Lessons from a NaNoWriMo Newbie

I’ve recently come out the other side of National Novel Writing Month, as a winner. Winning means only that I’ve written (or more factually typed) 50,000+ words. It was my first time participating in NaNoWriMo. It was also my first time ever writing a novel. It was an experience I won’t soon forget and I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.

Lesson #1: There is always time to write.

I was one of those “I’ll write my book when I have time,” people. I know there are many of us out there. We always felt that there would never be enough time to sit down and write. Well, it’s an excuse that I broke past. And found that I had enough time, but I was using it to choose to do other things – albeit important things – but still, choosing. to. do. other. things.

Lesson #2: I enjoy the writing process.

I started out with a plot, and characters and a few ideas of scenes I wanted to write. And then I started writing. And out went the plot, and the few ideas of scenes I had. I started to follow the character’s lead. And letting the words flow. And voila, just like that, I’ve got 50,000 words. Shocker.

Lesson #3: Plotting is my friend.

One day, I was sitting down to write and I found I couldn’t think of where to go next. None of the ideas that popped into my head were very good, and while I usually would have just gone with it, it didn’t seem right to do so. So I sat there and for the whole hour I had to write, I found myself plotting instead. Coming up with more scenes, and more characters. Then the next day, I wrote the most words I’ve ever written in an hour.

Lesson #4: I feel rewarded when I’m writing.

You know how some days you feel like nothing got accomplished. You feel frustrated, because nothing really progressed at all, maybe you even felt like you were going backwards. Well, each and every day this past November, I didn’t feel like that at all. I felt like I was accomplishing something and that it mattered that I was doing this. It felt like a part of me (that I’ve been suppressing) was finally coming to life. It felt amazing.

Lesson #5: I’ve learned this challenge is do-able.

November is always one of the busiest months for me and my family. Besides Thanksgiving, both my husband’s and now my son’s birthday’s are in November. I thought that I would never be able to do it because it was always going to be a busy, busy month. Then somewhere near the end of October I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So I signed up. And I finished. To my own surprise. But I’ve learned that it’s actually do-able. You just need to plan your time accordingly.

Lesson #6: I’ve learned to tell my inner editor to shut up.

There were several times, especially near the beginning when I’d write something and then be like, “Ugh, that’s awful let me rewrite that.” And I’d respond to my inner editor with a “Who cares? It’s all about the word count. Editing is for December.” And to my pleasant surprise, after a few days of this, my editor disappeared. Sure, he/she reappeared whenever I had days I struggled with where to go next, but he/she quieted down most quickly whenever I’d pipe up and say, “Go away.”

Lesson #7: I’ve learned that at the end, it’s almost anti-climatic.

When it was all over, I bought the t-shirt. And then I went back to life. I picked up my iPad, played a few games and made dinner. So anti-climatic. But I had to digest it all. Digest what I’d done. And I’m still digesting.

Lesson #8: I’ve learned to write a really shitty first draft.

“Keep getting the words down. It doesn’t matter how good they are, or how bad they are. Get the words down. Edit later.” This was my mantra. I may have a steaming pile of poo on my hands. But at least I’ve got something. Something that could possibly be re-worked into something good. Or not. But I’ve got a really shitty first draft. I keep telling myself that so that when I go to edit, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Lesson #9: I’ve learned community is really important.

Community. I never thought I’d be able to participate in community while writing a novel and all the other things going on in November. But I did. And it was great. Helpful? Most definitely. Encouraging? Absolutely. And I didn’t even go to any of the write-ins in my town. (Though I wanted to.) Emails and twitter I heard nothing but encouragement. I heard about stories I’ll probably never get to read, though I want to. And I had a great time meeting these friends.

Lesson #10: I’ve learned I want to do this again. And again.

Oh yes, I’m signing up and doing this again. In fact, I might even try it on my own in January. See if I have a second novel in me. After all, my first one is still a steaming pile of poo. Maybe the second one will help me move past the first. Or at least give me time to focus on something else while the other one percolates.

and Bonus Lesson #11: I cannot wait to begin editing.

I. cannot. stop. thinking. about. my. damn. novel. Some say this means it’s time to edit. But I think I’m going to give it at least the month of December if not January too. I think it needs to rest. But it is a good thing that I cannot stop thinking about it. I want to edit it. Even if I never publish it (remember I still think it’s a steaming pile of poo). But I’m hoping, that maybe, just maybe when I look back at it, I can find something good in there. And maybe just maybe I’m hoping that I’ll be able to rework it into something that someone might one day want to read. And that’s why I write in the first place.

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One Response to Lessons from a NaNoWriMo Newbie

  1. Linda J. Laprade says:

    Congratulations. You have made it over the first and probably the toughest hurdle! Good for you!

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