Lessons from NaNoWriMo


NaNoWriMo wraps up in two days’ time, and although I realized days ago that I wasn’t going to make it to the winners’ circle, I have also not abandoned the story I was writing. I decided about two days before the start on November 1 that I was going to join in the fun, and pulled a story idea out of the recesses of my mind where it arguably should have remained but nonetheless took it for a spin. With something less than 2 days to go to the bitter end, I am just now approaching 27k words. And yet, I am pleased. I put a fair amount of time into what I did get written, and I learned that, time-permitting, I really can produce a good deal on a daily basis. No more of this “writer’s block” nonsense. The ideas come as I write. When I get really stuck on a scene now I power past it and work on another one percolating on a back burner. And it’s actually fairly cohesive. I may need to double-check names that may have altered since the start, but I kept the timeline fairly clean and logical. The story takes place in the 1930s and 40s mainly, so wrapping it around actual historical events had to be right, or it would need a whole different slant. I think it would be hard to place a story in that time and not have at least brief mention here and there of some of the events of the day. My heroine may not end up exactly where I thought she was going originally, but that’s ok too. Even if this never sees life beyond this rough first draft, I am learning my own voice without wasting time going back and revising every line to death before moving onto the next. And that, after all, was the whole point: To produce a novel, no matter how bad we might think, within thirty days. Well, I learned to turn off the inner editor (mostly…) and get on with the story. It’s not so bad that it’s good (see Atlanta Nights for a real special treat in that vein, and a helluva good laugh) but I don’t think a minute was a waste of time. You can’t improve your writing if you don’t write, so even this will be helpful.

Despite my (almost) last-minute decision to attempt NaNoWriMo, I am very glad I did it, and I will likely do it again next year. It’s way past time I got serious about getting some writing done, and I think this may have given me the kick-start I needed. So a huge “Thank You!” to Chris Baty and all my NaNo buddies, and all the authors – Philip Pullman, Jonathan Stroud, Katherine Paterson, Meg Cabot, Janet Fitch, Gayle Brandeis, Nancy Etchemendy – who took the time to write up a “pep talk” with some absolutely dead-on advice for us participants.

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2 thoughts on “Lessons from NaNoWriMo

  1. It’s so nice to hear what people get out of NaNoWriMo beyond the words. I’m glad to hear that you’ve gotten so much out of it, too. Keep writing! Maybe 50,000 is unlikely at this point, but you can still see how far you can get before Monday. Good luck in your writing pursuits.

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