If you’re interested in writing fiction, you may have heard of this wonderful little thing called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (#nanowrimo) for short that occurs during the month of November. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain. Basically, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to write a novel in one month – that’s right, 30 days – and it has to be at least 50,000 words in order for you to “win.”
As you can imagine, 50,000 words broken up over 30 days is still a lot of words. Plus there’s Thanksgiving thrown in there, and if you miss a day, you’re going to have to make that up somewhere! It’s madness, yes, but completely awesome and exhilarating at the same time – especially as you watch your own little online word counter and bar graph grow each day.
Anyways. Last year I watched this crazy challenge from the sidelines, not quite sure I had what it took to participate. But this year, I went for it, and I learned a whole lot about myself AND writing in the process.
1. Writing fiction is fun.
I don’t normally write fiction, but it’s something I’d love to get into in addition to copywriting. It was scary at first, but once I got started and the initial “oh my word I can’t believe I’m actually writing a novel” feeling began to wear off, I started to really enjoy myself. I’ve found that switching up your writing style really helps to get you out of a rut and gets those creative juices flowing. Switching back and forth between fiction and non-fiction was not as difficult as I thought it would be, and actually helped my writing in general.
2. I have a love-hate relationship with outlines.
Normally I’m an outline girl. I have to have everything laid out before I begin something, and everything must be thoroughly researched. However, there are times when my brain is just stuck and I find myself staring at a blank Word document praying for inspiration. But it doesn’t come; so there I sit. In hindsight I probably should have outlined better BEFORE NaNoWriMo started, but I was having a hard time getting a grip on my story and how it was all going to unfold. So, I decided to just wing it. And after spending November 1st and 2nd staring at a blank Word document, I decided to seriously just go for it.
I’m not sure this is the way I would always do it – or even if this is the best method for me, but I learned that it’s very freeing to just let your thoughts go and write whatever comes to mind. It also made my story twist all over the place, causing my characters to do things I didn’t really plan for, and I’m sure I won’t end up using half of what I wrote, but hey, at least I was writing! The ideas were flowing, and I was able to silence that annoying little internal editor. So yeah – love and hate going on for the outlines. I do think I need them to stay on a set plot and plan that actually goes somewhere, but at the same time writing without an outline is very freeing. It’s really a toss up – maybe a little of both, I guess?
3. Spelling errors are ok.
So I usually have to go back and fix spelling errors the moment I realize I’ve made a mistake or typed something incorrectly – that darn little red squiggly line drives me insane. But, when you’ve got 50k words to write and not a lot of time to do it, you don’t have time to go back and fix the mistakes right away!
It was really hard at first, but I forced myself to just keep going, promising myself that I could go back and fix it later during my edit. This seriously saved me, and allowed me to get through the 50k without wasting a ton of time. It’s something that I’ve taken to my day-to-day writing as well – instead of spending so much time backtracking; I just leave it for later. It’s been great!
4. It is possible to write everyday.
Not only did I hit the 50k, but I also wrote nearly every day during the month of November, and it felt awesome. And it really didn’t stress me out or change my schedule as much as I thought it would. I was prepared for late nights and early mornings, but fitting in the writing time really didn’t affect my schedule all that much – I was pleasantly surprised by this. It gave me hope and confidence that this was a habit I could continue after November.
5. It gets easier as you go.
Writing is like a muscle – it gets stronger when you use it, and weaker when you ignore it. Sure you’re going to have days when the words just don’t come, but in general, the more you write, the easier it is to keep going. It becomes fun again, not just something you HAVE to do.
6. The editor must go.
Similar to those pesky spelling errors, going back to fix small details like names and minor plot holes isn’t really worth your time during the first draft. If you go back to fix everything, you’ll never get anything written. This was a hard thing for me to get used to, but once I got the hang of it, I found that it really helped me!
7. The first draft looks terrible – and that’s the way it should be.
It’s called a first/rough draft for a reason…it looks pretty rough! And it’s not meant to be sent to agents, put online, or even be read by your mom. That first draft is for your eyes only. And then, once you’ve read through the horrible thing and made hefty revisions and smirked at your own horrible grasp of the English language, you can go ahead and burn it if you want. Safely, of course. I used to think that the first draft was the novel. Yeah, that’s not true. No shame in having multiple drafts – whatever it takes to get your story to where you want it to be!
So there you have it. 7 things I learned from writing 50k words in 1 month. It was quite the experience, but I think the biggest takeaway was just the fact that it IS possible. Sometimes the only way to overcome your fears and doubts is to just DO that thing you are afraid of. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I proved myself wrong. Don’t give up on something before you even start!
What’s something that you’ve learned from writing?