I won NaNoWriMo 2016!
Oh my goodness! I did it. I can’t believe it. But it actually happened. I conquered National Novel Writing Month (affectionately known as NaNoWriMo). I wrote 50 thousand words in November. Somehow, I even managed to finish 2 days early. Participants win NaNoWriMo when they write 50K words between November 1 and November 30. There is no limit to the number of winners. It’s pretty rad.
I started my NaNoWriMo journey at the beginning of the month with this post: NaNoWriMo Prep. I thought I was prepared…I wasn’t.
Then, I gave you lovely readers an update, called NaNoWriMo Update #1. I had many good intentions to update you many more times…but I didn’t. That #1 update was the only update. Ha!
Instead, I wrote my book. It is a mess. A HOT MESS. But it’s there. It’s not done yet, but I haven’t had the energy the last few days to keep writing. I’m letting myself take a break. I will finish this story…once I figure out what the heck the end is… (I honestly have no idea how it’s going to end, or who killed the woman who was murdered or why…As you can see, there is much work to do).
How did I win NaNoWriMo 2016?
It was a rough month with this challenge, plus some blog tours I’d signed up to review books for, plus you know, life like big multi-day events at the day job (I’m talking 14-hour days) and family dinners and company spending the night. This is the first time in my adult life that clean laundry has sat unfolded in the hamper for more than a day…and it’s now up to a week. I deprived myself of my ideal amount of sleep multiple times. I did not eat as many real meals as I probably should have.
But I did it, I won NaNoWriMo. And as a first-time Wrimo I’m pretty proud of myself.
Here are my tips for succeeding at National Novel Writing Month: aka the things that helped me the most this month and might help you.
Just write. Force yourself to just write.
It’s hard. As a natural editor, it’s really hard. But it’s necessary to just spew. Vomit those words in their crazy, ridiculous, makes no sense, full of typos messiness onto the page.
My story is FULL of TYPOS. It’s FULL of PLOT HOLES. The tone is ALL OVER THE PLACE. So is the voice. And really, so is the setting. I have scenes that abruptly end with no real conclusion. I have scenes that currently have no place in the story. But that’s the point of NaNo, to get words and ideas on the page so you have something to work with.
Use word sprints to focus on getting words on the page.
Word sprints seriously saved my life. I had many days where I needed to play catch-up (just read my twitter feed to get an idea of my state of mind). And I did it by using the word sprint tool on the NaNoWriMo website. It’s basically a timer that you set for as many minutes as you want (15 minutes is great for me) and you hammer out as many words as you can until the timer goes off. Then you make tea. Then you do it again. And again. And again. I was averaging about 650 words per 15 minute sprint during the last week of November. That was really good for me. That’s over 1000 words in 30 minutes. That brings your word count up FAST. And, if you’re stuck for what to write, the word sprint tool also has a prompt button that gives you something to include in your story. These “dares” as they are called are really fun. Example: kill someone with a shovel. I used that one. It was an interesting development to my story.
Write with friends! In real life or virtually using Twitter or other means.
My friend Kim (@redrackham87) and I are writing buddies. We get together at least once a month to write together. And by write together I mean sit next to each other and yell at one another if it appears the other person isn’t pumping out words. (It’s pretty awesome. We eat food and catch up on life too). During NaNo, we got together three or four times. And we checked in with each other on twitter and via text and email. Constantly.
On top of all that, the NaNoWriMo website also allows you to have writing buddies. These are other people who are doing NaNo. You can connect with them, see their wordcounts and encourage them through NaNoMail.
Connecting with others, reading about their experience (like you’re doing now! Look at you go!) and encouraging one another is a HUGE part of NaNoWriMo. It makes it so fun. Writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.
Don’t worry about writing every day if that doesn’t work for you.
I skipped many days because life. But I managed to catch up by dedicating focused writing time on weekends. Aiming for the average of 1,666 words a day is great. Trying to write just a few more each day is even better if you can. But not writing for a few days is totally okay. Catching up is completely possible. I had 3K days and 5K days. And, I even wrote 12K words in the last three days of my NaNo adventure (completely and utterly because I did word sprint after word sprint after word sprint).
Over all, I’m really pleased with my NaNoWriMo experience and the results. No, my story is sooo far from being complete (which is the one goal I did not meet, I’m a serial non-finisher). But, I have my story started, I’ve learned a TON about my writing process, about my characters, and about the potential of my story. Following the lead of the characters has been a really interesting adventure. I have a lot more work to do before this story is ready for other eyes, and I’m excited for that work. But first, tea.
Did you do NaNoWriMo? Tell me about your experience. What are your top tips?