What I Learned from NaNoWriMo

Last year I realized that NaNoWriMo was too easy for me. I have participated every year since 2008, and have won every year but two. This year I decided to give myself a new challenge, 90,000 words. Not quite double the original goal, but actual novel length. I went into NaNoWriMo with the first anticipation I’d had in years. I failed to reach my goal. But it’s not about the failure, but about analyzing the why and learning what I can from it.

Why did I fail?

1) I started out with a goal of 3,000 words a day. Then I reached my first Friday and had no time for writing (due to my normal schedule, I just didn’t take it into account.) I caught up Saturday by writing 6,000 words, which is more than I’ve ever written in a single day, and that burned me out. I changed my daily goal to 3,500 with no writing needed on Fridays. I couldn’t keep this up either.

2) This story came out in a way I was not used to. That being: I wrote scenes out of order, and multiple times before I wrote something that moved the story forward. I don’t know if this was caused by my sudden need for such a large amount of words, the fact that this was a sequel, that I’ve learned so much craft in the two years since I wrote The Storyteller, or something else entirely. Either way, the result is that my forward momentum kept coming to a screeching halt, and while I could produce words, I wasn’t actually moving the story.

3) Politics. I’m actually not kidding. Despite your opinion about who should’ve won or why, the amount of anger and hate that existed on the Internet in the days following the election wrecked me emotionally. I had to abandon Facebook completely.

What did I learn?

1) While 1667 words a day is pretty easy, 3,500 is not. I believe it might be because writing this much didn’t give me enough time in between to think about my story and live my life. I felt very dry, creatively. In the third week I backed off the schedule I had set for myself for a few days and after a few days the ideas started flowing again. So what I learned is I should try something closer to 2,000 words a day for a while.

2) I am a multi-drafter. For those who haven’t read my blog previously, I know that one part of my process is that I write, go back and rewrite from the beginning and go a little further into the story, then go back and repeat. While somehow I managed to plow right through the Storyteller two years ago, that did not work this time. So I also learned that I need to let myself stop an reassess when I need to, otherwise I end up just spinning my wheels.

3) I also learned I should’ve removed myself from the toxic environment online more quickly. As much as I wanted to support the people who were scared, my emotional well being is more important.

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