What I learned While Participating in NaNoWriMo for the First TIme

30 11 2011

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

First off, I finished! I managed 51K, though the novel is barely half done.

I learned that I still have my determination muscle hanging about. I mentioned before that I put it to good use back in high school, becoming an All-State flutist three times over. I thought that I had it in me, and I was right!

I also learned that I can put my competitive streak to good use, especially when I’m competing against myself. Watching that blue bar move from left toward the completion zone on the right every day was highly motivating, especially when it vaulted heavenward above the ‘par for the day’ line on the graph.

That competitive spirit is also well served on twitter, at the hashtag #wordmongering. There is a terrific community of supportive writers from around the globe who start writing at :00 or :30 of the hour, writing for 30 min. I’m actually wordmongering this blogpost right now, and will report my wordcount at 11:30 local time on twitter. Any wordcount is celebrated there, because it’s X more words than one had 30 minutes previously!

I also learned that while it’s optimal to write every day, with my professional schedule it just doesn’t happen. I knew that would be the case, and when I had time to write I pushed myself to get the words down. That padding kept me from despair when two or three days would go by without any progress. So from now on I’ll have weekly goals, rather than daily ones.

After NaNoWriMo I proudly wear the label pantser/plotter. I started out with a logline (which changed, oops), and a basic idea, but after about 10k words I was lost. In desperation I sat down and plotted some scenes, and that unblocked me. The pantser in me came back as I was writing the scenes that I’d plotted, nice juicy stuff that I couldn’t seem to plot before I had my hands on the keyboard. For the next books in the series (yeah, that’s the plan!) I’ll try out @elenaaitken’s storyboard idea, and see if I can plot it out in more detail.

Another thing: if you’re going to write a fantasy novel, it helps to have done some worldbuilding beforehand. I hadn’t, and there are scores of “XXXXX”s scattered throughout the manuscript where I didn’t have a word or an idea for something (What the hell do Umgonnan EAT, for crying out loud??) I need to go back and flesh them out. I’ve bought a couple Holly Lisle’s ebooks from Amazon, and if I find myself a committed fantasy writer, I may well take one of her courses. Hell, I may take one anyway!

I forced myself to not edit as I was writing, but my natural flow is to edit what I wrote the day before, then begin writing again. I need to read what I wrote before anyway, especially if it’s been a couple of days since I’ve written. In my first novel (unfinished, naturally!) there were days when I was uninspired, and I would edit during that time, thinking that I was getting something done. I probably deleted some good stuff in that process, but I’ve kept all my changes for that book, so I can go dig it out when I start working on it again.

I learned that I enjoy writing sex scenes. Even when they’re between non-humans. So shoot me! It’s fun, especially when the beasties are not only sentient and have consciences, but also have to deal with strong instincts that drive their sexual behavior. That’s part of culture building – how they deal with that.

Oh, one more thing. Playing Bejeweled does not add to one’s word count!

Did you participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Or in previous years? What did you learn? Did you grow as a writer? As a human being? Let me know in the comments!

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13 responses

30 11 2011
Ryan King

Congrats on finishing NaNo! I’ve seen #wordmongering being used but didn’t know what it was, kinda like I don’t know what #MyWANA is. Love your blog design BTW.

30 11 2011
Julia Indigo

Hi Ryan, thanks for the comment!
#MyWANA is a community of people who have read Kristen Lamb’s book “We Are Not Alone”, which is on social networking for writers. You can check it out at Amazon – it’s an ebook and about $5. Really good investment, I think!

The blog design is a wordpress template – and frankly I wish I could figure out how to tweak it a bit! Perhaps in the new year. I’m glad you like it. 😀

30 11 2011
donnagalanti

I give kudos to you for doing NaNo and hitting the goal! I cringe to think about doing it every November but hope I get the guts to do that. I understand about needing to have some world building done beforehand as I just completed a MG fantasy adventure novel – and while I wrote it over a few months it was still challenging! Congrats to you

30 11 2011
Julia Indigo

Thanks, Donna. I did it on a lark (obviously!), after hearing about it for years and wondering why anyone would want to do that! Silly me.

