Friday, December 3, 2010

November writing challenge a great success

By Heather Justesen

So November is over and hundreds of thousands of NaNoWriMo participants around the world are taking a break from pounding their keyboards. I've participated in the yearly novel-in-a-month challenge four times now, but this is the first year I've actually completed the 50K words during the month of November. That's not to say I haven't managed that many words during other months of the year, but November is always insane for me, so I've never managed it before during the annual challenge.

This year I decided I needed to plow through as quickly as possible, so I started the month strong, and with the help of a three-day writing retreat I managed to complete the 50K goal by November 8, and am currently working on my third draft of the manuscript--but if I'd tried to write just the daily allotment each day instead of speed-writing, I wouldn't have finished, because, again, the last half of the month has been crazy.

I learned a number of things from this year's challenge:

1: I can accomplish anything if I just stick my rear-end in the chair and go to work.

2: Writing mysteries can be fun!

3: Plotting in advance, even if the plot is sketchy, makes the writing go so much smoother (Okay, so I've known this before, but it was good to have it reinforced)

4: Character sketches and journaling from the characters' point of view is extremely helpful to understand them. I've never journaled for my characters before, but it was totally great!

5: Having friends cheer you on is great motivation. There were 32 people from my original writing group all participating in Nano this year, and 15 of us reached the 50K goal. We had a spreadsheet with everyone's total words available so we could see where everyone was, and we held writing sprints several times each day to help us get and stay on task. Also, it turns out I've got a healthy competitive streak I usually ignore.

6: Sometimes even the writer doesn't know who dunnit until the climax scenes are written. I know that might sound odd, but I *thought* I knew who the murderer was until I went to write the climax, and it just wouldn't come. As soon as I changed the murderer's identity, everything fell into place and the scene practically wrote itself.

7: A supportive spouse can never be overvalued when you have a major goal. Mine is completely great about allowing me time to focus on my writing and at understanding that means either he's going to cook a lot, or we're going to be eating scads of leftovers. Thanks sweetheart!

December is going to be chock full of edits for various projects (I have so many in need of editing it's not even funny), in addition to the usual Christmas preparations. I'm excited for everything in store.


Annette Lyon said...

Great post! I learned a lot doing NaNo myself--plan to write a post about my experience soon. I think we learned a lot of the same lessons, though!

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Ditto. I learned so much about my writing and abilities during this year's NaNoWriMo. The three things that helped me the most were #1 - my totally supportive hubby (because if he didn't pick up the slack of dishes, laundry and car pools, I would not have been successful), #2 - My Authors Incognito group & my local NaNoWriMo group were fabulous and full of encouragement, #3 - I loved the write ins and sprints online. I was amazed out much I could write while participating in these. I'll definitely do NaNo again next year.

Heather Justesen said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies. It seems like there's always something more out there to learn, as long as we keep working at it!