5 Things I Learned Doing NaNoWriMo

Now the trick is to just get it out…

It’s that time of year again. The hills are alive with the sound of little NaNoNauts, about the embark on their first–or second, or ninth–cruise through the turbulent, maddening waters of NaNoWriMo. The word-puck officially drops November the First, right after Halloween.

In case you missed them, here are some of my past profanity filled takes on NaNoWriMo:

-4 Reasons To Do NaNoWriMo

-4 Reasons To Skip NaNoWriMo

-NaNoWriMo Survival Guide: Participant’s Edition

-NaNoWriMo Survival Guide: Rubbernecker’s Edition (my personal favourite)

But there’s something I haven’t addressed yet, and it’s this: what I took from doing NaNoWriMo at various points in my writerly growth.* So here they are: all the lessons I dragged from my brain.

1) An Outline Is Not Necessary, But, Damn, Does It Ever Fucking Help. You don’t need an outline. The popular “no plan, no problem” approach is often touted for NaNo. And it can work. I’ve done NaNo with no plan. But while I finished, what I created was such an abysmal festering mess that I can barely look at it, let alone try to edit it. Plus, going at the breakneck speed of words that NaNo requires, if you don’t have a plan you’re going to write some weird-ass shit. Guaranteed. Maybe that’s what you’re going for.

2) A Writing Community Helps When Everything Tastes Like Fail. Having a group of other writers to bitch to when things aren’t going as planned is very valuable. You might find the group in one of your local meetings, or you might find it online in the forums. Wherever you track them down, they can make writing a little less fucking lonely.

3) Competition Can Help Or Hinder, But For God’s Sake Don’t Be A Dick About It. Don’t be that guy who shows up to the local meeting bragging about how far ahead he is. Or the one that goes to a write-in and pouts if he loses the word-sprint. If you want to let competition power the tiny little engine that is your soul and push you to new heights, fine. But don’t bring that drama with you to the coffee shop, hoss. Nobody likes that guy.

4) People Will Just Not Fucking Accept “No, I’m Staying In To Write” As A Valid Reason To Miss AnythingI don’t care if it’s a night at the pool hall or your cousin’s ritual slaughter of goats, you use writing as an excuse, you’re going to get some serious shade thrown your way. Find a way to be okay with it or make up another excuse. Perhaps, “My writerly growth just burst.”

5) Flailing Around Like A Drunk Wombat With A Keyboard Can Be A Great Learning Experience. Maybe you’ll learn that you need to outline, or that you can do without. Maybe you’ll learn how to pace a story. Maybe you’ll learn how to meet a deadline. Maybe you’ll learn that writing novels isn’t for you and you prefer short fiction, or poetry. Or maybe you’ll learn that you don’t like writing that much after all. The one thing I guarantee, though, is that you’ll learn something. Even if you don’t like it.

So, how about you guys? Anyone participating this year? Anyone bowing out? Tell me of your plans, word goblins.

*That sounds like a tumour. “We removed a writerly growth that was the size of a basketball!”

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6 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned Doing NaNoWriMo

  1. I’m participating for the first time, just to get in the habit of upping my daily word count and not editing-as-I-write. And I’ve never written a novel and I would like to try and see what I’m capable of. Last year I wouldn’t be able to at all, but I’m confident that I can this year. Pretty excited.

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