I’ve participated in the 50,000 words in one month novel writing challenge NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) on two occasions. Once, I actually wrote a little over 50,000 words across three drafts of essentially the same story. It was a mess, but I wrote some usable stuff. Most recently, I wrote about 27,000 words and wrote a fairly complete story. I missed the goal of 50K words, but I felt accomplished anyway.
I was going to participate a third time, but instead started and completed a novel in October. So, you could say, unofficially, I’ve participated three times!
Here are three major things I’ve learned about writing from participating in NaNoWriMo.
Just Get the Ideas Down
Many writers like to outline their NaNoWriMo projects. Some have some very elaborate plans. Others, like myself, just sort of go with whatever’s top of mind. There’s nothing wrong with outlines. I just suck at them.
But, whatever you do, just get the ideas down. Even if the story goes off into really weird directions, just go with it. You can always backtrack and rewrite it later. Heck, you can start writing a completely different story in the process sometimes. Whatever you do, just get your ideas down.
It Doesn’t Matter How Many Words You Actually Write
I actually surpassed the NaNoWriMo 50K word goal on the first try. It actually isn’t all that hard if you have a few days to blow out the majority of the word count. But, what I ended up with was a mess, with three or four versions of the same sections of the story in some cases. I wrote a lot of exposition just to get the ideas down.
Really, though, when I sat back and really thought about it, I decided I’ll just write whatever comes to me no matter how many words it is. Some days you’ll have 50 words, and other days you’ll have 5,000. As long as you’re writing something somewhat coherent, and as long as you really write anything, you’re making progress. Even if it’s not all coherent. It’s all exercise.
You’re Going to Write Some Nonsense
When you’re trying to reach a word goal, you’re going to write some nonsense. It’s perfectly fine to go into stream-of-consciousness mode. Sure, a lot of it won’t fit with the story you’re writing. But, since NaNoWriMo is a fiction writing exercise, it doesn’t really have to all work out.
Besides, with fiction, you’re making it all up as you go along anyway. The beauty of writing fiction is you can often frame it in a way where the reader can be able to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the story.
(BTW, there is actually a NanoWrimo for non-fiction authors. It’s called NanoWrimo Rebels. It’s a great idea and honestly is probably a lot easier than forcing out a novel in 30 days.)
Whatever you do when participating in writing challenges like NaNoWriMo or similar writing exercises, I’ve learned you should just write as you normally would. You just have to do your writing with somewhat more urgency. It can be a great exercise in getting out thousands of words that otherwise may not have come out of you had you not been prompted to do so.
Remember, have fun with it. Don’t stress over it. I know there’s all this junk about writing a complete novel or come up with something that could end up being publishable. But, don’t panic. Sure, you might. But, more likely, it will just be a way to get yourself writing on a more regular basis.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo or a similar writing challenge? What was your experience and what did you learn from it?
~ Amelia <3