Lessons learned from my sixth NaNoWriMo

Winner-2014-Square-ButtonAround the world, NaNoWriMo, the event in which over 300 000 participants attempt to write a 50 000 word novel in 30 days, is about to come to a close. Here in Europe there is a little over 28 (edit: 26 hours, because Sleepless in Seattle is on television and I haven’t seen this movie as a grown adult before) hours left; back in Australia where I completed my first 5 NaNo novels, there is just over 16 hours left. Some people will scramble to perform catch ups of the most epic nature in this time, while others will decide to be content with what they have. And whether or not you have written 10 words or 1 million words, whether you are aiming to write 10 000 words on your last day or you’re kicking back with a nice glass of wine and laughing in the face of the very concept of writing on this last day, there is one important thing to matter:

  1. You’re already a winner.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. You gave it a shot. You hopefully learned something from it all. If you got to your goals, that’s a nice bonus, but the main point of it all is that you sat down and wrote something towards some kind of a novel or similar creative project. You wrote something which you might not have otherwise written and that is a victory. I think it is so important to remember that in these final hours.

As for me, I have indeed notched my sixth consecutive NaNoWriMo win, jumping over the 50 000 word hurdle on the 21st of the month (which may be my quickest so far because I tend to procrastinate a lot in the early parts of the month). I was aiming for 100 000 words, and I had a lot of reasons for it too. The last two years’ attempts at NaNoWriMo have felt a little forced and lacklustre – thanks to a bit of routine reaching 50 000 was almost too easy, a bit like I’ve done it all before (which to be fair I have). So I wanted to see what would happen when I aimed higher, without a plan, to see what might come out of my own head.

I stopped a few days ago, at 67 000 words. I did write harder and faster than ever before, and I came up with some frankly bizarre but interesting things in my story. I learned a lot about keeping my story funny more consistently (I was trying comedy yet again) and I learned just how complex I can make my plots without even trying. But at this point, a little behind schedule, I realised that I had no idea where to take the story to finish it. While I enjoyed writing it and being silly, while I learned a lot, I felt no personal attachment to my story this time. If I continued, I’d only be stubborn as if I were trying to prove a point that no longer needed to be proved. So I decided to stop and to be honest I am not only glad I’m did, but I’m a little bit proud that for once I didn’t let my ambition drive me into the ground as it so often can.

I guess that’s the main lesson I have learned this year. I need to have the correct motivation behind my writing, especially once I clear that NaNoWriMo baseline of 50 000 words. Often I have motivations beyond my own story ideas and writing too. Almost every year since I began I’ve had other writers who I am competing against or helping egg along to their first victory. Last year it was a very young student (who kicked my butt), this year it was a good friend who I cheered on (well…nagged) on various social media until she suddenly also kicked my butt and reached the goal in just 15 days (yes, you know who you are if you read this). So I think that also gives me a reason to do this crazy thing each year. Seeing somebody else I know reach that goal for the first time is one of the best feelings I know.

I for one am looking forward to returning to writing in other forms, like my blogs (yes, that food blog is starting up very soon) but also my short stories and poetry. I’m also looking forward to reading A LOT in December! BUT if you are still scrambling to finish you novels, I wish you lots of luck! It is always amazing what you can do with that final-day pressure! Just sit down and do your best, and whatever happens will happen. Whatever happens, be proud of it!

11 thoughts on “Lessons learned from my sixth NaNoWriMo

    • Hahahaha, yeah. I do feel a bit like “awww” because I was so sure I’d make 100k and I told so many people. But it’s just so hard to do when you’re not passionate about the story. I could have bullshitted the bullshittiest last third of a novel ever, but it wouldn’t have made me any happier to do so I guess.
      I think I want to keep exploring other forms of writing for a few months now but see what stirs in my head, try and tap into something that I can turn into a bigger (maybe 100k) novel next year that I will have enough passion to write well, like you say! 🙂
      On another note…how good is being finished? 😀

      • Its amazing! I wanted to be done by the weekend so I had time to put the Christmas tree up, do some baking, and do a general tidy up around the house. And I’m going to watch a theatre production of Frankenstein at the movies today with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in it, so I didn’t want to have to try and work in writing around that. The novel itself isn’t quite finished, but I can finish this afternoon I think.
        It’s hard to think of something you’re passionate about. You sort of atart writing something and think you’re really into it, but get a third of way in and realise you’re just not into it. It’s hard to persevere when you realise that. I hope you get to 100k one year. I’d drink a bottle of wine on your behalf to celebrate.

        • Oooh so how was Frankenstein? That’s quite the interesting combination there but it sounds intriguing.
          Yeah, that is exactly what happens! No matter how into a story you think you are, you don’t really know if you will like until you start writing it. I have genuinely enjoyed writing some of my nano novels, but some I’ve just been like “I have to shit out another 30k of this terrible story? Urghhhh” haha. But yeah, maybe one year I will reach 100k. I think to do 100k though I NEED to plan a little bit. Not too much, but more than the approximate nothing that I planned this year. 😛

          • Frankenstein was amazing! When ever in doubt, put two Sherlocks together and just let the magic happen. It’s cool too because the two of them swap between the roles of Doctor and Creature. I saw the version with Miller as the Creature and was actually in awe of him. He made me cry.

            I think it’s funny how when you’re writing you have ideas for other stories – I came up with three in the last month. I’ve practically got creative juices leaking out of my ears.

            • Ahhh so jealous!
              Yeah, I know what you mean! I find every year I finish NaNo with so many other ideas. I think it’s why I like doing the short story thing for Camp NaNo because when I have other ideas I can just do them straight away hahaha.

        • I have seen it but not since it came out in the days when connecting to the internet made an awful lot of strange noises (I actually played a sound file of the old modem noises to a class of 14 year olds last year, and explained to them “Kids…this is the sound of the 1990s…” Some of them were completely mystified and thought I had tapped into some alien radio station or something).

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