Last year I particpated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, well unofficially anyway. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in November and the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Last year I decided to do NaNoWriMo (though I never offically joined the site because I’d technically already started writing my novel and due to time constrictions in my life at the time I knew I’d never reach 50k words). I took part last year to get some much needed motivation to get my novel written (and stop procrastinating). I got so much more out of it than I ever thought I would. Some things I learned:
1. Making Time to Write
It’s so easy to become distracted (by social media, by television, etc) that writing goes on the backburner. I had started writing a novel, but I wasn’t giving writing the priority I needed to give it. I would procrastinate and become distracted mucking around on Facebook. To reach 50k in one month I set myself a goal of writing a set amount each day, which meant any time I had spare time to write that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t waste time playing Harry Potter on PS3 or even starting that new book I bought. I wrote. NaNoWriMo taught me if I gave writing priority over time-wasting activities I could get a lot written.
2. The Cure for Writer’s Block
Before NaNoWriMo if I got stuck with a scene I would sit there and stare at the blank page and sometimes even give up, hoping it would come to me later, only to return and stare at the blank page again with still no idea how to proceed. This is usually where the procrastination would come in. I would divert back to the old standbys of social media and video games while I ‘thought’. It didn’t work too well. Procrastinating wasn’t an option during NaNoWriMo, I needed to get those words on the page if I had any hope of reaching my daily writing goal. So I just wrote, whether I was stuck or not. I found ‘Write or Die‘ was great for this. Basically you set up a word/time goal and write until you reach that goal. If you stop writing for more than a few seconds you get ‘punished’ (there are several punishment options to choose from). Maybe what I wrote during these forced sessions wasn’t the most brilliant writing and maybe I had to modify scenes later on (that’s what editing is for), but I got past my writer’s block every time.
3. Turning Off My Inner Editor
I’m a real perfectionist when it comes to writing and one thing I always used to do was edit as I wrote. I would write a scene, or sometimes even a paragraph, then I would go back and fix all the spelling errors because I couldn’t stand having them there or I would rewrite the scene again and again until it flowed just right. It made writing a long process and often I would lose steam before I ever finished the story. For NaNoWriMo I forced myself to turn off my inner editor. I made myself refrain from reading back over anything I had written until I finished that first draft completely. Sure there were lots of spelling and grammatical errors throughout that first draft and there were a lot of scenes that needed to be rewritten, but I got it written. I got the story written out to completion without losing steam. I didn’t get 50k in November, I think I only hit 30k (which was still a huge achievement for me), but I kept up the steam until it was finished (in January). The first draft is just that, a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect, that’s what editing is for.
I’ve decided to take part in NaNoWriMo officially this year(my NaNo page is here). Although I’m not certain I’ll reach 50k this year (I still have to balance my other time commitments), at least I’m starting from scratch this time. I’ve been tossing up between a couple of ideas, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to the one I want to write. Now to start the planning!