I am really happy I participated in NaNoWriMo and even thought I didn’t complete the 50k word target (I averaged around 20k) I still changed, grew and learnt so much as a writer. I can say I am a better writer than I was a month ago. Here are the key takeaway lessons learnt:
- Deadlines make you write! They help you to focus on the end goal i.e. write 50k words in 30 days. This forced me to commit to a daily word count target (50k/30 days= 1,666 words daily).
- You can only change what you measure. I recorded my daily word count on my calendar everyday so that I could see whether or not I had hit my daily target or not. And where I didn’t; I could plan where I could make up the words.
Unleashing your creativity. I felt a level of freedom knowing that I could make stuff up in my novel and just go with the flow. This felt so refreshing as usually the internal editor is on overdrive. Being able to write (and not edit) allowed my right side of the brain to be as creative as possible and it was really fun to see what was coming out of my imagination considering I thought my creativity muscles had withered and died after a decade being a corporate cubicle slave.
- Insight into a writer’s life. Living the life of a writer looks romantic … lounging away at the desk with a hot cup of steaming tea. If only.
- What I learnt during this month is that writing is hard. Endless cups of tea were consumed usually due to the fact I was procrastinating at sitting at my desk and sometimes it could get lonely when I was stuck in my book and no one to speak to about it …but I love the process of writing, the endless cups of tea, the percolation of ideas and thoughts mashing around in my head not knowing what will come out, it’s quite thrilling. I love it and will continue to write.
- Knowing how to deal with writer’s block. I was terrified of being faced with writer’s block and not knowing how to deal with it. Knowing I had a daily word count target allowed me to focus and prioritise the writing. On the other side of it, I also leant that sometimes when you really can’t think of anything more to write for your novel, it’s really ok to take a (short!) break away from your work.I would either read a book for pleasure, get some fresh air or do hit the gym. Sometimes having that distance allowed me to come back to my words with a renewed energy. My longest break from writing was 3 days but on the 4th day I was back and rearing to go.But a key learning point here for me was also that writer’s block disappear the more you work at it. Keep showing up at your desk and writing those words and soon your blocks will break away. Writers block originates from a sense of fear we have that our writing is not good enough. You and your words ARE good enough so just write!
- Writing teaches you what you know…..and DON’T know. I know I have a lot of work to do in terms of writing craft but that’s ok. I’m in this for the long-term and I want to learn how to be a better writer. Writing a full novel exposed where I was good and not so good.
- How to write a novel. I leant the main mechanics of story writing, dialogue, scene setting etc. by just jumping in and doing the writing. I didn’t necessarily know how to outline so I did a bit of both high level planning as well as letting the story and characters take over when they wanted. Sometimes this worked, other times it didn’t. But hey, it’s all about the learning so it’s all good.
- Developed a daily writing habit. I trained myself to SUSDAT (a term borrowed from Seth Godin). I learnt to turn up to my desk, sit down for 30 mins, switch off any interruptions and…..WRITE! Even now, if I’m not writing creatively, I am still writing something daily either in my journal or taking notes from books I’ve read.
- Speaking of interruptions– I switched off my phone and any other interruptions whilst writing during a timed writing session. You need to be disciplined when writing. Dedicate time to it and treat it as sacred time. You can check Twitter or surf the net AFTER you have written those words.
- Celebrating mini- successes. I finished my novel with a few days to spare and decided to stop there and take a break. I had achieved what I had set out to achieve; to write a novel in 30 days. So I took a few days off and treated myself to a large hot chocolate which is a BIG thing in my word considering I’m on a sugar-free diet.
Your writing does not have to stop here. Keep writing. For those of you who now want to move to the next stage, this will involve editing and revising the words you created in November. NaNo provides support for this so it’s worth checking out their website for further details. As for me, I will:
- Now be writing up the handwritten parts of my novel (as I wrote in my notepad on the commute to work on a quite a few days)
- Learn and use Scrivener and move my novel from the word doc to Scrivener
- Revise and add to the story where necessary
- Start the editing process
What were your key lessons leant during NaNoWriMo? I would love to hear from you!