Writing–Ten NaNos

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Yes, my friends, it’s November so you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m talking about NaNoWriMo a lot, but this post should be the last one.

Maybe.

Anyway, this year was my tenth year participating. I didn’t realize I’d done so many until I got to counting the years.

I’m actually pretty impressed with this feat. When I started I had no idea that I’d do more than one. When I first started, the idea of finishing a novel was pretty much a dream for me. Now, not only do I finish the NaNo novels I start on November 1st, NaNoWriMo as a whole has become a sort of ritual for me, a half-to.  It’s part of the season in my world that spans Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday. There have been a couple of NaNos that I’ve gone into that I wasn’t really prepared for, having only just got the idea I was going to use a week, maybe a couple of days before, but the idea of NOT doing it never occurred to me.

I can cay with some confidence that NaNo has helped me become a better writer.

Over these past ten NaNos I’ve learned what works for me. I figured out that I’m not a pantser, but that I’m not great with a diligent outline either. The past couple of years I’ve written out a page or two summaries, sort of outlines, and written by them. It’s enough that I know what I’m going to write when I sit down in front of the computer and where the story needs to go overall, but not so much that it takes away the opportunity for me to riff and explore and see what that story has to offer.

I’ve gotten better at my discipline. I’ll always be slow to start, I think, but I’m more dedicated to putting that first word down and going from there. If I say I’m going to show up to write, I’m going to show up, period. Most of the time I go above and beyond what I expect of myself, too. I get it done.

Over the years, I’ve explored several techniques to getting the words down. The first couple of years I just muscled it out. Then I discovered sprints, write for ten minutes, goof off for ten minutes. Those really helped me build my writing muscles. The last couple of years, I just wrote. Two thousand words in a day had become easy for me to get in one sitting without getting too distracted. I could do it in a couple of hours. This year, with the longer writing jags, I found taking a break every thousand words or so helped me keep up my stamina.

My NaNo first drafts are still crap, but they’re less crap than they used to be. I’m getting the hang of telling a longer story right the first time so I don’t end up having to rewrite most of it later.

My first NaNo, I chain-smoked while I wrote. My tenth NaNo, I drank cups and cups of green tea. Not really a writing improvement, but it shows just how much life has changed during those years in between.

I went from feeling completely overwhelmed and unsure that I knew what I was doing to sitting down to my computer with a certain feeling of “I got this”.

NaNoWriMo made a writer out of me.

Here’s to ten more.

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