I won’t be “winning” NaNoWriMo but I knew that would happen going into it. As NaNoWriMo 2019 wraps up, here is how I feel about it in this place and time.

Summer 2019 was the first time I participated.

My initial goal was 20,000 words and the project was Never Date a Siren. By the end of the month I had 35,000 words and the project was completed about two months later at 42,000 (not including the glossary and the addition of a tease chapter from Knight of Cups).

Why I haven’t done NaNoWriMo in the past is it can actually be very counter-productive for me to be on a schedule where someone else is telling me how to write, when to write, and how much to write.

It can kill my creative drive.

I just throw that out there to show how sometimes it’s more important to nurture a story than to drive yourself to write.

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November NaNoWriMo results:

The project was book #2 A Study in Spirits in the College Fae series. I already knew the characters, had the world developed, and I also did a general plot outline as to what would happen. I ended up with about 44,000 words.

Looking back over that experience and this one, I’ve learned some important things about myself and my writing:

1.) During a focused writing time, in 6 weeks I can achieve 50,000 words, the basis of a small novel.

I am not writing this to crow over other people, to shame other writers, or to say I’m not able to do more. This is what will work for me long term and what NaNoWriMo has taught me.

I write pretty consistently (about 5x a week). That is from my journalism training. So getting to a routine of writing isn’t really my problem, though it is for many people and the NaNoWriMo schedule can help with that.

Use NaNoWriMo to discover what you are capable of doing and what works best for you. Compete against yourself over trying to “win.”

2.) I will NOT be writing non- stop, month after month. After outpouring a book of that size, going full steam ahead, I need down time afterward. This is how I function in many areas of my life.

I did learn some really good things about how I can be more productive:

1.) Start off with an outline of the plot. It doesn’t have to be highly detailed but Book #2 went faster because I knew about the College Fae world, the characters, and where I’m going with the story.

I also plotted out the chapters so I had a general idea of what was going to happen when. Plotting or outlining will really speed up the writing process.

2.) Aim at writing sessions where all I do is write for 30 minutes straight and take a break. In the past I’ve just tried to sit and write for long periods of time and while that does get me writing, my output is very slow. I need to aim at intense shorter bouts of pure writing.

3.) The Internet is really too distracting. I will need to be more disciplined about that. When I get stuck, I have a tendency to wander away and hop around on the Internet to distract myself.

4.) When I get stuck just write in all caps DESCRIPTION OF BLANK GOES HERE and just move on. These roadblocks can really shut down creativity and the flow. I can go back and fill it in later. This helped me over a major hurdle in November.

5.) Keep an eye on the chapter word count. When I wrote the final rough draft of Never Date a Siren, two of the chapters ended up being huge. I ended up splitting them, causing a cascade number re-sequencing for the following chapters.

I can catch this problem earlier by keeping an eye on my word count. My chapters are generally between 2200-3,000 words. If they go under, I can always add a scene; if over they need to be broke up and the number sequence re-shuffled.

What did you learn during NaNoWriMo? Did you participate?

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  1. Yes – burnout is real. I’ve not been back to the computer to write for 5 days. Today will be the first day back to actually tackle the book.
    Another thing is that the characters got a lot of good dialogue written over NaNoWriMo but the new ones have no real development. Writing fast doesn’t develop characters JMO – great for hitting word counts but for building the subtle things within a book? No.

  2. My NaNo 2019 project was aimed for the regular 50k words goal, but I managed to hit 25k. But even that was an achievement. If I had outlined more I might have been able to write more. I got to learn lots from the experience about my process just like you did and I guess the more we write the more we learn. The problem I have, which is the biggest challenge is that I can see in my mind what I want but when I write it down, it all seems like I am unable to show what’s in my head. I can see holes in the story and figure out a rough idea of how i might improve but my main problem lies in the execution.

    1. NaNoWrimo can be a great learning experience. I agree with the plotting beforehand – the more preparation the more successful you can be.
      I’ve had some of that “this looks great in my head” and looks blah on paper/computer. The only way to get over this is to push through – keep writing and don’t look back. I have been pleasantly surprised when I wrote in a rush (like NaNo) and actually found that I liked the majority of what I wrote. But that is certainly a learning process.

      1. I am coming to see that. Working on a short story right now and I am realizing I don’t yet have the experience to whip it into the perfect piece that I want it to be. The only way I am going to reach that level is by writing and finishing my projects.

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