1 December 2014

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

As you may know from my victory post, I finished NaNoWriMo and trust me, I'm more shocked than you are. My first ever story to breach even 10,000 words and I couldn't be more proud of myself. At what’s more, I'm still excited to be working on it. I really hope one day I can be posting here to let you know where you can buy it.

As my first successful NaNo, there are a number of things I hadn't considered or not really put into practice in terms of how I approach writing. Even if everyone else figured this out years ago, it’s something I can read over in eleven months to get me through my next one!

Decide on When

You have the who (characters), you have the what (plot), something I’ve always neglected until now is the when. My story takes place in three parts, and once I decided those three parts would be three specific months, my story opened up a lot more. I could talk with confidence about “a few days later” or “the next weekend” and knew it made sense. Annual celebrations like Halloween and Christmas could become focus points in the story and gave me more to talk about. This is the kind of advice I would have ignored had I read it pre-NaNo but I’ll definitely be taking it into account in the future.

Don’t Be Afraid of Change

When you’re hauling your way through 50,000 words, the thought of making even the slightest change to your plot/characters/approach is terrifying. And in a lot of cases, probably a bad idea. But listen to what your story is saying to you… that change you’re scared of might be what gets you through to the end.
In my case, it was a change in perspectives. At around 20-25k, I was talking to Boyfriend about the plot and he suggested it might be cool to have each of the three sections narrated by a different pivotal character. I dismissed it because a) I figured it would never work and b) I was already too far in to change my mind.

And then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was slogging through scenes from the main character’s perspective and felt like I had nothing left for her to do. I tried a scene from another character’s viewpoint and suddenly I’d passed 40k. If the change chases you, embrace it.

Tell People in Your Life

Throughout November, my poor friends have been subjected to near-daily messages saying things like I just passed my first 10k! or I wrote 7,000 words today I think I’m dying or it’s one in the morning how is cheese made? (That one I may have just made up. But it was some similar madness.)

This might not have been so great for my friends, but for me it was a bit of extra motivation. People knew, and were regularly reminded, that I was aiming for 50k. They checked on me. They asked how I was doing. Once you get used to the feeling of having a positive answer for them, you don’t want to give up that feeling.

Tell People on the Internet

Facebook, Twitter, blog, if you don’t have Wi-Fi then carrier pigeon … talk about your goals (and accomplishments, don’t forget those) online and let people know how you’re doing. Join in the conversation using hashtags. You might even get encouragement from strangers and that’s always fun. The more you talk about it, the most you feel like people are keeping an eye on you. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time talking about writing and not enough time writing.

Community Matters

Going hand-in-hand with telling people about your writing is joining your NaNo region. I joined the Manchester group on Facebook, and though only made it to two write ins (plus one social) I really think it made a difference. If anything, there’s someone there to congratulate you when you finish. For my final two thousand words, I had my own personal cheerleader egging me on until I crossed the finish line. When I hit 50k, the room cheered. I got a special purple sticker. I felt awesome.
Check out my shiny WINNER badge!
It’s also really motivating to be cheering others on, in person or online. At the write in where I myself finished, so did a good few others, and cheering someone else on is a surprisingly good motivator. There’s such a positive atmosphere, and everyone has the same drive.

If Nothing Else, Plan Your Time

There are planners, and there are pantsers. Both of these are the right way to do it, depending on who you are. But if flying by the seat of your pants is the way you write, I’d suggest at least planning your time; how many words you aim to write per day, depending on what else you have going on (work, birthdays etc).

Before NaNo started, I posted about my time management plan scheduled around my work and social events. As it happens, I spent all but the last week of November off work for reasons I won’t go into; put simply, I had a lot of spare time and a great need to distract myself. Writing a novel turned out to be perfect for that. However next year, I will definitely be making a timetable of word counts per day for myself again. It’s an idea I was proud to have come up with and it’s almost a shame I didn’t get to use it.

How did you do? What did you learn, and what are your tips for future WriMos?

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