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What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

In April I took part in National Novel Writing month – a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. If you saw my April Review post last month, you’ll notice that I failed this goal. I only made it to 44,029, unfortunately, but I’m still incredibly proud of myself for getting that far.

When I started the challenge, I thought I’d do it for a few days then just give up. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo once before and that’s exactly what I did. For some reason, as soon as I missed a couple of goals I didn’t see the point anymore. I’m putting it down to the fact that the goal seemed less attainable then. So, basically, I’d give up and pretend that I’d tried. When I hadn’t really “tried” very hard at all.

This time, however, it was different. I’ve wanted to write a novel for years, and this year I was damn well determined to do it. I’d been thinking about the idea for my novel for months, jotting down anything that popped into my head. If written snippets of conversations, bullet points of things that could possibly happen, and information about the characters. I was actually really excited about getting to write it, which I think really helped a lot.

So, with all of that in mind, here’s what I learned from taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo:

You can get a lot done on a bus journey
I wrote the majority of my 44,000 on the journey to and from work. I averaged about 1000 words a day through this alone, which was really great. It just goes to show how much I could do if I utilised this time properly, rather than just getting annoyed at traffic and strangers who like to sit on the edge of my thighs…

You should probably plot a novel before writing it
So, I went into NaNoWriMo with the bullet-pointed list and the basic ideas that I talked about, but I never wrote a full plot. This was mainly because I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to go, but also because I didn’t want to restrict my freedom when writing. However, this made things more difficult. I had to spend ages thinking about where to go with each chapter, how characters would react, and how the plot should progress. It also caused me to give-up on a few chapters partway through, because I didn’t know or didn’t like what was happening.

If you power through the shit days you’ll end up with something
A major problem for me when I’m writing is self-editing. If something doesn’t work instantly I get very annoyed, and it just makes me want to give up. During this challenge, I forced myself to keep going with things, even if they were making me want to set my laptop and my characters on fire. When I re-read what I’d written later on, I realised that it wasn’t actually that bad at all.

There’s always editing
Drafting and redrafting is part of the process. Not everything goes well the first time. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive a car perfectly on the first try, so why should writing a novel be any different?

It’s worth it
When you look back at anything, whether a novel that you’ve written or a cake you’ve laboured over, it’s amazing to see the results. I have 44,000 words that I loved writing, and I can’t wait to continue. If you want to do something, do it. It’s better to regret doing it than not try at all. (But I definitely DON’T regret this!)

In July, I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo again. I’ll be rewriting the same novel, from the beginning, but this time with a real plot. I’m ridiculously excited about this. By the end of this year, I WILL have written a full novel, no matter what my procrastinating brain wants to do.

9 thoughts on “What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

  1. Wow, 44,029 is still really good! You go, girl 😀 I don’t think I ever made it that far when I did it – it is incredibly hard, thinking about it.

    I agree about plotting a novel. When I did NaNoWriMo, I just dove straight in and I think that’s where I went wrong because I got to a point in my story where I was like, “Uhhhh… and where do we go from here?”

    You’ve inspired me to take part in this, again! I really would love to write a full novel, too 😀

  2. You did awesome, Amy! I think that is a good feat considering previous times you ‘failed’. I think you have made a huge achievement.

    I personally love writing and usually get 800-1000 words per blog post – scary when you think about all the blog posts I have written over the years – but writing a novel is a challenge. I have tried time and time again and the only novel I completed was about 18,000 words, which I wanted to enter into a competition, so I had to cut it down to 10,000 or less. It was actually really, really difficult, but it taught me to always go back over my work and know that there are sometimes lots you can take out. Sometimes we tend to waffle, and getting to the point can have a better effect on the reader compared to adding too much description.

    The next time I tried to write a novel, I was very serious about publishing it and I had a plot in mind. I had the beginning and the end, but I couldn’t make it out to be the length of a novel, unfortunately. I didn’t have enough complication in the body of my novel to pull it together and I gave up. I am sure if I revisited the novel I would do a lot better and improve it… but I also can’t remember where I’ve put my file with all those words. I can’t remember how many words it was, but I was aiming for 100,000 because that is a standard 120 page novel (or something like that), and I was far from that.

    You might have just urged me to take a look at that again 😛

  3. Even though you didn’t make it to 50,000 words, 44,029 is still impressive! Keep on pushing yourself and don’t give up :). It’s a good practice and you’ll surpass that goal some day :).

    A lot can definitely be done while you’re in a transit of some sort. I found myself doing a lot during plane rides or shuttle rides! It’s definitely helpful to jot down ideas beforehand. I do that for writing blogs because trying to come up with one on the spot = not good at all. Keep it up!

  4. That’s fine if you didn’t write it entirely, but it’s the trying that helps you get better as a writer. I know, it took me a very long time to get better and better with word phrasing and I still have a long way to go.

  5. 44,029 is a lot! You should totally be proud! Even if you didn’t reach your goal, it looks like you had some good take-aways and will be more prepared for next time. Oh, and I’m the same way when something doesn’t work out instantly. It makes me want to stop and do something else, but I’m glad you pushed through it and kept going 🙂

    That’s exciting that you’ll be doing it again in July. Good luck!

  6. 44K is such an amazing achievement so you should definitely be proud! I’ve never tried it but I imagine I’d find it pretty hard. The best part is that you genuinely enjoyed it. Good luck for July!

  7. 44,029?! That’s AMAZING. Seriously, I wouldn’t call that failure at all. Well done, I’m so proud that you got that far!

    I definitely agree with all the points you made there! I remember when I was revising for exams, I revised a lot on the bus and was surprised by how much I got done (writing stuff out wise!) I think editing and redrafting is very important in any process really, including blog posts too! 🙂

  8. Oh my gosh! 44,029 is an amazing achievement! I think its brilliant you also learnt so much from the month too, and that you can use all this when you do it again in July. Bus journeys are so productive =p I live within 15 minutes of pretty much everywhere I need to be now, I really miss that hour or so of productivity! Will you share what you’ve written?

  9. Wow, that is amazing! You have way more drive than me. I use to have good writing drive back when I was working a different job.Of course all my stuff was just fan fiction. 🙂 I wish you luck on getting a novel done. So awesome!

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