This month I took part in #NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month. If you haven’t heard of this before, you can check out their website here. The basic premise is
that on November 1st you begin to write a 50,000-word novel, finishing by 23:59 on November 30th. Sounds hard doesn’t it 😂 But I did it – kind of! And as someone who has never finished writing a WIP before, this is a huge achievement for me!
I’m going to start off by saying that my story was a little over 25,000 words (not the full 50,000) but it is complete and simply became more of a short story than a full-on novel while I was writing. I’m still counting it as a win though because this is the first EVER time that I’ve literally written ‘THE END’ on any of my WIPs!
I will also say that what I wrote was nowhere near perfect but it was a solid first draft. It also means that I’m now able to build on something that is already pretty much done! This was such a mental encouragement for me when coming to edit what I’d written as I was able to remind myself that the hard part was already done.
Not only does this movement give some inspiration to us aspiring or struggling writers, but it’s also a great way to help improve some valuable skills. You’re sticking to a pretty short deadline, proving that you can get things done when you put your mind to it. You’re showing your determination to get something done and your enthusiasm for a project – all invaluable skills in all aspects of life.
So, I’m going to tell you about my experience with writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days and also give you some advice should you be thinking of giving this a go!
I put my focus on one of my WIPs for this process as I was really in a writing slump at the start of November. I ran a little Twitter poll to see which of my ideas my followers thought sounded the most interesting – the result was pretty close but swung in favour of Season of White (a historical romance that follows the lives of a young soldier who is called up to fight in WW1 and his childhood sweetheart). Prior to NaNoWriMo, I had planned out the basics of this story and where I wanted it to go and even started writing the first few pages but then hit a slump. I find that my main block with writing is that I feel like I can’t do justice to the ideas in my head 😂 If you’re the same way I’d definitely recommend NaNoWriMo as it forces you to just write without stressing over each word.
I tried to set myself goals every day so that I had something to work towards. I tried to write 1,700 words a day (making 51,000 in total) and only went back to build on some scenes after that was done. I thought this was a really useful plan as it meant that I was writing enough each day and also being able to edit parts that I wasn’t sure about without that taking up all of my time and hindering my progress. I didn’t stick to the plan 100%, of course, as there are just some days when you’re bone tired and your eyes can’t focus on writing but it felt like the goals still weren’t out of reach, meaning that I dind’t feel too bad about missing one or two. But, obviously, you know your writing style best so come up with a plan that suits you.
Based on my experience I thought I’d offer some advice for anyone who is thinking of taking part next year.
- Plan ahead – a bit of planning can be crucial as you don’t want to spend the first few days deciding what to write about.
- Don’t focus on editing – I was told this a few times by people who had already taken part in NaNoWriMo but I wholeheartedly agree! You want to focus on getting the words down on the page rather than spending too much time going over every sentence to make it perfect – there’s time for that later!
- Be in the right environment – find somewhere that you’re comfortable. Too much/too little noise, uncomfortable clothes, etc. are all things that impact my ability to dedicate more than a few minutes to writing. You want to make sure that there is nothing for you to be worrying about so that you can put your sole focus on your writing.
- Set yourself targets – you can do this on your profile on the NaNoWriMo website or just at home for yourself. This really helped me stay on track with how much I wanted to accomplish each day and gives you something to work towards.
- Make a NaNoWriMo profile – while there is nothing stopping you from taking part on your own, without signing up, they offer lots of advice and encouragement. Emails are sent out concerning writing events near you which you may find useful if you like to bounce your ideas off someone while you write, or if you like to write surrounded by people, as well as encouraging messages from other participants and people who have found success with this approach.
The main thing to remember is that, while NaNoWriMo might be really useful to some, it’s not the be all and end-all of writing. Don’t feel ashamed or beat yourself up if you simply can’t find the time to finish a whole novel in a month – take your time with it, just try to write a little whenever you can.
So, have you taken part in #NaNoWriMo before? Was it a positive experience for you? What advice would you share with others? Or maybe you’re thinking about giving it a go for the first time!