Realise your dreams, True Stories, Writing

What I learned through NaNoWriMo

November is NaNoWriMo – the (inter)National Novel Writing Month.

Last year I participated for the first time in NaNoWriMo. What I learned during those 30 days had not only impact on quality and quantity of my writing (fiction and non-fiction), but also changed my approach to writing – and other life areas as well πŸ™‚

I wrote this list of “What I learned through NaNoWriMo” beginning of December 2010. When I reviewed it today for this post, I was surprised at how complete – and still valid – it was. I have not altered my last year’s statements, only grouped them.

Perfectionism vs. flexibility – dealing with obstacles

  • how to plod on even when I didn’t know where I was going or how to get there
  • apart fom finding and using small bits of time I also realized that “having to make” time for something as opposed to “having” the time to do it – makes it much more likely that I use the “made” time for the task I made it for, instead of procrastinating or doing something else – I value the time, because I made it valuable by limiting it
  • my worst enemies are my own doubts – can I write 2500 word in one day if necessary? Yes, I can. They may be crap – but that’s for revision to fix πŸ˜‰
  • not to be overwhelmed by (or back off) a difficult, confusing or giant long-term goal, but to break it into achievable bits (okay, I knew and made use of that one, but I tended to avoid the real biggies)

Focussing on results WHILE enjoying the process

  • setting quantified goals = results instead of how much time I spent on it, but I do combine it with short sprints of max 25 minutes
  • I discovered many time saving techniques I can also apply in other areas, for instance not procrastinating with details while still in the draft stage
  • It’s about finishing this one step: the draft = getting the story down. If there’s no story, just ideas, what am I going to base my revision on?

My own writing preferences

  • although I type a lot faster than I write (legibly) by hand, the result with paper and pen is better and quicker in the end, as I’m not tempted to correct – and the story flows better
  • I discovered my average draft writing speed and rhythm, one I feel comfortable with at long distance – which helps me also to plan more realistically (I was surprised that when doing short sprintsΒ  I can hand-write 250-300 words in ten minutes – I focus on “writing” instead of “thinking”)
  • I found out how long I can concentrate on focused writing, and learned to recognize AND respect the signs telling me it’s better to have many breaks (as long as I’m eager to go on) rather than risk mental exhaustion and lose time during recovery
  • looking forward to revision instead of dreading it as a boring task

Switching on and off as desired

I usually don’t have problems with focus and concentration as long as I enjoy what I’m doing πŸ˜‰ but for some aspects NaNoWriMo helped me to find better solutions – with benefits spreading into other life areas as well:

  • how to switch off when I’m full of enthusiasm – and still not lose momentum
  • how to get going at a time when it’s “inconvenient”, that is when I’m tired, have “something better” to do, “don’t feel like it”
  • how to get started again, especially with complex or ongoing projects, or when I hit an obstacle and get stuck
  • how to switch instantly into writing mode AND how to switch off (took me a couple of weeks, though, to learn it)
  • how to use small time spans of 10 or 15 min (“oh, I still got 10 min” instead of “10 min is not worth starting”)

Even if you never thought of writing a novel, NaNoWriMo is an experience worth having πŸ™‚

No idea what to write? On the site you can even find titles to choose from, or adopt a plot – so, no excuses πŸ˜‰

All you need to do to participate is to sign up.Β  (And perhaps inform your immediate social environment that you might not be quite your usual self for the next four weeks…)

Link to the blog:Β  The Office of Letters and Light

Stay tuned for my long list of tips on how to survive NaNoWriMo 2011 healthy and sane πŸ˜‰


19 thoughts on “What I learned through NaNoWriMo”

  1. I’m currently preparing myself for NaNoWrimo this year. I’ll be using my second draft this year for my YA urban fantasy novel that I plan on publishing. I’ve never particapated in previous years, but earlier this year I did submit my script for the script frenzy and I completed it. So here’s hoping that I will be able to completed everything by the end of November. That feeling of accomplishment once everything is over with is a good feeling. πŸ™‚

    1. It’s a GREAT feeling to be able to say “I did it, I made it all the way through!” πŸ˜€ And it’s also a great memory in rough times, to know that you can accomplish something you might not have believed possible.

      Congratulations on making it through Script Frenzy – and *thumbs up* for NaNoWriMo πŸ™‚

  2. Excellent suggestions. I’ve done NanoWrimo for 2 years and earned my lovely certificates for completing my 50,000 word books both years. This is the first time I am skipping the process. Between Daily Post and other offline writing, I won’t have the time. Enjoy the process and here’s kudos to all the participants! πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Eliz πŸ™‚ This year I don’t have time either, nor can I “make” enough for 50k. But I might just be able to get to 25k. How about you, how much fiction would be feasible for you?

  3. I’ve been NaNo writing since 2005, and each time I’ve learned something – win, lose or draw. A wise friend of mine said, “Hey, if you only hit 15,000 words, that’s more than you had when you started.” NaNo helped me learn to tell my inner critic/editor to get lost until I was done. That was of the most benefit to me. Best of luck on your endeavor! (And I am SO impressed that you do this with pen and paper!)

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth, and good luck to you too πŸ™‚

      I had to relearn, sort of, how to write “seriously” with pen and paper when my laptop broke down a couple of years ago and left me without any computer for almost four months…nothing impressive, really.

      It happened to be one of those “problems turned opportunities” – my writing flows better, ideas surprise me by suddenly turning up on the page, and slow writing speed is more than made up for by instant editing being so much more difficult than when typing πŸ˜‰

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