2018 was my first Nanowrimo experience. I never heard of Nanowrimo until that year when I started delving into the online writing community more. I was already outlining a novel and found out about Nanowrimo just days before it was set to start. And I needed a push to start writing. Well, I successfully finished Nanowrimo that year by completing over 50,000 words in November.
My first Nanowrimo was so successful that I decided to participate in Camp Nanowrimo in July 2019, which I also won. With all this in mind, I was fully prepared to participate in Nanowrimo again for 2019. Yet… I’m not. I took a lot away after my first Nanowrimo. If you’re interested in my main takeaways as well as why I’m not doing it this year, keep reading.
It’s more about forming a habit.
Sure, being able to say you wrote a book in a month is great and all. But honestly, most people are writing books that are way longer than 50,000 words so you’re technically not writing a full book during Nanowrimo. So what is the point then? What I learned in my first Nanowrimo experience was that the main goal is to make writing a habit. Nanowrimo forces you to hit the word goal everyday or at least before the end of the month, so not writing one day feels weird.
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit and Nanowrimo gives you a few extra days to reinforce it. I won’t say that after my first Nanowrimo I started writing everyday without fail. Nope, in fact I was exhausted from all that writing and didn’t touch that story for months. But when I did pick back up that pen – okay, really I just opened up a Google Doc on my laptop – the new habit kicked in.
A new lifestyle
I still don’t write everyday. I want to get to the point that I’m writing more days than not. But now it feels weird when I go long without some form of writing – whether it’s here on this blog, a novel or journaling. My first Nanowrimo sparked my love for writing again and now I can’t imagine stopping for long periods of time like I did in the past.
After my first Nanowrimo experience I feel more like a writer. Sure, I always loved writing and it was always part of my life in some way. I needed a spark to get back into it and really begin to work on it. It was what really kicked me into gear. After my first Nanowrimo I stopped thinking about “one day in the future” being able to write a book and realized that day could be now.
Quantity doesn’t equal quality.
While writing everyday is a great habit to get into, part of the challenge of Nano is to try to write at least 1,667 words a day. This is great but sometimes you just aren’t feeling it and the words you write are utter crap. Of course editing helps. But I realized that just because I may write 50,000 words in a month doesn’t mean those words will be any good. In fact, if you read my September 2019 writing update, you would know I ended up scraping my first Nanowrimo project.
Although I’m not moving forward with that project I didn’t view it as a wasted experience. Firstly, my first Nanowrimo experience was really fun. It was hard and challenging. I felt like part of a community. It introduced to other writers I now watch on Youtube and I learned a lot about myself as a writer. I realized some of my common mistakes and what areas I need to improve on. Plus, it wasn’t all bad. While the story ended up going a direction I didn’t like, I really liked my main character and some of the side characters. Perhaps they’ll reappear in a different world with a different story.
Of course there is a whole group of writers who don’t outline anything at all. That definitely can work for some people and I’m not saying that people should outline every single detail. Because while that works for some also, that definitely doesn’t for me. But I think whether you don’t like to plan or you plan everything, having some kind of guide or knowledge about your story can help. With my first Nanowrimo experience, I did outline but not properly and it showed when I did my first read through months ago.
Now, I have tools like Save the Cat! Writes a Novel to assist me in my outlining. Whether you do that, or the index card method or something else, I think you can eliminate stress during Nanowrimo if you have some idea of what is going on.