I did it.
I lost. I lost NaNoWriMo.
I’ve had a few weeks since the challenge of writing 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month ended on November 30th to think about it, and for my first NaNo experience I’m very happy to be a loser.
Yes, you read that right. Why would you be happy about not reaching your goal, you say?
My goal was to write 50,000 words and be a NaNoWriMo winner. I didn’t make it. But here’s what I did do:
- I’ve proven that I can write many more words on a daily basis than I thought I could. Before NaNo, 500 words at a sitting was a lot for me, at least psychologically. I’ve stretched my writing muscles and found that they are getting more limber and strong by the day. 1500 words at a sitting is easy for me now, and I will challenge myself to stretch farther. Word count is just a number, and can only stop me if I let it.
- I realized having an outline made all the difference for me to stay on task and finish. Yes, I finished! I didn’t make 50,000, but my 33,000 words plus what I had already written before NaNo, and two chapters written after let me finish the first draft of my novella. But I wouldn’t have known where the story was going and when I reached the end without a good outline. I’ve faced the fact I’m just not one of those creative pantsers, I get too easily distracted. But that’s okay. Outlines work for me, help me stay on task as well as discover new ideas along the way. I will continue to work with them in future stories.
- I linked arms with friends with the same goals and that went a long way in keeping me accountable and motivated. I made several new writing friends during NaNoWriMo through the NaNo hashtags on Twitter and the NaNo website. It was fun to encourage one another, share frustrations, and challenge each other to word sprints. I realize I can’t always have my writing peeps there to pull me through every rough writing patch, but it affirmed the importance of having friends who can relate to the ups and downs of the writing journey.
How can I take my new-found revelations into 2014 and make NaNoWriMo work for me beyond November? Here’s my plan:
- Treat my writing like an exercise program. Write daily and write with a word count goal in mind. If I can’t write for a day, get back to it the next day. Can’t stay ‘in shape’ if you don’t work out.
- Take the time to outline my story ideas. I don’t always have to follow the outline step by step, but it will keep me on track during those times when I’m feeling less than creative.
- Make a concerted effort to connect with like-minded writers on a regular basis, both in person and in social media. It’s too easy for me (and my natural preference) to hide away in my introvert cocoon, keeping to myself. I won’t be sharing all the gory details of my latest projects (I think that can be dangerous to your project’s integrity, just my personal opinion) but I can connect with others to encourage and be encouraged. I always find inspiration to buckle down and keep going after commiserating with fellow writers.
- Plan several writing mini-marathons throughout the year. Planning an entire day for nothing but writing, with a word count goal in mind, will help keep the marathon writing aspects of NaNo going.
- Break it down into mini-mini marathons with word sprints at least once a week. There’s nothing like having a timer in front of you to make you fill that white screen or piece of paper with words.
- Track my progress. I need to get back to basics and start tracking when I write and how much each day, so I can truly progress. I’ll be doing it ‘old school’ with a pocket calendar, which I was doing before, but had slacked off. Again, just like an exercise program, if you don’t keep track of your stats, you don’t know whether you’re improving, and when you need to ‘add weight’ to push past a plateau.
Need some more inspiration to take NaNoWriMo with you throughout the year? Check out these blog posts: