6 Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo

05/12/2016 Writing 10

6 Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo

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?

10 Responses to “6 Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo”

  1. Kirstie @ Upside-Down Books

    I thought I was someone who needed to write in silence too! Turns out that I find music really helps me find the flow of my novel – or inspires a particular scene that I might be having trouble with! And omg, trying not to edit as you go is so hard! Definitely helps when you manage to stop editing though. Congrats!

    • Laura

      I think the music thing is a really good thing to know. It has definitely helped me to be able to push through difficult scenes! 🙂
      And it is so hard not to edit as you go along! It makes so much difference to your writing speed when you do stop though.
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

    • Laura

      Thank you! 🙂
      Writing that many words in a month is so, so hard! It feels worth it now though, seen as I’ve made so much progress.

  2. Greg

    These are all great lessons! I’ve heard that writing every day is one of the biggest things, and not letting yourself get bogged down by editing, but just writing. I did NaNo once but got sidetracked, so I’ll definitely keep these in mind if I do it next year! And congrats!

    • Laura

      Thanks! 🙂
      Yeah, learning to write every day has definitely been the biggest and best thing I’ll take away from NaNoWriMo. And the editing thing has really helped me!

  3. Cait @ Paper Fury

    Oh these things are THE BEST to learn!! I particularly agree with shutting off that inner editor. *nods* I had to learn that and omg it was hard at first but 10000% worth it and it actually gets easier! Now I’m totally fine to write really messy awful first drafts and work on fixing them up later.? Also YAY that you wrote every day for a whole month! *CHEERS FOR YOU* That is something I cannot do. Haha. In 2013, I wrote everyday (maybe barring one or two days?) for 100 days and like it was great in that I got a lot done, but it KILLED MY MUSE FOR MONTHS. So now I’m a sprinter and take lots of breaks. And eat cake. It’s always great to figure out your own process right?!

    • Laura

      That’s really encouraging to know that shutting off your inner editor gets easier the more you do it! It definitely helped me make so much more progress, and it was probably a lot of the reason why I have never finished a draft, because everything had to be perfect before I moved on 🙂
      I don’t think you necessarily have to write every single day, and I guess it depends on the writer. You get way more writing done than I do through your writing sprints, so it’s definitely working for you! 🙂 And I will definitely be adding cake as a step in my own writing process! That sounds like an excellent idea 🙂
      Thanks! 🙂

  4. Mimi


    what an awesome post. I’m happy to hear that you learnt so much from your NaNoWriMo experience. I can relate to some of the listed points. I also learnt to tell my inner editor to shut up while writing the first draft. In the past I always worried to much about the quality of my writing, so that I never finished something. NaNoWriMo taught me to stop worrying and just sit down and write 🙂

    I also agree, that it taught me to write everyday. A daily writing routine is the best thing when you want to finsih a novel.

    I also learnt from NaNoWriMo that it’s helpful to set goals. Both a total word goal and a daily word goal. For example, I try to write 1000 words every day when I’m working on a new novel. During NaNoWriMo it’s even 1667 words, I know, but usually I set a goal of 1000 words.

    Kind regards,

    • Laura

      I’m exactly the same – I worry about the quality so much sometimes that I can’t seem to finish anything, so NaNoWriMo has helped me so much with that! 🙂
      I love that idea of setting goals too! NaNoWriMo definitely helped me with that too, so that’s something I’ll be taking forward as well.
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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