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.