HomeGet writingTen things I learnt during National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo

In November I entered the National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Here’s ten things I learnt.

  1. Commit. It really is possible to write 50,000 words in a month – but not easy. Some days I couldn’t find time to write – on one memorable day I wrote over 8,000 words. The NaNoWriMo challenge was instrumental in giving me a sense of urgency that spurred me on to write more than I ever have before.
  2. Write even if you don’t think you can. There were times I didn’t feel like writing. I sat at my computer and on every occasion I found something to write and enjoyed it.
  3. Strong characters are vital – a clear plot is not. There were times I chucked my characters into a situation without any idea of what was going to happen. They’d surprise me and sometimes make me laugh out loud by what they got up to.
  4. Don’t look back. I usually re-read and edit the last chunk of text before I start the next. With the NaNoWriMo challenge I forced myself not to look back and even resisted the urge to fix those little red squiggles. One key advantage is that  I will have completed the whole story before I begin to edit. I know what’s going to happen. I know how my characters are going to develop. I know their voice and can see where I need to make changes.
  5. Snatch every minute. I almost didn’t take my laptop. I only had forty-five minutes to wait for my daughter to finish her club – what could I do in that short time? 500 words or more! With two daughters and two clubs each week that’s significant progress.
  6. Leave things unresolved. Most of my writing sessions finished when the chapter ended, but some were left mid-chapter or even mid-sentence. This didn’t feel satisfactory; leaving me desperate to get back and carry on.
  7. Don’t let anyone read it. It’s so full of errors it’d get in the way of the story. When I write late at night I go phonetic – using wants instead of once, or one instead of won. I’ll need to make sure I do the editing when I’m more awake.
  8. Keep track. I used a simple spreadsheet to keep track of each chapter – the word count, point-of-view, key happenings and the timeline. Alongside each chapter I also noted anything that needed changing – for example, for the plot to work in chapter 30 I needed to have something happen earlier, in chapter 15. Rather make the changes I simply added a note to my spreadsheet. Similarly, some scenes needed better writing – another note and on I went.
  9. Allow time for the end. The last 4,000 words were the hardest – in fact I reached 50,000 words without reaching the end of the novel and still haven’t fully resolved what happens. I always knew where I was heading – but needed clear thinking time to satisfactorily bring about the conclusion.
  10. Plan December. I wish I’d planned December better. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to read my new novel. I want to know if it is any good. I should have planned some NaNoWriDays.


Comments are closed.