Chapter 13 – What NaNo Has Taught Me

It’s currently Nano day 12 and so far it’s going great and I’m on schedule! I started thinking about everything I’ve learned from doing Nanos, both this year and the previous ones, and figured I might as well share with you. Maybe someone who hasn’t done Nano before will find a reason to try, and for those who are doing/have done it before, I’d like to hear what you’ve learned!

NaNo word count day 11

The best and most obvious thing I’ve learned is that I can write 1,667 words a day. I can write daily and I can hit my word count targets, even though sometimes it feels tough. I talked about the importance of habits and routines in my earlier post, and this goes back to that: when I have a writing routine, it’s easier to produce words.

It has been a while since I last wrote a story. Sure, I’ve been editing and revising my upcoming novel, but it’s not so much about writing and creating new anymore. This year’s Nano is a completely new story, and I love how liberating it is to write. I haven’t written a lot of sci-fi before so trying it now is making me very excited! Which brings us to the next thing I’ve learned: I can write a good story in a month. Not the perfect story, but something that’s good and can be worked into an even better one.

Lesson number three: Wholly embracing the Nano spirit makes me more creative. It’s been less than two weeks now, but I’ve already entered this creative flow where ideas just appear. I name things on the fly, I create characters out of nowhere, and the plot goes into directions I hadn’t thought about before (characters who were supposed to hate each other at this point have somehow ended up being best friends…).

If this novel was supposed to be published or if I planned on doing anything important with it afterwards, I’d probably try to keep the story more under control, just to avoid heaps of rewriting and deleting sections in the end. But now I’m just typing, and I love every moment of it. I just hope this lasts, even just through this week because I doubt I’ll get much anything written today and tomorrow.

The Lost Source cover
A quick cover I whipped up for this year’s Nano (yes, the name and picture are awesome)

Finding a dedicated (Nano-)writing time is important. If I don’t set time aside for Nano, I end up writing a sentence here and another one there, which isn’t good in the long run. I’ve tackled this problem by setting my alarm earlier than usual to have time to write in the morning before anything else I have to do.

I can write 800-1,000 words per hour usually, so I’m over half-way done if I give myself an extra hour in the morning. If things are going great, I can manage more than that, but I keep that as a guideline. If I write for an hour and end up with 400 words, I know I need to do something to pick up speed. Usually I take a small break.

Which brings me to this revelation: breaks are allowed – and necessary. For me, at least. If my mind is completely jammed, I need to take a breather and I don’t feel bad about it. Watching a short video, listening to a song, doing research for something that’s coming up later… All of those are good ways for me to relax a bit and then get back to writing. The problem comes from not letting that break turn into an hour of pointless web surfing. My fix for that is clear limits, such as “I’m going to watch two videos” or “I’ll spend twenty minutes reading the forums”. If it’s a time limit, use a timer.

Bribing works. “If I write just two hundred words more, I can eat this candy bar. If I reach the next thousand, I can watch the newest episode of a TV series I like. When I hit 25,000 words, I can buy the book/game/movie/jacket/whatever I’ve wanted for a long time.” And so forth. I’m sure everyone has something to use for bribing. If you’re not good at blackmailing and bribing yourself, ask someone to take your prize away until you’ve reached the needed goal.

Fazer Milk Chocolate
Some excellent bribing material: Fazer Blue milk chocolate

As much as I love writing, I also love the writing community. And the Nano community is one of the best out there. The forums are filled with people ready to help and willing to just chat with you about writing. They’re great for support and inspiration, and I like seeing how others are doing.

I spend a lot of time reading the NaNo forums (mostly Reference Desk, Plot Doctoring, and NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul), as well as my regional forum (Finland). I don’t post much but I’ve tried to become more active. If you’ve never said anything on the forums, go do it now! Find a Writing Buddy or post a Nanoism, the choices are endless!

To sum up:
1. Yes, writing 1,667 words a day is possible
2. Finishing a story in a month is likewise achievable
3. Writing without thinking (=editing) helps with creativity
4. A dedicated time for writing keeps the word count on track
5. Breaks are good, as long as they stay short
6. Bribe, blackmail, threaten. It’ll work
7. NaNoWriMo community is great, visit the forums now!

NaNo word count for November 11 (in case you missed the picture above): 20,079 (target 18,333)


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