What I’m Learning from National Novel Writing Month

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Image by johntrathome via Flickr

This year I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first time and here are 10 things I’ve learned so far:

1. You really can write when you don’t feel like it. I’m a write everyday kind of gal anyway, so I thought I knew this already, but now I know it on a different level of really not wanting to write those 1,667 words per day and doing it anyway.

2. It’s a good way to experiment with a new genre, voice or style, especially if you keep going and don’t give into the temptation of the greener idea in someone else’s lawn halfway through.

3. 75% of what I’m writing will be unusuable and unreadable, but the 25% that’s left has some good stuff, stuff I probably wouldn’t have written because it seemed too crazy or out there but I had to write something to get to my word count for the day. And 25% is more than 0.

4. It is an excellent way to train your inner censor to shut up; it doesn’t matter if you are writing crap, you just have to hit your word count for the day. In the same way it’s good for loosening up inhibitions.

5. It’s good for jumpstarting a project, especially if your confidence is down because of a period of writer’s block, harsh criticism or rejection.

6. It’s a good reminder that all first drafts are crap, so really, what does it matter if it’s a little crappier than usual?

7. It’s a good place to experiment with stealing ideas or mimicking a voice that has elements that you want to incorporate into your own writing (humor for example). All writers are mimics at some point; it’s a way to learn the things we want to learn. NaNoWriMo is particularly good for this kind of experimentation because what I’m writing is so unreadable no one will ever see it and by the time I rework any of it into something that is fit to be read, it will so changed that no one, myself included, maybe, will be able to recognize the germ of the ideas or plots that I’ve stolen.

8. Sometimes it’s ok to skip a day, especially if the weekend is coming up and there’ll be time for catchup. The break gives my brain some time to play and come up with good stuff.

9. For me, starting a new project that I wasn’t very invested in was a great way to do NaNoWriMo. No matter what it was a win situation. Especially since at 30,000 words I realized I wasn’t writing a novel but a novellette and it had finished itself. Now I’m playing around with beginnings and short stories for the next 20,000 words, and that’s exactly what it is: play. It’s fun again, and that’s exactly what I was hoping would happen, after too long slogging on a project with most of the fun drained out of it.

10. NaNoWriMo activates my creativity. The act of coming up with ideas generates more ideas. The act of being creative generates more creativity. My dreams have been particularly intense this month and ideas have been dripping from my fingertips.

P.S. WordPress gave me some random picture recommendations, variations on the themes of writing and experimentation. Where the stone window comes in, I really don’t know, but I liked it. It fits in with my personal conception of my writing process, which is that I look through windows into the world I’m writing about, or receive postcards from otherwheres with images that I then write about.


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