Monday, 2 December 2013

What I learned from NaNoWriMo

Every year I learn something new about myself from NaNoWriMo.  This is what I've learned.
  1. I am no longer an amateur.  Okay, I kind of knew this before.  But this year, NaNoWriMo really nailed that point to the post.  My NaNo experience pointed out a few things in my writing habits and process.  Frex, for me it’s really not that hard to crank out 50K rough draft in a month.  And I did it with a Day Job, a Religious Calling and a Family.  I have a pace, a rhythm and a methodology when it comes to writing.  That’s good to know.
  2.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to participate in NaNoWriMo the same ever again.  I’ve moved beyond the main benefits of NaNo.  When I do participate again (because it is a fun tradition and they do fundraising for some really worthy projects), I’ll be approaching it from an entirely different perspective. NaNo has proven its points to me.
  3.  I am not a pantser.  No way, no how.  I confess when I did this year’s NaNo project, I did have a vague sort of outline, but nothing as detailed as what I usually work from.     You know what?  Pantsing was hard. Really hard.  I found myself stuck at times, wondering what happens next.  When that happened, I inevitably missed my word count target for the day. Instead of typing, my writing time was spent brainstorming. Writing and brainstorming at the same time is not the most efficient use of time for me.I work best with an outline. Yes, I knew this, but now I know why.  From now on I will never pants a novel again.  I simply don’t have the time.
  4. Because I write more than one novel a year, the 1 November came at a less-than-convenient time for me.  I put another project aside prematurely so I  could get into the true spirit of NaNo.  (The project had less than 50K words to go, so I didn’t want to finish this one off, then have to find something else to add 20K words to.)  I won’t be doing that again.
  5.  I work best when I can devote myself  wholly to one stage of a project.   I can get the most done in the most efficient manner.  I’ll work a schedule into my 12-month plan for 2014 so I can start Nov with a fully-fledged outline and smash NaNo to the envy of all my friends.  (aside: I got to enjoy a good envying of a friend of mine who cranked out a full 80K+ novel this year.  I loved turning green because of her. She’s a legend.)
  6.   How do I handle deadlines?  Fine. I like working to deadlines. It provides a reliable motivator for me.  How do I handle intrusive deadlines?  Not as well as I’d like.  It’s a good thing to know this now.  I’ll let my agent know, should I ever find myself in a position where I might get multiple deadlines that might interfere with each other and also with my 20-year Plan.  Nothing interferes with the 20-year Plan if I can help it.
  7. I missed the social activities connected with NaNo. Last year I went to a Night of Writing Dangerously.  I loved it.  The social connections spawned by NaNo are quite inspiring and great networking activities.  Also went to a few Write-Ins. 
This year I went to nothing.  Didn’t even participate on the forums (fora?).  I did sporadic word count checks with two of my Critique Partners, but that’s about it. 

Socially isolating myself was not a good idea.  Most of the year I work in quiet isolation and quite prefer it.  But NaNo’s all about makin’ the connection with fellow writers.  Next year I will increase my sociality and go to more Nights of Writing Dangerously.  I may even host one, or a Write-In.  Not once did I go to a Dome or a Library and say, ‘Hi, I’m your writer-in-residence for the day. Can I have a hot chocolate and a plate of wedges? I’ll be here a while.”
  1.   I need to use an ergonomic keyboard.  Last year I carried my ergo with me.  This year I was straight on the tiny little notebook’s inbuilt. My wrists considered this a Very Bad Idea.  (My wireless ergo was having communication issues with its receiver.  Might be a batteries issue, or it might be something wrong with the electronics. Must investigate further.)
  2.   I need to say No to things more often.  I found myself pressed for time during November, because I had accepted responsibility for a few things.  After having just spent a few months de-cluttering my life only to accept more stuff into it, I really need to say No.
  3.  When you train the Fam&Friends to expect NaNo, they will respect your writing more. Just because the financial payoff hasn't happened yet (and won't happen for another couple of years) doesn't mean that this job is any less important than the Day Job with its fortnightly paycheck and 9-to-5-edness.  Get them into the habit now, when you don't have a Deadline or risk offending a Contract or Editor or Agent.
And that's what I learned.  Just because I can now crank out 50K of rough draft per month without breaking a sweat doesn't mean that I can't continue to change and grow as a writer.  I'm surprised at how much I learned from this November.

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