Lessons learned from my just-about win.

The first four years I did NaNoWriMo in November, I won easily, with plenty of time to spare and a word count of +60k. So I figured this year would be much the same, even with an increased social life, and set my daily word count goal at 2000 words. I failed that goal miserably, barely making it to 50k on the last day. This is what I learned from my almost-failure:

1. It’s ok to put your own life before writing. I loved my time away from the novel, travelling, meeting people, seeing new places, and I don’t regret it for a second. That said..

2. It’s really hard to get back to writing if you skip a few days. Next year, I am definitely making sure there are no holidays booked in November, because even though I had a great time, I really struggled with getting back into a rhythm. Before the start, I figured I’d just come back and write 4000 words in a day to compensate. I barely made it to the minimum 1667 the first day. There’s a reason professional writers write every day.

3. Plot ninjas are life savers. I was frustrated with struggling to write, didn’t like what I was writing, and overall just wasn’t motivated. So I had my main character kidnapped and turned the novel upside down. I don’t know if it improved things, but it certainly helped me to keep writing and get me interested again.

4. Past performance is no indication of future success. I was too cocky with my word count planning, and I paid the price. It was a very humbling experience, and I’m glad I had it (but still won in the end.. phew 0.o). It reminded me what NaNoWriMo is all about; not to write loads of words, but to push yourself and do the unexpected.

5. I’m incredibly proud of the NaNoers in my region who managed to write over 10k words on the last day and make the word count goal. I have no idea how they managed to keep going, but they made it, with no permanent injury to their backs or typing fingers and no use of tricks (like writing down lyrics) either. I can only hope to have the same motivation and investment in my story (which I really didn’t have this year..) if I were ever to fall so far behind.

6. I need feedback. I kept thinking my writing was awful, and wondering if I’m actually improving as the years go by. The only way I am going to know for sure is to let others read my work. So that’s my goal for next year.

So that’s what I’ve learned this year, I would love to hear what other people have learned, so please comment.

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3 thoughts on “Lessons learned from my just-about win.

  1. tenabreme says:

    Though I didn’t make much headway (relative to the official goal) this year, it was my first attempt and I learnt a lot from just being involved in the process. I count it as a success for me because I’ve been stuck in some kind of masochistic, protracted writer’s block over the past few years, using university as an excuse for lack of inspiration (what I’m studying is far removed from the creative arts). So the little that I wrote this month is a huge deal. I now have characters that I feel some connection towards, and a desire to continue on my draft even though November is well and truly past. I love reading posts like this because it helps me understand a lot about balancing discipline with self-forgiveness which I sorely need. And it makes me feel less alone. Thanks so much for sharing, and congrats on your win!

    • Thank you, I’m glad my post helped you. You’ve actually reminded me of another good point, namely the idea of what it means to win NaNo. There are people in my region who take part every year without ever reaching 10k. They have a great time being creative, pushing their limits, talking to like-minded people etc. Does that still mean they’ve lost? I don’t think so, and as our municipal liaison tells us all the time, any words you have now that you didn’t have before are a victory, no matter what. So congrats on your word count, whatever it may be, and I hope you’ll take part again next year!

  2. […] podcast host, yet she still manages to keep her advice fresh. She usually does a special NaNoWriMo podcast (or series of podcasts) and generally just talks about the craft of writing, her own […]

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