My First NaNoWriMo Experience

I am finally posting about my first NaNoWriMo experience! I’m hoping the age-old adage of ‘better late than never’ is still in effect here…despite being nearly two weeks late I still wanted to share my experience with you.

What is NaNoWriMo?

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month which takes places in the month of November every year. It is hosted by the US-based non-profit organisation that promotes creative writing and started up this international creative writing event - often referred to as NaNo for short – in which participants attempt to write 50 000 words of a manuscript during this month.

50 000 words in 30 days is quite a feat but the organisation hosting is very supportive and has a whole community. The website has community forums, a page to follow any ‘buddies’ who are also participating and a page to update your word count and see the stats collected such as time of writing, how much you write each day etc. They also send out frequent emails in the run up to NaNo and during the month with a variety of helpful tools and motivational words from authors, to name a few of the things they sent.

My Experience

This was my first year participating and knowing that I had never written so much in a month before and being the planning that I am, I spent most of October planning out my novel. This included character profiles, world building, plot points and timelines. I know many of you prefer a pantser method of writing, but for me, I would have found it incredibly difficult to write 50 000 words without some structure. I would say I am more of a plantser, a mix of planning and winging it but without some idea of where the story was headed, I don’t think I would have succeeded – I used a lot of the documents that the NaNo organisers sent out for this!

Writing every single day for 30 days straight isn’t something I have done before and I have to say, it was challenging. My brain was exhausted by the end of the month! However, I did manage to hit the word count which was such a great achievement for me.

For the novel I am writing the 50 000 words written is more of a half way point, I still have a ways to go, but NaNo gave me the push I needed to actually get words written. I love planning but the sitting down and writing part is a struggle. The doubt creeps in and I get stuck and then stop. But with a word count to hit, there wasn’t time for any of that. I didn’t have time to doubt every sentence and I didn’t have time to get stuck. When I came across a stopping point and wasn’t sure where the story would go next, I had no choice but to sit there and think about the possibilities and then just go with the one that felt right.

It’s for those reasons that I will recommend NaNoWriMo to any writers out there. Having such a tough deadline can put a lot of pressure on but it also meant that I had to actually sit down and write! And it meant that whilst the writing needs A LOT of editing, at least the story is out there on paper to edit. I know if I hadn’t been under the deadline, I would have rewritten each line until I was happy with it and I would never have gotten far. The experience of NaNoWriMo was exhausting and challenging but it was so worth it.

I now know that I can push myself to write daily and write to tough deadlines. I now have half of my novel actually written which is a huge accomplishment for me and it gave me the chance to be excited without being held back by doubt as there just wasn’t time for that during NaNo. Its an excellent way to jump start a project and forces you to set out time for writing.

I know the pressure of a deadline can be a lot but with the community, the resources offered and the sense of accomplishment when you hit the word count, it was a fun experience. However, if the pressure is too much stress then you can always aim for a lower word count. The aim is to help you write not to stress you out!

What I learnt from my first year participating in NaNoWriMo

- Writing regularly helped my creativity and helped improve my writing.

- Working to a tough deadline forced me to push past hurdles when I got stuck

- Using the resources, the website and emails offered was so helpful!

- Planning in October made November easier as I already had a direction and a world I was familiar with

- Don’t get bogged down on details – haven’t got a name for the town? Just write a place holder and come back to it! It’s better to get the story down and edit those things later, do the in-depth research later!

- Focus on individual daily goals – think about hitting the daily goal not the end goal otherwise you will stress too much!

- The stats page showed me my pattern of writing which will help me plan my writing in the future

It is not for everyone! People write differently but the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to help push you to start and get down a good chunk you your project. Use it the way you want, use it as motivation – for me, it really gave me to push I needed to get down half of my novel!

Have you participated before? How did you find the experience?

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