10 Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo 2010

1) Plan ahead.

Having an outline beforehand is invaluable for me. It kept me on track, told me just what I needed to be writing about, saved me from plunging down the path of a sub-plot that later story events would have rendered impossible, and made it possible for me to write a 127,486 word, complete first draft this year! Other people can write without that kind of planning, but I am not one of them.

2) Blogging during NaNo is a must.

While writing my story, I would find myself considering the mechanics of what I was doing. It was distracting me from the story itself. Plus, there are always random ideas that pop up while I'm writing. Talking about those things here helped me get them out of my head, so that I could focus on my story.

3) I love writing novels.

They are my favorite form. I've written flash fiction, short stories, and novellas, and they all have their joys, but there is nothing like a novel. It allows me to dig deep into the story and the characters and the setting, and really get to express those things and watch them develop. It's like magic.

4) The NaNoWriMo forums are a fantastic place.

They're filled with ideas and questions and answers and great people. I met some wonderful people in the last month, was exposed to a multitude of view points, and made some friends. That's as awesome as writing a novel in a month.

5) Break the work into smaller sections.

Sitting down and telling myself that I'm going to write a bunch of words can be daunting. Instead, I sit down and tell myself that I'm going to write 500 words. The knowledge that I only have to focus for as long as it takes to write that smaller number keeps the overwhelming at bay.

6) Sleep is vital.

I shouldn't sacrifice it so that I can do the dishes, watch TV or play video games. I'll regret it, and I'll feel like crap. Sleep deprivation makes it much harder to concentrate and that makes it much harder to get those daily word counts. I should get enough sleep. Of course, this doesn't mean that I will. It's NaNo, after all.

7) Take frequent breaks.

I need to get out of my chair on a regular basis. Even if it's just to make tea, feed the cats, pet the cats, talk to the cats (No, my life doesn't revolve around my cats at all. Really. :D ) getting out of that chair is as helpful as getting in it in the first place. It can start to feel like a cell after a while, but if I get up and take a little walk or stretch, do chores or make myself a snack, I don't feel so much as if I'm chained to it. Plus, taking time away from the story gives my subconscious time to think ahead, to make connections and consider plot points without me. I have a lot of good ideas when I get up and let my mind wander while I do something easy and brainless.

8) Celebrate the milestones.

Writing 10,000 words is an accomplishment, and just because I'm not done doesn't mean I can't take a moment to enjoy it. It's easy to ignore the smaller numbers in that quest for the big one, but reminding myself of how far I've come makes it easier to go on.

9) Everything can be fixed later.

NaNoWriMo is great practice at putting away my inner editor. There's just no time to worry. I remind myself that it can all be fixed later, and keep writing. Ignoring that voice is a skill, and one I--at least--have to practice, especially since I've started critiquing and learning to be a better critic.

10) I love NaNoWriMo.

I honestly believe that this is how first drafts should be written. Not necessarily with the time limit, competition and fanfare, (although I loved those, too!) but without worry that the words won't come out right. Revision is necessary, and it always will be. But having the story on the page is a starting point and getting to that starting point is a lot easier if I'm not beating myself up for writing badly.


Jean Davis said…
NaNo IS a great way to get out that first draft. I totally agree. I think people often spend far too much time fixating on getting each chapter 'right' and by half way through the draft are so frustrated they never finish it. Get it out, THEN worry about making it right. :)

Glad you had a good experience, and wow, your word count is ultra impressive!
Marion Sipe said…
That is exactly me. I can spend hours on a few paragraphs at the beginning, if I don't force myself to move on. NaNo gave me that motivating force to push forward!

I'm glad you got some happy-making stories out of it, too! Are you going to be posting on CC soon? I'd love to check them out!

I really wanted to get a full first draft. I find that if I'm writing the same novel too long there's this disconnect between the beginning and the end. I think that writing it all at once (in one headlong dash) fixed that, but we'll see when it goes through crits! :D

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