More Lessons from NANOWRIMO

by RS on November 18, 2010

There’s been some controversy across writers’ blogs concerning the positive merits of NANOWRIMO.  Some writers feel that to proclaim a month to write a novel is just plain silly, and  it boils down to a thirty day race of word dumping and nothing of value. While others feel that  the notion of getting that story down is a worthwhile incentive.

I’m a little betwixt. I was actually very much in favor when I started, excited by the prospect of getting The Wilde Solution down then revising it. Now, though, I’m whistling another tune. The last 2,000 words I managed to get down were trayf, and I fear that the next 15,000 won’t be any better. I feel as if I’m writing an even shittier first draft, without any thought or notion what my characters are doing and I’m not caring what happens to them. That’s a bad sign. A very bad sign.  This might just be a case of burnout between NANO and writing for HAND/EYE it’s been non-stop, and writing anything at all–even a simple email or a Facebook update  (not to mention this post) has been excruciating.

So here are the lessons learned point-by-point.

  • If you have a story mulling around in your head, you don’t need NANOWRIMO as an excuse to sit down and write it. Just do it!
  • Don’t give yourself a ridiculous deadline to complete a novel in a month, especially if you don’t have a clear concept of the story.
  • Take the time to outline it, summarize it, or whatever works for you before you commit the time and energy to writing that first sentence.
  • Pace yourself, but work on your novel daily.
  • Give yourself a reasonable word limit to reach every day, but also consider research you might want to do, as well as some revising (maybe give yourself 15 minutes to make some minor changes, but don’t get so stuck on revising that you don’t move forward).
  • Don’t forget to read. It’s great for relaxation and recharging your mental batteries, but you can also learn from other writers.
  • The first draft will probably be crap, but you’ll also have some good stuff with salvaging.
  • Write for the reader in you. What are your expectations and does your story satisfy them?

If you’ve been participating this month in NANOWRIMO, leave a comment and let me know what lessons you’ve learned.

4 comments
Gary
Gary

Enjoyed your post. I've participated in NaNo five times now, completing in '04 and will complete this year. I wrote an extensive post on observations, insights, conclusions from my '04 experience here: http://www.inkmuse.com/blog/writing/2004/12/02/oic-4-nanowrimo.php Too long to copy bits into this comment.

Over the years I've run at NaNo with different approaches, but after the first year's novel (which was trash, and yes, which will never be read by anyone else), I challenged myself to stay with it only if the writing was decent. Decent in terms of what goes into a rough draft, which is really what comes out the NaNo experience. I would not even call it a first draft, although technical it may be the first, there are holes in the plot, character actions, etc., worthy of the best swiss cheese.

One year the story just fizzled out around 10K, another year, the year I prepared with some research, outline, etc., I could not keep the internal editor gagged long enough make it past the first three chapters. This year, my best effort, started out with literally a two sentence paragraph concept and just ran with it. The characters are pulling me along, the plots are unraveling well (at least it seems to me, but within the NaNo month I question my judgement at times), in whole it's working well. Only at 35K, but feels like the momentum won't sag and I'll end up with something workable.

What I have discovered is the momentum the NaNo experiment creates in my writing, which is usually absent the rest of the year, sans the writing I do in my day job. As the month comes to a close, the trick is, as it is each year I participate, to maintain the momentum going forward beyond NaNo. As you noted, if you have a good idea for a novel story, do it...don't wait until November to grind it out.

Cheers,
Gary

Myra
Myra

Hi Rebeca,

I'm writing a novel this month. It's my first, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't
have attempted it for a long time if it hadn't been for NaNoWriMo.

I'm noticing lots of things I've done wrong- especially in terms of chronology,
but I'm thinking of it as an amazing opportunity to learn. You do lots more
writing than me, and I'm retired- that means I have all the time in the world
if I can just make myself use it to write.

But you don't have anything to prove to yourself, and if it's making you crazy...

I'll be interested in the decision you make.

Cheers,

Myra

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