NaNoWriMo and Lessons Learned

So NaNoWriMo wrapped up last Friday, and I successfully completed the challenge. One the one hand, it’s probably a bit too early to write this post, as I don’t realize the best lessons from an event until long after. For example, I didn’t really figure out lessons from my first marathon until a couple years later when I started training for my second one. On the other hand, I wanted to write something while my NaNoWriMo memories were still fresh. Maybe these lessons will help you decide if you want to do NaNoWriMo next year or not.

1. By the end of the month, I was writing every day, whether the motivation was there or not. I thought this amount of writing would be exhausting, but by the end of the month, writing had become a virtuous cycle. I didn’t want to stop.

2. If motivation was lacking, it was either due to lack of sleep or because the scene wasn’t working. Often, if I took 30 minutes to re-write or analyze the scene, I improved it, sparking motivation.

3. Taking the weekends off can be nice, but if I’m just sitting around watching TV, I could be writing, getting one step closer to a complete novel. Which will I be more proud of doing, a few months from now?

4. An outline is a must for me. I have trouble sitting down and writing for more than an hour straight. With all the start-and-stop writing, I need a roadmap.

5. Ditching a chapter and re-writing it can be a good thing. I learned this one twice. Womp womp.

6. Keep moving forward. By the time I got to the 50,000 word mark, I was already thinking about how my beginning and middle could be improved. But I wanted to get to “The End.” If I went back to revise every time I thought of it, I’d never finish.

7. I need to buy more coffee.

8. If I find myself somewhere unable to write–either because I have no laptop or there are too many distractions–I would take notes, outline, or think about things like dialogue or description. In other words, I keep at least a notebook and pen handy so I can be ready to go when I have the time and space to write.

9. If motivation is really lacking, I set up a reward for hitting my word count. Bourbon makes a wonderful reward. Especially after all that coffee.

10. Because it was such a wild experiment to begin with, I felt free to try anything and everything, even if it didn’t quite fit in the story. I knew I could fix it later. But it gave me some great experience doing things I wouldn’t normally do.

So that’s it. My top 10 NaNoWriMo lessons. I hope you find them useful. Now I just need to maintain my motivation to finish my novel and revise it. And maybe put together a few short stories for a Clarion application.

What lessons have you learned from NaNoWriMo? What is your life after NaNoWriMo like?

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