We are coming into the end of November, and the end of November Novel Writing Month, or National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. The concept of NaNoWriMo is simple, write 50 thousand words on a fiction piece in 30 days, or 1667 words per day for the month. The goal, besides having a rough draft of a novel finished, is to help develop the habit of writing daily.
Lesson One: The Benefits of Daily Writing
The first, and most obvious, lesson from NaNoWriMo is seeing the benefits of writing on a project daily. Working at the speed of this month, it is difficult to forget or mix up details, and the habit of daily writing on that project helps smooth out the inevitable missteps and plot threads that tend to work themselves into a novel.
One thing that I have found is that, some days it is a challenge to meet the NaNo goal, and other days I breeze past it with ease. Usually depending on the type of scene I am writing and how sure I am of where the story is going. Of course, the fastest writing usually ends up happening when I have a fast plot-point or end up with an unexpected plot twist. And I love it.
The biggest benefit I find, from writing daily, is that it only takes re-reading one or two paragraphs to get my head back where the story is going. Of course, some days I do not write at all (Saturday), but I usually write a bit extra on Friday and a bit extra on Sunday to make up for that.
Lesson Two: The Importance of “First Things First”
For this month, NaNo has been the first writing project I pick up each morning. Writing with a fresh mind, and eager fingers has made it easier than ever to reach the November goals. Last year in November, I would leave my NaNo project until the last thing every evening. This was a huge mistake. My brain was tired, I could not focus, and I ended up having to take the final two days of November and sprint it out to actually make the word-count. This year, I resolved not to repeat that mistake, and instead started doing the creative writing as my first project every morning.
I have found that, writing with my morning coffee in hand, makes for a surprisingly productive writing time. It also means I am not thinking and worrying about the word-count during the rest of the day, because it is done and finished with.
I am happy with the result, over 64 thousand words, that has been achieved with cultivating the habit of a morning writing session for this month.
Lesson Three: Creative vs. Prose
One thing I also learned this year is that my brain works differently on creative writing as opposed to non-fiction writing. I can only reach a maximum of 7,000 fiction words in a day before my fiction well is dry, and the next day I will struggle to reach 2 or 3 thousand. However, even when I have written that much fiction writing, I can often add another thousand words of non-fiction writing without too much difficulty. I rarely exceed one or two thousand non-fiction words in a day.
However, I also found that if I begin with non-fiction, the creative side of my brain does not work as well for the fiction writing. So for me at least, starting with fiction writing and moving to non-fiction enable a much more productive day than doing it the other way around.
Lesson Four: Staying Off the Internet
If I once get distracted on the internet, my creative writing will be derailed for an hour or more. The simple technique of writing, offline, with my morning coffee means that my necessary writing gets done before my mind has a chance to wander. The only time I like being on the internet, during NaNo, is when I can be on Twitter and join in a NaNoWordSprint session. While I didn’t need word-sprints to help with my word-count this year, they were exceptionally helpful last year in those final two days.
The morning internet joy, then, ended up being checking NaNoToons, and updating my word-count before going and doing other essential internet related things.
Lesson Five: Outlines are Your Friend
Whether you pre-plan your novel in detail, write a couple dozen four word headings, or create a post-writing outline, outlines can help power one’s way through to the end of the long and intense NaNoWriMo season.
This year, my outline consisted of approximately twenty three, five-word headings. And, I relied on the characters who I knew so well from writing The Prophet’s Shield, and most of The Prophet’s Fire, to guide the rest of the story. While I have had several surprises, the utterly basic outline has kept the story arc nicely on track. I am happy to say, I know a good bit more about my characters than I did, and they are still going strong with nearly a 3rd of the story left to go. After all, this is really the climax of three books, when the Prophet finally gets her recompense and reward.
Last year was a year I attempted to pants, starting The Prophet’s Fire with no idea of where it would go. As my desperate sprinting in the last two days showed, that did not work well. Having some outline for your story arc is essential to creating a cohesive and exciting novel.
Bonus: the Sixth Lesson of NaNoWriMo
The final, and most surprising lesson, that I learned this month was this – you may just end up doing far more than you were planning on accomplishing. My goal this month was 50 thousand words, preferably on one novel, but I knew I’d probably have enough non-fiction writing and other fiction writing to make up any deficiencies. Not only has The Prophet’s Recompense gained over 64 thousand words, making it my best NaNo yet, my other fiction writing and non-fiction writing has topped 43 thousand words this month.
If you add those two numbers together then, yes, I think I did just do a double NaNoWriMo. And, I also think I just had my most productive writing month ever, and there is still a week to go this month.
When I began the month, I had one novel goal and a few non-fiction goals. Now, approaching the end of the month, happy that my non-fiction and fiction goals have been met daily, I just realized that I have written more this month than in any other month in my life. Wow. And, I still have nearly a week to go! If I keep up the daily word average for the rest of the month I will hit roughly 130 thousand words, that’s only 20k short of 3 NaNo’s! Hmm, can I add a few extra thousand words each day to reach 150k this month?
Back To You:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun and exciting way to gain an introduction to the world if fiction writing, it is also a fun way to spruce up and increase your fiction writing speed if you are already a fiction writing. If you have ever done National Novel Writing Month, what was your number one lesson learned?
What do you think of these five lessons from NaNoWriMo, have you encountered them or have you drawn other lessons from this writing challenge?
Leave a comment! I love to hear from you!
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