Ten things I learned from NaNoWriMo this year

November 30th, 2010 | Tags: ,

I am throwing in the towel on NaNoWriMo a day early. I’m not stopping the writing, but I am officially too far behind to win thanks to a fat-fingered backup attempt. I lost 7k worth of words, putting me at roughly 31k. I managed 12k on November 30 last year, so I was pumped to be at a feasible place, but the idea of rewriting that much on top of an already burdensome deficit took the wind completely out of my sails.

On the plus side, I’m not as broken in spirit as last year despite not winning. In ramping up to the 50k mark, I expended a disproportionate amount of energy, leaving me spent enough to set writing aside. And a couple days’ break turned into a couple weeks’, and then the guilt set in to make it a couple months’… Not this year. I am only just now getting a feel for my characters, and I have been writing fairly consistently. So I don’t lack for material, and I no longer have a deadline to panic about. Which means writing becomes fun again–something it hasn’t been for years.

Last year, I saw from a mountain and promptly fell to the bottom. This year I got a good look at the valleys around me, but I wasn’t so far ahead of myself that I was afraid to look down. Here’s the top ten lessons I have learned from NaNoWriMo this year.

1. Writing anything, even just 100 words, is better than writing nothing.

2. Back up in multiple places.

3. There’s always going to be more in your mind than your fingers can write in any given instant–just write what seems most important. Sometimes that means completely switching scenes.

4. Make time to write.

5. Don’t ignore living.

6. Back up in multiple places.

7. Plot is not something that comes overnight. Allow time to stew. In the meantime, keep writing.

8. Create characters. Ideas are boring.

9. Set a minimum wordcount that is not trivial, but easy enough to just bang out if you’re exhausted. Honor it consistently. Usually you’ll have wet your gullet by the end and be thirsty for more. Usually. (300 seems good so far.)

10. Don’t talk about writing in person unless asked.

I’m sure I could add more, but these seem to be my major take-aways this year. I end November in far less crazy-eyes fashion, and in doing so give myself permission to be a shitty writer on a daily basis rather than to put off writing because it’s not good enough or I’m too tired or any other number of excuses that fall flat against the ideal of the infinite songs and visions bursting at my seams to be let out.

Additional props go to those Raleigh WriMos without whom I would just be bored and sad out here, away from the glow of Chapel Hill. Write-ins were had, and much encouragement also on Twitter. Finally, I must thank you, dear reader, for listening to me whine.

I am a being reborn in defeat. Fjear!

  1. November 30th, 2010 at 22:05
    Reply | Quote | #1

    I am so sorry you lost your words! I’ve had that happen to me before with three chapters and it was awful. I sympathize :( . On the bright side, this is a great post and I’m happy to see that you’re going to push forward with your novel and keep working to make it great. I truly hope you can have some fun with your writing. It was awesome to meet you this year and hope to keep in touch through Twitter!