Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Post-partum thoughts

That's me in the red hat.
I fell 1800 words short of my 50,000-word goal for my first ever NaNoWriMo. Which is totally okay--no, really! I got so much out of doing this I don't know how to express my gratitude to the organizers. Here are four things I loved about my foray into this terrific exercise. And then three things I didn't.


1. I realized I really can write 2,000 (good) words per day. Before NaNo, I considered a 1200-word day really spectacular. And I didn't do it that often. Certainly not every freaking day. This month I learned that I can whip out 2,000 at a sitting, feel good about what I've written, and still want to go for a jog afterwards. I plan to keep doing it.
Hello there, little
newborn novel.

2. NaNo allowed me to push everything but writing firmly out of my life. I cancelled doctor's appointments. I all but stopped blogging. I spent minimal time on Facebook. It returned me to what's important: the work-in-progress. Hard to say enough good about that.

3. There's an end point, and a goal. It's only thirty days. I can do anything for thirty days. And the discipline inspired discipline in other areas. When I went running, I broke my run into "500 word" increments. And kept going until I hit 2,000.

4. It forced me to plan. There was no way I was going to try to write a novel-in-a-month by Seat-Of-Pants. The prospect of NaNo pushed me to put together a really good outline and synopsis before I started. I will never again not plan fully before starting a novel.

Didn't Love, so much

1. I missed being able to muse. To dream. To research. There just wasn't time for it.

2. I missed being able to tinker with the nuts and bolts. I missed the fun of the craft. To perfect a sentence. To convey an emotion in just the right words. To ace the arc of a scene.

3. I worried about dead ends. As in life, the course you take will determine the outcome. I felt choices closing off before I'd had a chance to fully evaluate them. Yeah, you can always go back and revise (and I certainly will). But I do feel like certain choices you make in fiction have a tendency to set themselves, like concrete. And digging out that concrete isn't always so easy. One bad choice can lead to others, and so on, until you're so mired you can't back out. That was a worry. It didn't happen, I think, but it did create some anxiety.

So, NaNoers, how are you feeling? What were your triumphs and your tribulations? I'd love to hear all about how you did. Congrats to everybody, even to us who didn't (quite) win.

And: I'm glad to be back. It goes without saying, I hope, that I really missed my bloggy buddies.


  1. Good on ya, Gail! I tried NaNo a few years ago and just passed the 20k mark before the holidays and my seat-of-pants writing got in the way. I'd love to do it again some time but maybe in the NaNo summer camp when there are less family obligations.
    I'm interested in your planning process because that's always been a sticking point for me. How did you do it, did you follow someone else's instruction or did you sort of let the story be the guide and only plan a day or two ahead?

  2. Hi Nathan: I had a two-pronged approach. I went to a plotting workshop in October and plotted the whole novel, which meant writing a synopsis and a detailed outline. So I had that to start with. Only my subplot was a little vague. Then, each day before I sat down to write (or the afternoon before), I outlined the scenes I wanted to write for the day. Mostly this worked. Some days went much longer than others. My word count varied between 1680 and 4,000. The days I did 4,000 (like yesterday), I stopped feeling good about what I was writing around halfway through. I do know I burn out at 2500 words or so. Definitely do it in summer! It was actually Thanksgiving weekend that blew my goal.

  3. NaNoWriMo was a great experience, although I guess I'm a rebel because my goal wasn't 50,000 words. I just wanted to finish a first draft. I hate drafting, but I love editing. I have a tendency to rewrite the first half over and over and take forever to get to the end. NaNo made me push through. To my surprise, I finished a first draft on Nov. 15. It was too short at 29,000 words, so I spent the rest of the month going back through and expanding/adding scenes. I ended up at 39,000 words, and for me that's success. Now I can go back and edit to my heart's content!

  4. I agree with you Michelle, I far prefer rewriting to first-drafting. For me, that's absolutely when the fun starts. Congrats on getting your draft done!

  5. Congrats on 2000 words per day for 30 days. Awesome achievement! I too prefer revision to the first draft. Love all you learnt.

    Would you do it again?

  6. I won NaNo on my first try. I eked out 52,000 words while working overtime and juggling responsibilities. I was possessed.
    This year I had three weeks of vacation in November and never started. The problem? I approached that first experience without an outline and wrote myself into literary road blocks. I learned a lot, but I'm with you, I like to enjoy the craft and edit as I write.
    Yes, I have a certificate, but you made NaNo work, and that's the goal.

  7. Yup, Joanna, I would definitely do it again. I'd try to organize my work year so I was ready to do a first draft every November. As far as that's possible...

  8. That's a huge accomplishment even if it wasn't exactly 50k! So happy for you, and that you had a lot of positives come out of the experience.

  9. My first NaNo experience was last year and that taught me to outline. I love it. And congrats for completing NaNo! Yes, I think you are a winner. What's a mere 1200 words between friends?

  10. Congrats on getting that close! I'm impressed. Some days I can write 2,000 words. Others, I can't write anything. I have not participated in NaNo before because I've always been right in the middle of a project. But next year, I'm going to make it a goal of mine.

  11. Wow! I'd say that's a huge accomplishment!!! Good job finishing NaNo! Looking forward to hearing what happens with the new ms. : )

  12. Good for you, Gail! I'll definitely be doing a NaNo of my own at some point in the spring. Glad you're back!

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  13. I love your title for this post. That's hilarious and a very good description. Some of the things that you missed are things you'll get back when you edit. That's what I had to keep reminding myself when I'd hit a spot I'd normally had stopped to do research for or knew it needed more thoughtful emotional description or dialogue. I left myself a comment to come back to. I didn't even have some names decided in the ms. I have a set of twin who are P1 and P2.

    When I wrote my first book I didn't want to outline because I didn't want to write it twice! How funny now that I'm on edit #14 (it's been my learning project). I realize the real writing happens in the edits. NaNo was just for getting the rough draft (sketch before the painting, if you will) done.

    Great insight and good luck for next year!

  14. Congrats on finishing! What an awesome accomplishment for one month! I wish there was a way to focus that much time on writing all the time without having to abandon blogging etc. - not enough hours in the day :)

  15. Wow, you weren't far off from 50K! Close enough, I say. Good for you. :) Yeah, I would worry about dead ends too, in the push to get a certain word count. BUT--words are changeable, and you can always tidy them up!!

  16. I didn't participate. I'm still planning my new project, but I think once I'm ready to start my first draft, I'll create my own NaNoWriMo. :D

    Great points!!!!

  17. I'm impressed and envious of your achievement, truly. I can understand all the pros and cons of nano. I haven't had a go yet, but intend to do my own nano month in the new year hopefully.

  18. @Madeleine, maybe you can join Stina. ; ) Good luck with your project!

  19. Sounds like you had a great NaNo experience. Congrats! I liked your breakdown here of both the good and bad. I don't think it would work for me, but I love hearing from so many that have really benefited from it.

  20. Yay for you! That is a LOT of words! I love it for the same reasons you did. It forces me to move forward, and not dally over every little thing.

  21. This sounds like a very positive discovery, I suppose we don't know what we can do until we try, 2000 words a day is good going.

  22. I like hearing your pros and cons and the idea of 500 words stints.

  23. I enjoyed my first year, 2011, with NaNo. It is perfect for a 'First Draft' endeavor, so as long as one (as Stephen King reiterates in 'On Writing') gets their 'story' done first, you have a piece ready for a second draft edit and for plot development/emphasizing.
    If I wasn't off of work it would have been impossible. At least one gets a chance to explore their limitations, abilities to focus, and have a little fun along the way.
    I found the video and email stuff of minimal usage.
    My NaNo page:

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