At the behest of an author friend (check out her writing here), I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time this year. For those who’ve never heard of it, the goal is to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel in the month of November, that’s 1600+ words a day.
This is a feat I thought impossible a short month ago, but I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.
Lesson 1: the power of writing quickly
I was amazed that I managed to write the 50,000 words, plus a few extra for good measure. My novel (the third book in Bloodborne Pathogens) isn’t entirely drafted – I have a few more chapters to go – but I got really close. And that was while starting a new job. Accomplishing that felt really good.
Now, I don’t know how good those words are, but they’re there and the story is skeletoned out (yes, that’s phrase). And it took a lot of diligence and dedication – there were other things that I did not do in November in order to hit that 50k word goal.
Lesson 2: the power of a regular writing practice
One of the things that really helped me write more quickly was writing pretty much every day. There was one day I didn’t write anything (migraine) but every other day I wrote something, even if it was just 500 words.
This meant I spent very little time going back and figuring out where I left off. I always knew where I was – even if I didn’t always know where I was going.
Lesson 3: the power of plotting
I’m a plantser…but I think I need to be more of a plotter. If you’re not an author, you probably have no idea what I mean. If you are, I’ve probably just started a debate with you.
In the writing world, there are generally authors who plot before they write (plotters) and those who just sit down and write (pantsers). In the past, I’ve been more of a pantser. But my first book took 10 years. The second book, I did more plotting out of necessity – I was waiting for carpal tunnel surgery, so instead of writing, I put plot points on sticky notes. The book took maybe 6 mo…well, a year to draft. This book, I did more plotting (the weekend before nanowrimo started, so it wasn’t super detailed), but I’ll have a completed draft in 6 weeks.
So I’ve learned that, for me, learning to plot effectively might help me write more quickly…though I guess I need to figure out whether it helps me write better.
Lesson 4: the power of revision
Okay, I haven’t learned this lesson yet. But I know I will. I might also learn the hell of revision, given that there are more than a few places where I have **insert fight sequence here**, not wanting to break my flow to stop and map out exactly how that fight sequence will go.
But my fundamental take away is that I think I like this approach. When I am ready to write the next book, I’m going to try a nanowrimo-like approach.