Saturday, December 3, 2016

Looking Back on National Novel Writing Month

This year, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I wasn't going to, but one of my friends and I decided to participate together. I've done NaNoWriMo before, and I remember those years as being fairly easy--I was able to jump in and write 50,000 words without too much trouble.  Things were much different this year. For one, I decided to take NaNoWriMo more seriously than I had in the past. This meant that I had an outline for my story, which is something I usually don't do. Before, when I've tried outlining novels before writing them, I've either never finished the outline, or I haven't followed it when writing. The novel I had been working on was a complete mess, though, so I decided to start over for NaNoWriMo, which meant: an outline.

The outline worked out much better than I thought it would. For the first time, I actually followed what I had written in the outline. It made the writing process a tiny bit easier. That being said, I struggled more with NaNoWriMo this year than I had in past years. Part of it was finding motivation, but fortunately, my friend is an amazing writing partner, and she did a great job holding me accountable. We texted each other every day just to check in to see how things were going.

Some days were better than others. It didn't take too long for me to fall behind on daily word counts. Even when I did catch up, I'd fall behind again the next day. I also discovered that despite my outline, I was writing scenes in my novel that weren't in the outline. It worked, though, because the scenes fit in with the story, and I was still able to follow the outline. I also discovered as I wrote that some things in my outline needed to be moved around, which I did during the writing process.

If you're thinking about trying to do NaNoWriMo next year, here are some things I've learned this year.

Have a support system.

Writing is often a solitary activity, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a support system. This can be in the form of having a writing partner (or partners), or just letting your friends and family know that you're going to write a book in one month, and you need their support and encouragement. For me, having a writing partner was the best support system, as she held me accountable, kept me motivated, and was able to share in my excitement and frustration throughout the month.

Know your writing process.

Everyone has a different writing process. If you need an outline, have one prepared before November 1, that way you're not scrambling to outline when you should be writing. If you prefer not to have an outline, still know the basics of your story--what the main conflict is, who your characters are--before you start writing.

Also, know what time of day is best for you to write. For some people, it's in the morning. For some, it might be the middle of the day, or during your lunch hour. For some people, it's at night. A lot of writing advice will tell you to get up early to write, and you should--if that's what works best for you. Don't fight your natural body clock--write when you know you'll be the most focused on it.

Check in with NaNoWriMo's two Twitter accounts, @NaNoWriMo and @NaNoWordSprints.

The first account is great because writing coaches are there to answer your questions. The second account is great because you can participate in virtual writing sprints, with prompts. Either way, it's fun to participate online and be connected with other people who are participating in NaNoWriMo.

Have fun!

This is probably the best piece of advice I can give if you're going to participate in NaNoWriMo. Yes, writing 50,000 words in 30 days can be stressful, but don't forget that the process is supposed to be fun. Don't worry about having a perfect first draft. Let things get messy. At this point, you're writing for you, not for an audience, so make sure you enjoy it.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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