What I’ve Learned from NaNoWriMo

writing, Nanowrimo, experience, recap, lessons, what i learn, writing advice, writing tips, accountability, creative, author, bangles

So this brings us to the conclusion of NaNoWriMo 2016 – and my first ever NaNoWriMo experience.

If you want the week-by-week recap, check out the links below:

NaNoWriMo 2016 Experience: Week One

NaNoWriMo 2016 Experience: Week Two

NaNoWriMo 2016 Experience: Week Three

NaNoWriMo 2016 Experience: Week Four

But overall what did I think of NaNoWriMo? And did I learn anything from it?

Well, quite a few things, actually.

Number 1: I learned that it is possible to write a book in a month’s (or less than a month’s) time. I’ve never before kept an actual count of words written daily and I really surprised myself by just how many words I’ve managed to write in a day (I estimate my average to be around the 1000-2000 mark, give or take a few hundred.) I was also surprised by how quickly I hit the 50k mark when I really put my mind to it. And that brings me to the next thing I learned….

Number 2: NaNoWriMo really brought home to me the importance of showing up to your work everyday. There were so, so many days where I was so tempted to skip writing, to just throw myself on the sofa and read, watch TV or catch up with a friend. But thanks to the public accountability of NaNoWriMo (plus the added accountability of knowing I would be publishing a recap on this blog!), I forced myself to turn on the laptop most days and forced myself to get out at least a few words. Sometimes that would only be a few hundred words and that’s fine, and I’ll go to bed at least still feeling like I’ve accomplished something. Other times, I’d lose myself in my writing and manage to churn out a few thousand words. The point is, if you show up to your work every day, whether or not you feel like it, you will get something done and you’ll get it done a lot faster than you would if you had chosen to skip today. Accountability and showing up to work every day (okay, most days) were two things that were really key in motivating me to get those 50k words down.

Number 3: Don’t worry about being perfect. Writers worry too much about putting down the perfect sentence right from the word go and it’s this fear that keeps them from writing even one word down. Don’t be afraid! Be messy. Be imperfect. Be The Worst Writer in the Universe. At least then you’re a writer, even if you are The Worst Writer in the Universe. But if you don’t write one single word, you can’t be a writer. Think about that.

You can always go back and fix it later. The deal now is to spit those words out, translate those scenes from your head to the page, bring your imagination into the real world. It will be one hot mess, that’s for sure, and you would rather bring a hammer to your laptop than show anyone this disastrous first draft. But you would have at least written something. That is the very first step. And later, you get to experience the fun hell that is editing and honing your manuscript until it shines like a diamond and you feel it’s safe enough now to put that hammer away. For now. I have a love/hate relationship with editing, can you tell? But I’ll talk more about that later. The thing is, having a messy first draft at least gives you something to work with and puts you on that next step closer to getting your novel out…

Number 4: You are going to have some off days. This will be inevitable. Days where you don’t feel like writing anything – and so you don’t. But this will be balanced out with days where you will write like a demon and toast yourself with champagne because you feel like you’re the next Dorothy Sayers. The main thing is not to give up when you’ve had a bad day. It’s just not possible to write all the time. Some days you need to take off, to have a holiday, to give your mind a break, to let those story ideas and drafts and plots simmer and incubate for a little while. To take in new ideas and new experiences that will let you go back to your work refreshed and brimming with new writerly vigour.

Number 5: The most important thing NaNoWriMo taught me? That I can do this. And this is a lesson I am now imparting to you out there who is reading this. Yes, you. You can do this. There is no such thing as impossible. You only need to switch off the Internet right now, bring up your Word Doc and start writing. Because you too are a writer. And you got this.

Now get out there and start writing!


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