While I am a relative newcomer to NaNoWriMo, this being my second year, I don’t have a long-running history to be able to share about this project. However, I did win it last year (cue the confetti), and I learned a lot while doing it.
If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it stands for “National Novel Writing Month” where authors globally attempt to write 50k on a manuscript in a month. There are write-ins all over the world where authors meet up and sit around writing together. It’s a month-long celebration of the creative process that is not to be missed!
1) Time Management
In order to “win” you need to write a minimum of 1,666 every day for a month. If you miss a day you need to write more the next day to make it up. As such, you are competing with yourself, and you have a specific goal to hit on the piece. While you can miss a day if you need to, it gives you the pressure of knowing you should be writing. As such you tend to structure your day around your precious, precious writing time. It’s a good exercise for people like me who have problems carving out time in our busy schedules for personal writing.
Many of us start novels and then just wander off into the brush and never finish them. NaNo gives us accountability to ourselves and to the community (if we choose to participate in it). It also helps that it’s something that’s everywhere in the writing world during that month because we can’t just forget about it so easily. Particularly if our friends and family are participating!
3) Don’t Look Back
When you’re writing a first draft it’s always tempting to go back and tweak it before you’re done writing it. The path to insanity is to try and edit before you’re done writing, and when you’re doing NaNo you just don’t have time to do that! You have to plow on full-speed-ahead and wait until you’ve reached the end in order to go back and fix anything. It teaches the lesson of letting the first draft be a first draft.
4) You Are Not Alone
Writing is often a solitary act, and we tend to isolate ourselves for hours with our computers when we’re trying to get something done. It’s easy to forget that we aren’t alone in the world with the struggles and triumphs that come from writing, even if our family and close friends don’t quite understand what we are doing. NaNoWriMo connects you to a global community who will be encountering all the same things you are in the same context and the same time frame.
While I’m sure there are many other lessons NaNo can teach, those are the ones that came to my head today as I was working on the outline for the novel I’m preparing. It’s going to be a great journey, and I’m really looking forward to participating this year. Wish me luck!