I have to admit, I was a little dubious about NaNoWriMo before starting. Yes, I saw the value of creating a community of like-minded individuals all focussing on one goal, but at the same time 1667 words a day, while not a huge amount on a single day, is a lot of writing day in, day out, for a month.
From a personal point of view, the month of November wasn’t exactly quiet. Along with work and being there for my family, I’d also recently taken on learning a set of songs for a duet, there was my oldest son’s tenth birthday split over two weekends (as the birthday fell on a Wednesday) and I had committed to starting a cricket coaching course at the end of the month, ruling out more weekend writing time.
Yet in the end, I did it and with more than a week to spare!
So what have I learned?
1 Having a deadline really spurs you on
I know I work well to deadlines with my job but this was the first self-imposed deadline I’ve had for my writing and it really drove me on. By committing publicly to delivering something I found I was planning my days better, snatching the odd 30 minutes writing time when I could instead of sitting in front of the box, and generally doing all I could – without upsetting my family – to hit my goal.
2 I can write faster than I thought
When writing my first three novels, on a good day i could hit between 2000 to 2500 words. My best was just over 3000 words, yet there were a number of times during the past month where I wrote well over 4000 words in a day. This may have had something to do with the story itself, having a clear target or just generally being more focussed, but when writing in the future my expectations of what’s achievable has changed.
3 Not stopping to edit works
I’ve always been a believer of not looking back when writing your first draft but this year I took it a step further than I’ve done in the past. Where I used to correct the odd sentence or paragraph I was which I was particularly unhappy, for NaNoWriMo I just left comments in red all over my MS on areas I felt needed work or where I had a change of plan, but then carried on going. While this was a great help to hit the word count, it will be interesting to see how the first rewrite goes!
4 The joy of overwriting
One of my favourite discoveries during NaNoWriMo was how much fun over-writing is. What do I mean by this? In my case it was allowing myself to describe settings or characters in more detail than was needed, or to write far too much exposition than would be in the final book. This is a big change for me. I usually write sparingly and go back to add further detail later, but this time around over-writing really helped me get under the skin of the world and the story I created. I know a lot of what I’ve written will be (rightly) cut during the edit but it has been fun letting myself go a allowing myself time to explore the people and settings I’ve created.
5 I’ve been introduced to even more lovely writers
I’ve always maintained that one of the best things about writing is the supportive community, and through NaNoWriMo I’ve got to meet a lot of new supportive and encouraging writers. Sadly I haven’t been able to go to any meet ups but the response on the NaNoWriMo regional message board has been really positive. Next year I’ll definitely attend.
Of course, my first draft isn’t finished. I’m not sure whether I’ll hit my extended goal of finishing it by the end of the month but it will be really close and I can’t wait to then get my teeth into it and start editing in the new year.
So what about you? If you’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo this year, what has been your experience? If you haven’t, have I persuaded you to do it next year? I look forward to hearing from you.
When do we get a taster? Didn’t you say it as a children’s book, or is that another project?
Yes, it’s a children’s book, for older children. I’m not sure when you’ll get a taster. The book is a little all over the place at them moment while I’ve been adapting my style to best fit the story, changing the time period it’s set in (twice), along with all the usual first draft discrepancies. I then need to look at language and word choice given the audience, so it might be a while!
Wow… I’m so impressed! Kudos to you for all that commitment. I’m a big fan of over-writing – I reckon around 20-25% all-told, is about right. This is a big shot-in-the-arm for your writerly ambitions – blummin’ well done!
Thanks, Julie. I’ve realised I need to over-write whenever starting a new novel but if it’s a series I then write sparingly and build up in any subsequent books. The good news – at least for beta readers – is that I have a better understanding of what is too much when it comes to the edit.
You’ve got the experience now – and you’re on a roll! I’d love to hear more about your story… also happy to beta read for you again in due course if it’s any help. I know I might not be quite right for a YA book so don’t feel obliged!
Great job! Congratulations.
Very well done, Dylan, and thanks for yet another fascinating post.
Thank you, Marcus! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Have I tempted you to take part next year?
It never really held much appeal, Dylan. But now you’ve had a go at it, who knows?
Congratulations, Dylan. The trick now is to not let up (as I know only too well…)
Hi Graeme, sorry, I just realised I missed your comment. Well, I’m still going, although my pace has slowed as I’ve let life take a hold, but I’m not giving up until it’s finished.
So glad your NaNo experience was successful, Dylan. “Overwriting” and comments to self during this first draft stage are important ways to discover the story. I think that’s why I keep going back to NaNo — winning isn’t the point. Finding the tale is what NaNo is for. Kudos! I hope to see you at NaNo next year.
Thanks, Lizzie! I completely agree. Winning isn’t the point at all. I’ve had so much fun during this process. My first draft is a bit of a mess (as most are) but I feel like I know my characters and settings really well, now and I’ll be fully prepared come rewrite time!
Nice going! I think it’s everyone else’s year to win and mine to fail. I did an unofficial camp nano and set my own target. Have managed to write something every day and should hit my personal target of 10k, just not Nano’s official target of 50k. If only camp nano wasn’t during the school holidays!
Well done though, seriously. Great job. My last release was a Nano from 2014 so it definitely works!
Thanks, MT! Frankly, if NaNo gets you writing, it doesn’t matter what the word count is, it’s done its job.
I was tempted to go to a BSE meet up, just in case you were there …
We probably should try and meet sometime. I have another friend who wants to get a Bury writers’ group going but she’s just had a baby so I’m not holding my breath! I wondered if you’d pop up at the Christmas Fayre!
Well done! 😊
Thanks, Ali! Did you take part?
No. I’ve never done Nano. I am a very slow writer, and cant move on to a new chapter until I’ve edited and redited! 😂 But I admire those who do!
One reader waiting in the wings! Well done and to fit life in is one thing but cricket too… *whispers* you could be super man. 😇
Congrats Dylan. Sounds like you had a great NaNo. Now off to camp you go in April or July. 😁
Sorry for the monumentally late comment on this, Dylan, I’ve been meaning to get over and congratulate you since you blasted that total word count early in November! Thanks so much for all your encouragement during it too. I second and third all your plus points above. It was a great experience for me this year too and nothing else would have spurred me on.
Congrats on Nanawrimo and great to be on same list as you on Susan Toy’s blog today.