus, planning those little pockets of available time is essential, as once the plan exists, it is rather difficult to ignore. It helps to have a well-developed writing conscience.

The acceptance of the requirement of editing:
Come the end of NANO, and the reaching of that glowing milestone of 50, or 70 or 100K, every writer knows the end is only just the beginning. If you go into NANO 100% aware that whatever you come out of it with will require that necessary editing, then you go in with eyes open. Those edits, be they two ro three or five, are the polish and shine all writers want.

Camaraderie:
 The best thing about NANOWRIMO is the camaraderie. The friends we make and keep, the knowledge we are not writing alone. Writing itself is a lonely profession, and knowing all the participants are bound by the same goal is a very encouraging thing. Your feel writers are you motivators, you partners, your butt-kickers and your competitors.

NANOWRIMO has its supporters and its naysayers. I, for one, enjoyed the camaraderie of the whole exercise. The shared joy of the completion of it. The achievement of knowing I can meet the goals I set, that I can function well under pressure. That being said, I very much doubt I will participate in another NANOWRIMO, not until November ceases to be such a crazy family time for me.

And I shall continue to write, using the tools I have learned from my experiences with NANO, I shall continue to be prolific (fingers crossed), and I shall continue to write with passion and the ardent hope that readers everywhere will enjoy the character and worlds I create.

To all NANOWRIMO participants : GOOD LUCK & ROCK ON!!

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17 thoughts on “What NANOWRIMO did for me as a Writer…

  1. Great post Tee and also a great nudge in why a person should do NaNoWriMo if only to learn the same lessons. I would agree with everything that you wrote in this post. For me, 2010 was also my first NaNoWriMo and it was also to see if I could complete a novel in relatively quick time and turn off that persistent perfectionist editor. I am glad I competed in NaNoWriMo2010 because it motivated me to B.I.C (butt in chair) writing with no excuses and no procrastination.
    I echo your cheer to all the NaNo2011’s! Rock on and may the words flow freely and easily.
    🙂
    – KK

    1. Thanks Kim
      I think writers participate in NANO for a variety of reasons, and I’m very happy to have been a NANO’er myself… It proved to me that I can write fast, something I would never had though I was capable of until my first NANO…xx Tee

  2. I’m so glad you had a good experience with NaNoWriMo last year. My inner editor will not allow m to participate, never mind the other obligations of starting a new job. While I need some of the skills NaNoWriMo taught you, I don’t think it’s for me, but maybe I’ll turn another random month into a personal NaNoWriMo for the heck of it. I wish the world could stop while we’re trying to make it as writers/artists and pick back up again once our work sustains us, but then again, where’s the challenge in that?

    -Eliabeth Hawthorne

    1. Hi Eliabeth, I have done exactly that – taken a month to try and push myself to reach my goals. The pity is, it sometimes feels like squeezing blood from a stone. When I can’t find the words I just can’t so I don’t push myself at all. Somedays I’m luck to mamage 500 words but there are those days when the scenes create themselves and the words fly from my mind and before I know it I have 5k. I could never claim to hit 10k a day for more than 2 days either, and I wouldn’t want to – I’d probably just wear my poor Muse out 🙂 At the end of the writing, I need to know I’ve written something worthwhile, not just a bunch of words to reacha word count goal 🙂 And yes, I agree, the world ought to help out here and there… Good luck in your writing 🙂

      1. I’ve never paid much attention to word count, which is how we ended up with two volumes 100k words each. Woops. An editor got us to cut them down to 60k each and it’s a much cleaner story now. We tend to work in chapters, at least 1 a week if possible, but stupid life often gets in the way and now we are juggling social media platforms and blogging. I don’t know what I would do w/o my coauthor.

        Good luck to your writing as well. You and I need to figure out the whole freezing life thing, we’d make millions of writers happy. 😉

        -Elia

      2. That’s an amazing wordcount! I have found I always end up culling words, then adding on so if I aim at 90k then I end up at 90k or thereabouts. Keep up the awesome work! 😉

    1. Thanks Karl, I try to meet a 3k target on a normal day, I usually set a goal higher than what is comfortably to me. Its sneaky – if I don’t meet 3k, then 2500 is still good enough. As Stephen King advised, I try to meet my target, and I write every day. It’s the small steps that count.. Good luck.. 🙂

    1. Hey Mel. Thanks for the comment! We hold Word Wars every so often. We go for an hour at a time and then compare numbers at the end of the hour. It’s always been great for getting those words onto paper. Great motivation too 😉

  3. I’ve never officially done NaNo, but this year I did write three books rather quickly. Over the summer I wrote an 80K YA novel in 13 days. And the thing I love about fast drafting is that the flow of the manuscript is so much better. You don’t forget details and when they happened. It’s all fresh in your mind and the story is better for that. Sure I had to revise, but even when I was a revise as I wrote kind of writer (which I thought I’d always be), I had to still go back and revise a few times. So this isn’t much different.

    1. Hi Elizabeth. I think it is worth trying, but you can always do your own month of writing at any time too. I enlist my CP’s to Word War with me for motivation through the weeks of writing and boy does that help 🙂 It is really about getting the first draft written in as short a period of time as possible.

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