NaNoWriMo 2016 is officially over, and I am absolutely over the moon that I managed to write 50,000 words in a month! However, as pleased as I am with that achievement, I think the most valuable thing I got out of it was actually the lessons learned, so I thought I’d do a post all about that!
These are just the things I’ve personally learnt about myself and the best way for me to write, so I’m sure that whilst many people will have learnt some of the same things as me, others will have got completely different lessons from NaNoWriMo, and I’d love to hear what you feel you’ve learnt this November in the comments!
- Writing every day is possible.
I, like a lot of people, have quite a busy life. I have a full time job that takes up a lot of my time and energy, a family, friends and a lovely boyfriend to spend time with, this blog to run, not to mention the many innane daily tasks we all have to take care of (financial matters, laundry, tidying etc.). But when it really came down to it, I managed to find small blocks of time here and there on even my busiest days to get in some writing, and there was only actually one day in November where I wrote less than 1,000 words.
It will of course be different for different people, depending upon their schedule and lifestyle, but thanks to NaNoWriMo, I now know that it is possible for me personally to write every single day, so I officially have no excuses (gulp!)!
- Be prepared.
The mistake I made the first time I attempted NaNoWriMo was having no plan at all. I simply had an idea, started writing, and eventually wrote myself into a corner I couldn’t get out of.
So this time I decided to be prepared! I wrote extensive character profiles, a general outline and even a chapter-by-chapter outline, which is probably way more than I needed, but it definitely paid off. Rather than spending the start of every writing session floundering and trying to figure out what I would be writing that day, I could just consult my plan, and get down to the writing!
- The best cure for writer’s block is writing.
Even though I knew what I would be writing during each session this time, there was still certain scenes where I just got blocked, and couldn’t seem to make any progress. As tempted as I was to give up, or even just to skip over those scenes, the best approach I found for me to take was simply to grit my teeth and write the damn scene anyway. Even if it was unbelievably terrible, the scene would have some kind of skeleton or at least a placeholder that I could go back to at a later date, and often I would find my inspiration again after fighting my way through a particularly tough bit.
- Writing with music in the background can be helpful!
I’ve always thought I was a strictly ‘write-in-silence’ kind of writer, so one interesting thing I learnt this NaNoWriMo is that this isn’t strictly true! I’ve seen that plenty of other writers use music to help inspire them as they write, or even just as background noise, and so on one occasion when I was particularly struggling with a scene I decided to give it a try. As my NaNo novel is a quest fantasy story, the best thing I could come up with at short notice was the Lord of the Rings soundtrack (perfect for my characters tramping through forests and up mountains!), and it really helped me to work through the difficult patches! I think part of it was just that it helped me tune out the world and allow me to truly lose myself in my writing, and it also provided a nice dose of atmosphere!
I’m not sure I’d do this every time I write, but I’ve found it to be a handy trick for when I’m blocked!
- Turning off your inner-editor is the best way to get a draft done.
I am a chronic ‘edit-as-you-go-along’ writer, and so far this has resulted in me never having finished a full novel draft. I spend far too much time going over and over every scene that I write that it takes me so long to get even a few thousand words into a draft, and often I’m bored with the idea before I’ve made much progress.
However, NaNoWriMo forced me to ditch my inner-editor and just write, because there really isn’t time to reread every scene before you start writing, when you only have a limited time per day to write 1667 words! It was the only way to hit the daily word count, and I have certainly seen more progress with this draft than I have with any other through writing this way.
- I can achieve more than I think I can.
I am what you could call a ‘Negative Nancy’, and I must constantly annoy all my friends and family with my persistent ‘poor me, I’m so terrible at everything!’ complaints (I can literally hear myself going on, and on, and on sometimes and just want to scream SHUT UP! – it’s a major confidence issue!).
I’m particularly critical of myself when it comes to my writing, assuming every word I write is awful, and that I’m so slow in comparison to other writers, etc., etc. Therefore it has given me a massive boost to know that I can set my mind to something and achieve it if I stop moaning for long enough, and really, really try at it (unless that something is genuinely impossible…like I doubt if I set my mind to becoming an astronaut it would happen!).
So that’s what NaNoWriMo 2016 has taught me about myself and my writing, and I’d love to know about your own experiences. What has NaNoWriMo taught you?