What I Learned from Nanowrimo

I’m doing Nanowrimo again this year. Although I “won” last year it wasn’t without difficulty. I admit that I only had 8000 words on the 17th of November and I quit 3 times during the month, twice in one day alone, but at 3pm November 30th I uploaded my 50,117 word manuscript for confirmation.  It was tough, but I learned a lot about writing and about myself as a writer.


There is always time to write: During November of last year I was working my full time and then some day job, a part time job that consumed another 20-30 hours per week, had two hockey tournaments and had to devote time to trivial things like eating, sleeping, and showering.  I also wrote 50,117 words. I’m not a very fast writer. Sometimes I get on a roll, but I didn’t pound out those word gems over 3 days, it took time. A lot of time. But even though I was extremely busy, I found that time. I got into a routine and I made writing a priority. So in July when I think that I don’t have time to write, I do. No excuses.


When to cut and run: If you have done any studying on writing craft I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to “arrive late and leave early” when writing a scene or to “not write what readers skip”. I’ve tried, I really have, but Nano was the best teacher for this concept. When you have a limited amount of time you write what you feel and what drives you. There is no time to smooth out a nice transition or worse add another Tolkien-esque walking scene. During Nano I wrote pages of dialogue with no action, action with no dialogue, and great snippets of plot treasures that popped into my head. After November I needed to beef up these scenes, but in most cases I didn’t need to add transitions. Had I taken my time to write the first draft I know I would have dragged these scenes out, which was something they didn’t need.


Developing a routine: I write more during the week than on weekends. I write better in mid afternoon than any other time of day. Although I had been writing for years prior to 2013, the short time frame showed me some truths about what kind of writer I am. This year, I have actually created my Nano word count goals based on the weekdays in November instead of the entire month, with weekends being bonus words. Now if I can just get my life to stop at about 2 pm so I can have uninterrupted writing time, things would be perfect.


Fast drafting keeps voice consistent: Any writer can tell you that their characters get in their head. They live and breathe even when you aren’t writing, so when it comes time to put fingers to keyboard your characters can come alive on the page. When you are writing regularly, the voice of your characters stays consistent because you are visiting with them more often. My first novel was written over a long period of time and I found that the voice of my character changed every time I picked up my laptop. When fast drafting for Nano my characters sounded more like themselves from beginning to end.


I know there are mixed opinions on the value of Nanowrimo due to speed of production and focus on word counts instead of quality, but it has been a great experience for me. I might not have an award-winning novel on December 1st, but I will have a less lumpy piece of clay to mold into something beautiful.


For all your Nano’s out there, best of luck. If you are interested, my screen name for Nano is RookiePen. See you all in December!


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