December 6, 2014

What I learned from NaNoWriMo

I finally participated in NaNoWriMo this year! It was quite an experience trying to write at least 50,000 words over the course of 30 days. To my amazement, I actually reached the 50K word count goal! However, it wasn't pretty, but NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality, right? So what did I learn from the experience?

It IS possible to write 50,000 words in a month.
I may have been selling myself short, but I honestly didn't plan on reaching the goal. Initially, I intended to just give it my best shot, and if I wrote 25,000 words by the end of November, that would have been twice as many words as I normally wrote in a month. Yet, as each day went by and I managed to stay close to the 1,667 words/day pace, it drove me to keep going at it. In the end, I wrote 50,043 words! The resulting manuscript wasn't pretty, but I proved to myself that I was capable of reaching that level of output if necessary.

I can't stop editing while I write.
I've often heard authors write quick first drafts because they don't filter their words. I've never been able to do that. Even with a first draft, I'll sit there and think of the best way to write a sentence or to craft a scene. With NaNoWriMo, I got better at just letting myself write. I had no choice because I didn't have time to edit as I wrote. The end result, however, was a manuscript that left me feeling very uneasy due to the quality of the first draft. I plan to go back to my edit-as-I-write style of first drafts as soon as I start penning my next book.

My NaNoWriMo manuscript sucks.
This is a natural outcome of having to write whatever comes to mind in order to reach the word count goal. Everything after the second week was pretty horrible and I knew it as I was writing it. I'm going to dread going back through and revising this manuscript. My guess is that I'll be spending the next several weeks, if not months, doing so.

Some preparation beforehand helps.
I went into NaNoWriMo having already done some research on the topic I was writing about. I also wrote an outline of the story's plot. This really helped because I didn't have to spend extra time asking myself "What comes next?" whenever I sat down to write.

I like writing a first draft with pen and paper better than on a computer.
With every novel I've written, the first draft was done with paper and pen. Then, I typed the whole manuscript into the computer, revising it along the way. With NaNoWriMo, I didn't have time to write and then type it again, so I wrote the first draft in MS Word. I prefer my old method because I find it easier to change things around on paper by drawing arrows, crossing things out, and writing in the margins. I can do the latter online as well, but it's just not the same to me. Also, it's more painful to carry my laptop everywhere than it is to carry a spiral notebook.

I'm glad it's over.
I had a great experience with NaNoWriMo. I was able to try new things that I hadn't before. However, I'm glad that it's over, and I can go back to how I wrote before. After all, one of the reasons why I chose the indie publishing route is that there aren't any external deadlines to meet. I can write at the pace I choose to. Will I participate in NaNoWriMo again? There's a fifty-fifty chance that I will. I like stretching myself occasionally to see what I can do. But I'm looking forward to eleven more months without the pressure to write 50,000 words a month.


  1. Congratulations! :) Such an amazing accomplishment, even if you know that the first draft will need significant revisions. It's interesting that you prefer the pen and paper to computer for a first draft. I know a lot of writers do, but I have a harder time with paper. I only use my journal when I'm not near my computer, and I type it up as soon as I can get a chance.

  2. Thanks! I thought I was the odd one because I still write with pen and paper. Old habits are hard to break. :-)