National Novel Writing Month is over. My final word count was 22,346 words. I’m now 0 for 2 on NaNoWriMo attempts, but I couldn’t be happier with how November turned out.
So why am I so pleased if I didn’t win?
I learned a lot this year about what writing processes work for me. I know how many words I can do comfortably in an hour (about 500 once I get warmed up). I’ve gotten my fiction writing mental-muscles back in shape. I’ve learned how to shut off my inner editor and accepted that the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. I’ve developed a writing support network.
I’m definitely planning on trying against next year. In general, I have between three and four hours a day for hobbies. That’s anything that’s not work or parenting related, which covers writing, reading, playing games, and watching TV. With an average of 500 words an hour, the best I can expect to do in a day is 2,000 words. Hopefully as I continue to write my average will go up, but assuming it doesn’t, I’ll need to be more consistent about WriMo next year if I want to win. If I can stay on schedule most days or stay within a few hundred words, I should be able to do it.
This year, I was pretty much behind from the start. I was better prepared than last year (not hard to do since I’d done no preparation), but I hadn’t expected to have so much trouble with the basic mechanics of fiction writing. For me, it’s a different set of mental gears than what I sue for blogging, and they were pretty rusty. Fortunately by week two I was getting into a good flow more quickly, but by then I was much too far behind to really catchup. Slacking off in week three didn’t help either.
Besides just the different mechanics of creative fiction writing, learning to recognize and combat some of my bad habits has been a real break-through. I always want the worlds my stories take place in to have depth and character. To accomplish that, I spend a lot of time coming with the history pf the world. Usually I spend so long on this that I never end up writing my original story idea. Doing WriMo has helped me learn to recognize and ignore that impulse. Now I’m able to just focus on getting the story down, leaving myself notes in square brackets as needed.
I had a major test of my ability to ignore my inner editor just yesterday. I was writing a major scene that I didn’t have a clear mental picture of. I knew as I was writing it that it was not good, but I forced myself to continue writing, to not stop and look at what was on the screen. Eventually the scene became clearer me and I left some notes to myself for when I come back for the first rewrite, but I kept moving forward and that was the important part.
Having a writing support group isn’t something I’d ever given much thought too. I was really surprised about how good some of the feedback was that I got earlier in the month when I posted about messing up a scene and having to backup a bit. I’d really just posted it because I thought it was funny, but I got some excellent ideas from reader comments. Twitter has also been a good source of encouragement, enough that a group of us are forming a writer’s group to help provide critical feedback on projects. I’m very excited to see how much more I can learn from sharing my writing with the group and reading others.
All in all, NaNoWriMo has been an excellent experience this year. I’m not planning to stop though. I’m going to continue writing, and I’m setting a daily goal of 600 words for December. I intend to increase that in January, but I’m taking it easy for December.