Worldbuilding. Oy. Hoping it’ll be fun… 😉

What is “MG”? Middle Grade, as in middle school?

30 11 2011
donnagalanti

Yes, MG is Middle Grade fiction – for 8-12 year olds. Funny as I have it on my blog post today – along with many other acronyms for writers 😉

You inspire me to do NaNo next year!

30 11 2011
Karen McFarland

Hey there Julia,

Congrats on a month well done! You did great! And now you can take a deep breathe and relax. Your a self motivated person so I know that you will finish that novel!

I wish I could say that I participated in NaNo this month, but there simply wasn’t the time. My husband was seriously injured last march in a three truck pile up. Yep, and he is still awaiting surgery, well it’s been a real mess. So as you can see, not much time for 50,000 words this month. But hey, I did learn how to tweet and start a blog and facebook page! lol I don’t know if I’m doing anything right of course. I figure it’s all going to take some time.

Glad to have you back in the blogosphere Julia! 🙂

30 11 2011
Julia Indigo

Thanks, Karen, it’s good to be back! My #writegoal is 2 posts/week, and I’m hoping to get a few drafted during my vacation. You know, so I have some in the queue for when real life happens.

OMG about your husband! Why hasn’t he had surgery yet?

I found you on FB, through Kristen Lamb, who was kind enough to friend me. I don’t know if I’m doing anything right, either… but it’s fun, meeting new people. And my gawd, so much good info out there! I think that Twitter and the blog should be enough. I’m already on FB under my real name, and now this one – my pen name. I can hardly keep up with one FB account, but if I keep this one open in Google Chrome, and the other in Safari, perhaps I’ll be able to.

30 11 2011
Lynn Kelley

Congratulations for winning NaNo! Woo hoo! I gave it a shot, and I learned that life gets in the way. Some major things came up, so NaNo took a back seat, but I’m happy with what I accomplished and will continue on with it. I’m so glad you explained what the hashtag ‘wordmongering’ is all about. I didn’t know that. Very cool!

30 11 2011
Julia Indigo

Thanks, Lynn. Life definitely gets in the way, but I’m single w/no kids, and my fur baby is a healthy eleven year old poodle. I had days where all I had to do was write, and that was a good thing… because there were days when writing was impossible.

You should join us at #wordmongering! It’s a great little community, and we have fun comparing word counts.

30 11 2011
Jennifer

Congrats on NaNo, Julia! It’s a huge accomplishment, and you discover so many things about writing and about yourself along the way. And no, Bejeweled does not add to word count. Neither does Mahjong!

30 11 2011
Julia Indigo

LOL Mahjong. Or solitaire. Or Angry Birds. I keep looking, but none of them add to word count! Imagine that.
And it is a huge accomplishment. But then there’s the whole ‘finishing the novel’ thing. And the ‘editing it’ thing… both of which will be done in a more sane manner… and without forcing myself to spend an entire evening catching up on my financial matters. Yeah, a lot went by the wayside in November, to make NaNo happen.

1 12 2011
Della Odell

Congrats on winning NaNo!

I also have a tendency to edit my work from the previous day. It’s hard to turn the inner editor off! I completely agree with the need for worldbuilding. I did a bit before NaNo, but I still found myself doing the same as you and marking XXXX in paragraphs. 🙂

5 12 2011
Julia Indigo

Thanks, Della!
And… I haven’t looked at the novel since 11/29. Oh dear. Well, to my credit, there was a lot of stuff that piled up in the interim, that needed to get done… and I’m leaving tomorrow to go to Australia. So I’m a bit busy!

But the trip there is 23 hours, plenty of time to think and write and worldbuild, which is just what I’m planning to do. More later!

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