After eight years of trying, I finally won NaNoWriMo this year. It was glorious, affirming, life-changing. I proved to myself that I could write at a professional pace, banging out 2K a day with amazing regularity.
So, what was different this time?
I plotted a bit more than I usually do before writing, but that wasn’t what helped me win this one. I’ve put these lessons below, in order of importance. Some of them completely changed the way I write.
Note: For any of you who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s a writing challenge that happens every November where people from around the globe try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
#5 – Writing every day is about momentum.
I’m not a person who generally writes every day. I have a kid and a job and a social life and it just doesn’t always happen. I have friends who swear by it, but it just isn’t something I can keep up 365 days of the year.
Writing every day kept me immersed in the story in a really creative way. Writing every day kept said story at the top of my mind in a way that taking lots of days off just didn’t match.
#4 – Writing everyday increases my output. A LOT.
Seriously, look at this graph. Look at what happens when I’m really in that story, multiple times a day, every day.
At the beginning of the month, I was hitting between 1800-2400 each day. My birthday is November 10 and I took a break with my honey for a few days. When I started back with NaNo, I just inched ahead on that story.
I’d lost my flow.
I got the flu the week before Thanksgiving, and then prepared a magolicious gluten free Thanksgiving feast. And I didn’t think I’d win NaNoWriMo.
That’s okay, I reasoned. I never win NaNo. I have 24,000 words I didn’t have. That’s close to what I usually do.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
#3 – Enlist the support of friends and family.
Several friends told me they were going for it and I was too. That’s right, they informed me that I was capable.
Jamie Raintree, Julie Glover, my WANA pals and all my fabulous writing friends at OCC/RWA were like, “You can easily do 26,000 words in a week. You write fast. You’ve got this. Plus, we want to be accountable to you and have you be accountable back.”
And my family picked up the slack for that last week of November, which was pivotal.
#2 – Accountability and group sprints are like rocket fuel.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I freaking love group sprints. I’ve been doing them for some time online in Facebook groups or at Twitter hashtags, or over in Kristen Lamb’s WANATribe. They’re lovely and I set a timer. And that ringing buzzer often jars me out of the story.
The NaNoWriMo site has a group sprint tool (under Word Sprints) that’s rocking my world. I’m still using it, even though the challenge is over, and I hope they keep it on the site FOREVER.
The NaNo timers have a cute little “time’s up” voice that isn’t jarring at all. Plus, you are prompted for word count at the end of the sprint so you can visually analyze later if there was a time of day or part of the story where you wrote faster. And you see how everyone fared. If you’re competitive, that part is groovy too.
Being accountable about reporting numbers and meeting up online for sprints is just a little extra oomph to get me back to the page. Love. It.
#1 – I can do way more than I think I can.
I’m not calling myself a lazy-ass. It’s more that I get in my own way. My “you can’t do that” voice seems to be much louder than my “you can totally do that” voice, and that’s a damn shame.
This was my biggest lesson this last November: Get. Out. Of. Your. Own. Way.
When I sat down and played with my story every day (being accountable to my friend, Julie Glover) we moved mountains.
I busted out 3-4-5,000 words in a day. Easily. One crazy day, I wrote almost 7,500 words. I’d never done that before because my silly brain didn’t know it was possible. What a huge eye opener that was!
Get immersed in the story and sit down and write until you can’t any more. Take a break. Repeat. That was the “magic formula” for 2016. It worked and I had so much fun because I got out the way of my inner happy storyteller.
What is the last goal you worked for that you met? Is your “no you can’t” voice louder than your “sure you can” voice? Have you every participated in NaNoWriMo? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!