Nanowrimo Lessons: 2014 Edition

I “won” at Nano again this year. 50,062 glorious and absolutely dreadful words to build on and polish into something worth reading over the next year. Like many others I currently have a love/hate relationship with my manuscript, Keeper of Shadows, but I will keep working at it until there is more love than hate. That’s the plan anyway.

This year things were different. I didn’t waste the full first half of the month and then sprint my way towards the finish like last year. This year I created a plan, stuck to it, and even finished a few days early. So what did I learn during this year’s process?

It’s all in how you say it: Last year I had daily word goals, and considering I wrote most of my novel in the last half of the month these goals were like mini Everests. The other problem was that my weekends were completely unproductive because I was just too busy with things I couldn’t control. Any words I didn’t finish then got added to my weekday goals. Honestly, it hurt and I constantly felt like I was failing.

This year I changed my approach. I set a 2500 word goal for all the weekdays in November, so instead of my pathetic weekend writing increasing my daily word count, it went towards decreasing my word count. In the end it was the same amount of words, but the change in focus from being behind all the time was a lot more encouraging than I thought. Make sure you create goals that work for you and work to motivate, not de-motivate, you. Don’t set yourself up to fail, because you probably will.

All the small things: Like any writer I had some days where creativity was as probable as a litter of purple polka-dotted baby dragons showing up on my doorstep through Fed Ex. On one of these particular days I read one of Chuck Wendig’s writers write manifestos on his blog Terrible Minds (if you don’t mind swearing I highly recommend this site). Grumbling, I opened my laptop and forced myself to write just a little bit – like 150 words. A few hours later, still grumbling, I did the same thing. And again. By the end of the day I had actually surpassed my daily word count. All those little pieces added up and didn’t involve me staring at my screen for an hour and bashing my forehead against the keys trying to unlock some deep subconscious creative wisdom.

A special kind of crazy: This year I was very vocal about my participation in Nanowrimo. Last year I locked this part of my life away in a scary basement where I would visit and feel dirty and sensitive to light when I resurfaced. This year, I didn’t care who knew. I am a writer and that what writers do. Interacting with the “real” world about what I was doing, did make one thing clear. Writers are a special kind of crazy. They don’t just pick up a pen because they’re bored and feel like it’s something to do. It’s something inside that begs to be let out. Writers are storytellers, dreamers, the kids who lied to their parents because they could. Writers are insane to do what we do, but I couldn’t picture my life without it.

For everyone else who passed the 50,000 threshold – congratulations! For those who didn’t, don’t worry about it at least you wrote something, which is more than a lot of other people can say. 

Did anyone else learn any valuable Nano lessons this year?



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