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What I've Learned From NaNoWriMo

As November comes to an end, NaNoWriMo is also ending. People all across the world have been furiously writing and crafting their novels. For some this is their first novel and for others this is standard routine.

As November comes to an end, NaNoWriMo is also ending. People all across the world have been furiously writing and crafting their novels. For some this is their first novel and for others this is standard routine. NaNoWriMo churns out thousands of novels as writers get together and try to write their own novel in a month. As a Creative Writing graduate I decided to get involved. Having recently landed my first publishing deal for a collection of short stories I'd written I found myself wanting to move onto the next project. NaNoWriMo seemed like the way to go. It's something I'd wanted to do for some time. That said I have to report that I don't think I'll be finishing my novel in time for NaNoWriMo. Though I may not finish until December I've learned a great deal from the NaNoWriMo challenge:

  • I've learned how much discipline it really takes to write a novel. I'd tried to write a novel in the past and found it so hard to stay focused. I'd eventually abandon my project as soon as I didn't know where to go with it. I think the method of sitting down and giving yourself a time limit whilst focusing on a minimum daily word count is a good thing. I can definitely see myself sitting down and using the NaNoWriMo website in future to keep myself on track but I think I'd maybe give myself two months rather than one. I don't know if people really appreciate how much work it takes to write a novel unless they've written one themselves. I had to start setting myself little goals like "I will go make lunch in another 500 words," or "1,000 words more and I'll go to bed" and other such prompts. I think I have so much respect for novelists now. Writing and re-drafting an entire novel is pretty hard.
  • I've learned just how good I am at procrastinating or finding new projects. During my novel writing process I heard of a book rather similar to the one I was writing. Fear struck my heart. I began to worry if I had wasted two weeks of writing on a story that already existed. I got the book and started reading it and thankfully found that my book is totally different so I started writing again but, after fearing my efforts had been fruitless, I had stopped writing and was suddenly several days behind. In that time I had started writing another novel because I'd become so used to writing. It was hard to go back to the novel I'd started NaNoWriMo with now that I was in that beginning romance with a new novel. Later, in the third week, I even found myself penning the notes for a sequel to my NaNo novel. So maybe I've not stayed focused on the one novel but at least I have other projects in the wings to pick up later on.
  • I learned that I don't write things in a linear/chronological order and I doubt that I ever will. I like to start with the beginning and then hop about writing my stories in fragments. This is the way it has always been for me and it has really kept me sane through the novel writing process because I'm not tied down to specific moments on a linear trajectory.
  • Writing a novel is actually much easier than it seems. It presents many challenges but just sitting down and dedicating yourself to 2,000 words per day will get it out of you in no time. You just have to put a pen to paper or your fingers to a keyboard and let the words flow or force them if you must. If you don't like it then you can go back and edit it. The hardest part of writing a novel is arguably just writing it. There were days when writer's block would set in pretty hard and overcoming it presented a real battle. Once you have something that is over 50,000 words with a beginning, middle and end then all you have to do is write it and craft it. I don't know why I was so full of trepidation in the past. Actually finishing a novel seemed like this elephantine task. I've now learned how to minimise and manage the act of novel writing. It's so much easier to manage than I thought it would be now I've taken the primary plunge.
  • I've learned how wonderful the NaNoWriMo community is. The idea of getting together at the same time to write for this challenge means so many other people are going through the exact same things that I'm going through. I've sent and received messages of love and positivity to other people involved with the challenge. One girl even said that my words made her open up her novel and start writing again when she had given up. I too received some wonderful support from people in the writing community which was utterly refreshing and really helped to cheer me on. I really loved the NaNoWriMo word sprints held on Twitter where people doing the challenge would literally do a writing sprint: writing for a given amount of time and then sharing how many words they'd been able to write in that time.
  • I honestly don't think that a decent novel can be written in a month but it can help you get that first draft out on paper. I think this is definitely something I'll do in the future. From this point on I need time to go back and re-draft and really work with what I've got but for now at least the story is out of my head and officially written down.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this year?

If you were then did you learn anything?

Let me know in the comments section below.