What NaNoWriMo Has Taught Me

As NaNoWriMo is coming up in a week… here’s a few tips gleaned from four years of NaNoWriMo and 4 months of Camp NaNoWriMo.

I started participating in NaNoWriMo in 2008, when I was 13. Since then, I’ve participated in each NaNo and each Camp NaNo— that’s 4 NaNoWriMo’s and 4 Camp NaNoWriMo’s.

And perhaps the interesting thing is that I’ve won every single time. Most years were not easy. In fact, most months I was continually forcing myself to sit down and write. Maybe the fact that I’ve always been a touch-typist helped. Maybe it was the fact that I had (and have) a lot of free time. Maybe it was the fact that I like writing.

In any case, no challenge went by without my learning something. Here’s the list.

  1. Writing 50,000 words in a month is possible. It may take you an hour a day to write the 1,667 words. It may take you the entire day. It may take you only 30 minutes. But it’s simple to get this time in. Shut off the TV. Restrict FaceBook, Twitter, and any other social media until you’ve finished the word count. Give yourself candybars (or carrots) when you’re done. Anything to stop the 1,667 words per day from piling up.
  2. You have to persevere. There will be days when all you want to do is give up. Or start the story again. Or start a new story— the bright shiny one with proper characters who do what they’re supposed to. Don’t do it. You’ll just be allowing yourself to give up. Keep going on the first story. Set aside the second one for later. Work at the story you started on the first of the month until you reach 50,000 words and the end of the story. Finish it in the month you started it. Type THE END. Feel the accomplishment and the relief. Then start the second story.
  3. Don’t be too strict. Don’t set a goal to write X words per scene (or chapter) and kill yourself trying to reach it. It makes things so hard you feel the need to procrastinate on them even more. And that’s no way to finish the novel.
  4. Plan less rather than more. I’ve tried planning out every scene, every chapter, every event before the novel was even started. It doesn’t work for me. It kills the story before it even starts. Of course, this may or may not work for you. You may be one of those uber-talented people who can plan out an entire novel and still like it at the end. You may be a person who can sit down and write an entire novel without a plan and still have coherency. Test things out. See what works for you.
  5. Plan a little. I’ve also tried writing with nothing but a vague idea of ‘what happens next.’ It works. It’s the greatest fun I’ve ever had (usually). But when it comes to editing, or describing the book… all you can really say is, “Well, this happens and that happens and then they do this,” instead of “The Traveling Shovel of Death and the Spork team up and go on a quest to kill anyone that has ever celebrated Valentine’s Day. Along the way, they meet the Catapult, an abusive umbrella, and a ghost dog, and learn that Valentine’s Day isn’t really so bad.” Planning a little helps structure the novel. It makes things a bit easier if you ever want to edit. But, again, test things out. Find what works for you.
  6. Know when to give up. This is in direct opposition to #2, but at some point you may hate the story so much that just thinking of it gives you wrist pain. Finish the story quickly— kill everyone off, or something, to get closure, and then write something else.
  7. Have fun. Don’t make life too hard on yourself! You’re doing an amazing thing, so enjoy it!

What are your NaNoWriMo lessons?


2 responses

    • You’re welcome!

      And thank you! Good luck to you too! It’s an awesome endeavor, and you’ll feel uber-proud of yourself when you type the 50,000th word. (Or, really, any milestone you’ve never hit before).

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