What I Learned From NaNoWriMo
I started doing NaNoWriMo back in 2012. I attended the Night of Writing Dangerously in San Francisco for two years straight. I learned to write with people talking all around me, coming up and interrupting my flow. I learned to write a sex scene at a table with 8 other writers all writing sex scenes, and having someone look over our shoulders and read out the words occasionally! I learned to write in coffee shops with other distractions. Wrote with high school kids, grannies and everyone in between–even with some in our pajamas!
The premise of the write-ins are to prove to ourselves we can write 50,000 words in a month. So far, I've done more than 90k in one month–not very clean, and this was a book that had to be edited over 50 times. But it exercises your writing muscle.
There's good news and bad news with that. You learn in a pinch, you can write fast and good. I also learned I love to write under pressure, to make a deadline I'm almost going to fail at–my stories are better, my plots more gripping, and the whole outcome is a nicer package. I also learned that I could write shorter books that were as compelling as longer ones. That was a big one for me.
Now for the bad news–procrastination! What do we do between deadlines, when we know we have to get it done? I get into the weeds, looking at promotional things I could do, design a new cover or series. Yes, you have to have time to just daydream, and I do that well, but because I'm not on a rigid meal of 3000 words a day I used to do when I first started, sometimes I give myself too little room.
I guess I would say it's not really procrastination, but feeling like I have the time to explore other things. And yes, sometimes my best stories come to me that way. I have time to take a day trip, go shopping, have lunch with friends, attend another mastermind group meeting (I love those!) and plot or time write with other author friends.
I've also learned that when there is a lull, when some of the pressure is off, it's time to do housecleaning, or work on the projects I'd neglected. Improve my writing area, get my filing done, pay some bills and yes, taxes! Because when it all comes down to it, when I'm crashing toward the gates of deadline, all those things go by the wayside. That's when those little problems come up that drive me nutz–personnel and other business things that fry my brain and make me go crazy.
It's sort of like a loose screw that holds everything in place so it works, but eventually falls out and the trailer comes off the hitch at the least wanted time! Those are the little clean-up things I need to take care of. It's also a good time to read again those long articles I bookmarked and wanted to study. Let's face it–the world doesn't know when the right thing for me to read comes along–it sends me these delicious tidbits right in the middle of the Writing With My Hair On Fire moments. I save them and read them later.
Are any of my books written under Nano? I think most of the early ones were, at least part of them were. But unlike some authors, I can't say “this book was written during Nano”. I've done the April challenge as well. I have the tee shirts, the winners badges and angel halos for being a donation angel. I've brought others into the fold. I've sponsored classrooms of kids writing.
I encourage every writer or wanna-be writer to try Nano. You will learn some important things about yourself and how you write. These might surprise you!
Now I don my helmet and continue with my story. Onward!