Takeaways from the NaNoWriMo Experience

You never know what you can accomplish until you challenge yourself. When I started NaNoWriMo on November 1, I had no idea whether I could write 1667 words of fiction in one day, much less keep it up every day until I completed 50,000 words. To my surprise, not only did I succeed, but I actually finished a couple of days early, because I wrote more than the minimum word count on most days.

During the challenge, I learned a lot about the process of writing so many words in such a short time. Here are a couple of my tips in case any of you decide to try NaNo next year:

  1. It really helps to have a road map. When you are running a marathon, you don’t have time to stop and plot your course during the race. Before I started NaNoWriMo, John and I had created an outline for each of the upcoming chapters of our new book. As it turned out, the outline was not detailed enough. During NaNo, we were constantly discussing what would happen next. Based on our discussions, I would sketch out a more detailed outline for each upcoming chapter on our dry-erase board before I sat down to write it. (I was fortunate to have John’s help. If I was trying it on my own, I would have been lost.)
  2. Understand that it will require discipline. At the beginning of NaNo, you have the momentum of excitement and fresh ideas. After about the second week, the excitement wore off for me and it became real work. I knew I had to keep up with the word count each day– if I fell behind, I doubted that I would ever catch up. There were many days when producing those 1667 words was an act of willpower, not inspiration.
  3. Don’t edit your work during the challenge. The organizers of NaNo discourage you from rewriting until after the challenge is over. They are very wise in saying that. On two separate days of the challenge, I broke that rule and went back to revise what I had written the day before. By the time I had finished the rewrite (which changed my total word count), I was already tired of writing, but then I still had to add enough new words to get the manuscript back on track for the 50,000-mark. It felt like twice as much work as an average writing day.

Am I glad that I participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge? Absolutely. It taught me a lot about my writing capability, and gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It also sped up the time for completion of our next novel. Although adding 50,000 words was not sufficient to finish the manuscript, John and I are only about four chapters from the end. If all goes well, we may have it ready for publication by March 16, 2022 (which will be exactly two years after we published our first book 60th Hour).

Will I try NaNoWri Mo again next year? Ask me in six months — at the moment, I am still recovering from the last one. 😉 Going back to writing 500 words a day, four days a week, seems like a vacation. However, now that I know how much I am capable of writing in a single day, I am considering increasing my typical daily word count to 1000 words a day, four days a week. We shall see.

In the meantime, the real question for me (now that NaNo is over) is whether I should start revising the chapters I wrote during NaNo or finish the rest of the manuscript first. Knowing me, I’ll probably end up doing a little of both.

If you participated in NaNo, feel free to leave a comment about your experiences. I’d love to hear from you.

-Susan 12/3/2021

NaNoWriMo: In the Home Stretch

Writing at least 1667 words of fiction every single day makes a month pass by very quickly. It’s hard to believe that it’s already the 26th day of the November challenge. The goal is finally in sight.

In last Friday’s blog post, I mentioned that I had a full calendar of activities planned over last weekend. To my surprise, I managed to get through all those activities and still have time to write in the evening. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but somehow it worked. Those were definitely the hardest two days of the entire challenge so far. By the time I started week four, I was exhausted and tired of writing. I returned to the keyboard the next day, by a sheer act of will.

I also committed a NaNo-NoNo. I was so unhappy with what I had written on Sunday night, that I revised it on Monday morning before I went on to start my new word-count for the day. The organizers of NaNoWriMo strongly suggest that authors avoid revising their prior writing during the challenge. The idea is to keep moving forward and revise the manuscript later, after the challenge is over. However, I was so dissatisfied with what I had written, that I knew I would think about it until I changed it. Monday was a free day for me, which gave me plenty of time to write.

My mental attitude improved considerably when my word count for the month passed the 40,000-word mark. Suddenly, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now I find myself counting down: “only 7,000 words to go” etc. As it turns out, I may actually meet my goal of 50,000 words earlier than November 30, because there were many days on which I wrote 2,000 words or more. Depending on what happens, I might even reach the goal this weekend.

Thank you to everyone who has stayed with me on this journey so far! It has been an interesting (if tiring) exercise. Wish me luck as I near the finish line!

-Susan 11/26/2021

Writing 1700 Words a Day: Week 3

Whew! Here I am on Day 19 of the NaNoWriMo November challenge, and I must confess that I am getting tired. So far, I have managed to keep up with the daily word count, but it is definitely more stressful. The actual words themselves are not the problem — it usually takes about 5 to 6 hours to complete the required 1667 (or more) words. On a day when I have no other plans, I can finish by mid-afternoon and still have time for non-writing activities.

The real pressure for me comes from having to do the same thing day after day, with no breaks. As soon as I finish one day of writing, I have to start thinking about the next. Writing the book has become the major activity of my life. (I’m retired, so I don’t have a full-time job to worry about.)

On the plus side, I have completed more than 30,000 words of the novel since November 1. Because I started NaNo with an already-begun manuscript, I have now passed the midpoint of the story and am closing in on the home stretch. If I manage to keep up this pace for the rest of the month, there is a good chance the book could be edited, finalized, and ready for publication by March 2022.

Of one thing, I am absolutely certain: I could not do this without the advice, assistance, and support of my beloved co-author. John has been hammering out plot and scene details with me since the challenge began. As I get ready to write each new chapter, we discuss the upcoming events in detail, often debating back and forth about background materials and character motivation.

This coming weekend will be the real test for me. I have activities scheduled for much of the day on both Saturday and Sunday. Will there be time to sneak in some writing? I hope so!

Anyway, I’d better get back to the novel. Many words await me.

Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan 11/19/2021