Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo

So far, I've written over eight thousand words of my NaNoWriMo novel.  Twice I stopped to edit.

I know the core idea for NaNoWriMo is to write without allowing yourself to go into editing mode.  I think that is a super good thing for writers to do - if they are people who normally self-edit while writing and need some freedom from the internal editor.

But the thing is, I'm not one of those people.  I let the words spill out of me as fast as I can type.  I don't edit while I'm writing.  I allow myself to write crap if crap is the best I can do - but only to a point....

I need a breakpoint, several breakpoints along the way, where I stop and edit what I've written so far.  Ideally, I like to do this self-check after a handful of chapters.  Then I can move on with confidence while getting myself back into the mindset of the story.  For me, it makes for better writing.

And for me, the point of writing is to write well, not to write voluminously.

So the first thing I've learned after a week of NaNo-ing is this:

1.  I need to do what works for me. 

I need to write a few chapters without editing, edit them, and then write some more.  I need to do this whenever I feel the need.  I need to stay on the path of my novel, not by continuously writing, but by stopping every now again to check to make sure the ground is solid and I'm on course.

The second thing I learned is about failure.  I've spent my life being a bit of a perfectionist and being very hard on myself (and possibly those around me - sorry about that if you are one of them).  Any kind of failure, even a perceived failure or the threat of failure, usually makes me feel very uncomfortable.  I avoid it at any costs. 

A fact I know is true:  I will fail at finishing my NaNo novel before the end of November.

But, honestly, what I've accomplished so far this month on my novel feels like complete success.  It feels fantastic.  And it's only been a week.  I'm elated not just because I love what I've written, but I'm finally free of my fear of failure (for today at least).

2.  Success is carrying on with the knowledge I can't finish on time.

I am back in writing mode and am suddenly now able to write on a much more flexible schedule than normal - morning, afternoon, evening, late night - whatever time I have.  That is huge.

For those of you power-writing this month, I hope it's going as well for you.  And I hope you are feeling a sense of success no matter how far along you are. 


  1. I did a little editing last year and still accomplished my goal. You have to do what works for you. And even attempting NaNo is a success.

  2. Very good point! I recently stopped my goal to get to 50k within the first week. First, because the book I was working on wasn't fully thought out and I wasn't too attached to it. Second, because I had several other short stories that I really wanted to finish. So I'm writing, just not power-writing. And to me, that's the best of all! (it's like changing my eating habits overall compared to going on a flash diet.) :)

  3. Do what works for you. A major departure from our usual can be too tough.

    I'm like you. I've been slowly practicing finishing a first draft before going back & making it prettier.

    I find it depends on the piece. If it's a total mess, I have to go back before I can move forward.

    The point is to do whatever keeps you moving forward.

  4. Sounds like you've learned some important lessons. There's so much info out there about writing a novel, but ultimately you have to find out what works for you (although it's always good to try different methods in case they also work for you).

  5. Alex - That's very encouraging. I think if I hadn't taken several days off, I could too. It does feel like success.

    Nicole - Yes, lifestyle change with more writing. :) Writing is one of my happy things, so I need to keep it positive too. Good luck!

    M Pax - Yeah, I can't imagine continuing on with something that seems like a mess or even just flat. It seems like a waste of time to me.

    Lynda - I agree, it's good to try different things - for me, that helps me figure out what works for me the most.

  6. This is so wise.

    I'm not doing Nano this year because, for me, I just can't write something good in that short amount of time. I had to scrap my work from last year--at least it was excellent practice though and I learned to outline :0)