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.

 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!!