Janet Sumner Johnson
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What I learned from NaNoWriMo

Dec 02, 2013 Uncategorized 8 comments

So NaNoWriMo is finished and amazingly, I won! I finished
with 50,176 words written by Nov. 29th.

I first heard of this event about six years ago when a
critique partner of mine told me about it. I’ll admit, I thought the whole
thing was nuts! Why would anybody kill themselves to write 50K words in 30
days, in the month of November no less? Thanksgiving alone makes the idea
insane (and I also happen to have my anniversary this month, too).

But when I found myself with a novel all outlined and my
last WIP scheduled to be to my agent by the end of October, I decided to give
it a shot. Worse case scenario, I simply wouldn’t win. So why not give it a go?

As it turns out, NaNoWriMo was very educational. I learned
all kinds of things, which I’m forcing on sharing with you:

I write better in the morning. I’m sure
everyone is different, but when I found the time to do it first thing, it was
always easier. The words came faster and better, I wasn’t as distracted, and I could
enjoy the rest of my day
, guilt free.

Having a more detailed outline really helped.
I hit this point where I knew I had outlined, but apparently I hadn’t written
it down, or perhaps I’d written it on some scrap that I couldn’t find. Point
is, the writing slowed down enough that I stopped for a day to outline. Things
went much smoother after that. (Did I ever stray from the outline? Absolutely.
But I could just adjust it as needed.)

Leaving myself a note at the end of the manuscript
when I finished writing for the day saved SO MUCH time
! I’d simply put a
note in brackets to remind myself what I planned to have happen next. I didn’t
have to search my outline to remember where I was. I didn’t have to reread
everything I’d written the day before. And as a bonus, it plopped me right into
the mood of the story. The days I forgot to do this, I really regretted it.

I can write more than I think I can.
There were a few days on my schedule that were so packed full of things I
needed to do, I was certain that I couldn’t do any writing. Amazingly, when I
organized my time, scheduled it all—including writing time—it somehow all fit.
I had to be diligent. I had to avoid Facebook and Twitter. But it WAS POSSIBLE.

Pushing through the void helped me find my voice.
When I started, I just couldn’t find the voice. It was awful, the writing was
awful, but I knew I couldn’t afford to wait for my muse or I wouldn’t meet my
goal. As it turns out, pushing through helped me find it. Will I have a ton to
revise? YES! But I always do. Even when I have the voice from the beginning.
Forcing yourself to write ugly words can lead you to the better ones.

Despite my qualms with this whole event, I am now I convert.
I learned so much about me and how I write. After 30 days of this boot-camp, I
feel like a better writer. Admittedly, I’m not promising to participate next
year, BUT . . . I plan to use this writing method to write the first draft of
my next book (which I plan to do much sooner than November).

So how about the rest of you? Did you participate in
NaNoWriMo? If yes, what did you learn? If no, think you’ll ever try it?

8 Responses to “What I learned from NaNoWriMo”

  1. Old Kitty says:

    Huge congratulations!!! And you finished a day early too!! Well done you!!

    I totally see about having an outline first! When I did this last year (year before? I can't remember! LOL!) I just went for it and the result continues to be a horrid, horrid mess! LOL! Take care

  2. That's awesome! Congrats! I did not win, but I would do it again–especially after reading your post now! LOL

  3. Woo-hoo! Congrats to you, Janet! That is awesome! I did NaNoWriMo once a couple years ago, but got derailed by the Thanksgiving holiday school vacation… One of these days I'll try it again, but for now I'm sticking with PiBoIdMo 🙂

  4. Andrea says:

    Congrats! I finished up on the 26th so we could leave for out of town…not sure what I wrote that night, but am fairly certain it was not the finest. Hopefully there is a good idea or two in there! Enjoy the reviewing!

  5. Kimberly says:

    That is so cool that you tried it out and learned so much. I always think the way you thought about taking time out of November to write a novel. I also have an anniversary in Nov. and with Thanksgiving being my fav holiday, the whole thing seems impossible. 🙂

  6. CONGRATS on completing NaNo!

  7. MikeS says:

    This confirms it. You are crazy.

  8. Marcia says:

    I'm glad it worked so well for you! I did July's version, and I'm really not cut out for NaNo, I don't think.

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