Monday, December 5, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Lessons Learned


I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo twice.

The first time was in 2009 and I was in the midst of finals and papers and trying to work a part-time job all at the same time. I made it two days.

The second time was last month. I’m done with school and I knew now was the best time to do it. This year, I made it farther. The first day I wrote 2,000 words but on day two, I decided I wasn’t feeling the story so I switched it. This caused me to fall behind and I never fully caught up. I stopped after ten days.

Two attempts. Two failures, if you want to look at it that way. But I’m choosing to look at NaNoWriMo 2011 as a learning experience. I learned a lot about my writing style, the environment I need to be in to write, and what it will take for me to finish a novel.

Lessons Learned While Attempting NaNoWriMo 2011

1. I have to write fiction daily. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, writing daily is key. And not just writing anything. I could check-mark my blog posts as my writing for the day but that’s cheating. As much as I love writing for my blog, I also need to hone my fiction writing. I need to set time aside – be it in the early morning or late at night – to give my 100% focus to my story. One thing about NaNoWriMo is that you have to write an average of 1,667 words a day to meet the goal. This means writing every single day or having to catch up on days you miss. It gets you in the habit of writing daily. I’ve fallen a little off the writing every day wagon, but I’ve been doing better the past few days and excited about writing again.

2. I love character-driven romances. I spent most of October shuffling through my memory bank of story ideas, switching through mysteries and YA lit and chick-lit. Through romances and historical novels. To be quite honest and blunt, I don’t much care about writing the next best-seller. Would it be lovely for my novels to have the kind of staying power as the Harry Potter series? Yes, definitely. But I’m not certain that’s my path to take. I find my place in character-driven romances, about people who lead small lives and where love is the centerpiece. I’m not talking about creating fluffy main characters who think they need a man to be happy. Not one bit. That’s not how I live my own life so there’s no way I could write about that. Instead, I want to write about women finding their own path in life, finding their own happiness, and who open their heart and minds to love and romance. That’s the kind of book I want to write.

3. I need a silent, organized workspace in order to write. This wasn’t a big revelation for me, as I preferred silence when studying when I was in college. For the most part, I prefer it more often than not. Sometimes, I like to have the TV on when I clean, but I generally prefer a quiet home when I’m trying to keep my focus. My attention strays too much to the television or the lyrics of the song if I have music on than on what I need to be doing at that moment. Along with silence, comes a clean space. I think most people work better without clutter and it really gives me a fresh, open mind when my environment is organized and neat.

4. Don’t worry so much about quality. Worry more about getting the words down. NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality. It’s about the process of writing and not worrying so much about how perfect it is. I want to bring that process into my writing now because I can get bogged down on making sure dialogue flows right or a scene sounds perfect that I miss out on the actual writing of my novel. I want to focus more on putting words down on paper and less on perfection. The editing process is there to smooth out any kinks and delete scenes that don’t work right but I think, for now, I just need to write for quantity.

5. I have a desire and passion for writing. I know the road to being a published author is long and arduous. And it may not ever lead to a place where I can fully sustain myself on my writing. But there’s this thing about having a passion: you will do whatever it takes to fulfill that passion. You will lose sleep, food, and money to chase after your dream. And those people who think you are crazy and insane? They don’t know the sweet fulfillment that comes from being in the midst of chasing - or realizing - their passions.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, did you finish? What is your biggest passion in life?

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