Today, in Australia is the final day of NaNoWriMo so I thought it was a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned from the experience.
This post was going to be the 10 things I learned from doing NaNoWriMo 2010, but when I tried to write it, I realised that there are more.
I wanted to share them with you because I think they are principles that can be applied to your writing regardless of whether you are participating in NaNoWriMo or not.
They are 12 things that can help you develop great writing habits and achieve your writing goals all year round.
Here’s what I learned:
1. It’s really worthwhile to set yourself a daily writing target. Even half an hour’s writing is better than none.
2. Allow yourself thinking time. If you have already thought about ‘what’s next’ for your story, you’ll find that half an hour can be very productive writing time.
3. Plan at least a rough outline of your novel first so you have some idea where you are heading.
4. Don’t worry if your ‘planned’ novel changes direction. Allow your characters to take it where they think it should go.
5. Have some idea of setting before you start. Setting can affect plot outcomes.
6. Do character profiles for your main character/s before you start – so you know how they’ll react to things that happen to them
7. Join a group of some kind. I found that the NaNoWriMo Warriors was a great group. It was full of wonderful people from all around the world so there was someone to chat to almost 24/7.
If I was up at 1.00am pondering over a dilemma with my writing, there was always someone ‘out there’ in cyber space to mull it over with and gain support and encouragement from.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Writing is a solitary profession, and everyone has down days when the words just don’t come – when things seem impossible. Having someone to chat with about this (whether it be in person or online) can be really inspirational.
People telling you that you CAN do this helps you believe that you can – helps you to achieve your goals.
You might also find that other writers have resources that can help you. For example, if you decide you don’t like your main character anymore, another writer might be able to offer you the perfect article or post to help you develop your character and become fond of them again.
Joining a group also makes you realise that you are not alone. That all writers have doubts and dilemmas and that it’s perfectly normal to have problems being mean to your main character (or not) and that doesn’t make you a wuss or a sadist, it just makes you the writer that you are.
9. Set realistic goals for yourself. Everyone is busy and has different commitments in their lives. Realistically, you need to write about 1700 words a day to reach your 50,000 word target. If you know your characters and what’s going to happen to them next, this can be done in an hour.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t achieve a daily goal. You can always catch up the next day or the day after – and the worst that can happen is that you don’t finish by the end of November, but you’ll still have more words written than you had at the start of the month – and possibly would have written in that time.
10. Don’t be afraid to post your word counts on Facebook and other social media and gain motivation from the congratulations you receive from your “friends”. This isn’t bragging, it’s a way of getting acknowledgement for your achievements and keeping you inspired. It’s a way of spurring you on.
11. Get involved in Word Wars. I’m a pacifist generally speaking, but I found that Word Wars were great for getting your word count up. They usually go for an hour and there’s a moderator who tells you when to start and when to finish and then you compare your word totals with other writers who have participated in the war.
12. Try and eat well and sleep well during NaNo. If your brain is well fed and rested, it will work better for you.
If you achieved your NaNoWriMo goal this year, that’s fantastic. Congratulations! If you didn’t, don’t worry there’s always next year and you can still keep writing your novel and working on getting it finished.
Congratulations on what you have achieved and remember that word counts aren’t everything. Even if all NaNoWriMo did for you was get you writing on a regular basis, that has to be a good thing doesn’t it?
What did NaNoWriMo do for you? I’d love to hear about it. So feel free to share your experiences in the comment section of this post.