Five Things I’ve Learned From NaNoWriMo

In just a few more days, July’s Camp NaNoWriMo will be starting. I’m already signed up and ready, eager to join the other thousands of writers who will be attempting to complete a novel in a month. This will be my third NaNo, and I’m just as excited about it as I was my first. It was that first NaNo that completely changed how I wrote and allowed me to finish my first full-length novel. I’ve learned a ton from both NaNoWriMos, and today, I thought I’d share the lessons I learned.

5. Don’t give up on your idea

When I was working on God Save the Queen, I started really disliking my idea. I didn’t know why. I just didn’t like it. I wanted to give up on my idea and walk away; however I wasn’t about to lose my second NaNo. I decided to stick with it and press on. I ended up falling back in love with my idea, and things turned around. Before NaNo, I tended to just give up on my novel ideas when I felt uninspired. Sometimes that’s necessary (if the idea is just dead), but NaNo taught me to keep going even if I went through a period of disliking my idea.

4. Rough draft? What’s a rough draft?

Before NaNo, I never quite grasped the concept of a rough draft. I would reread what I had written and think, “Ugh! This is terrible! There are so many mistakes to fix, and I must fix them now!” My belief was that the first draft would be this brilliant work. Writing under the time constraints of NaNo, I couldn’t worry that my draft wasn’t perfect. That’s when I realized that rough drafts were exactly that – rough. It shouldn’t be perfect. It seems so silly now, but it was a huge discovery.

3. Say no to the delete key

This sort of goes along with #4. I used to look at my draft, reread what I wrote, and think that the scene was terrible, and then go in, delete it, and rewrite it. I realized early on that even if I hated what I wrote in my NaNo novel and wanted to delete it, I couldn’t. That would mean losing all those words in my novel, and getting behind in my word count. Looking back, I’m glad I learned that. Now when I’m working on a rough draft, I very, very, very rarely delete things. Who knows if that scene will later on make sense and inspire a beautiful plot point.

2. Pressure is good

I get very little done when I don’t have the pressure of NaNo on me. Sure, I get some writing done, but nothing compared to what I accomplish during NaNo. I need that pressure to get done in a month, to keep me at the keyboard, to keep me working. Knowing this now, I can do NaNoWriMo all by myself, setting goals to give me that pressure so that I’m able to get more done.

1. Just keep writing, just keep writing

The most important lesson NaNoWriMo has taught me is how to finish a novel. Before NaNo, I never guessed that I would have been able to finish one novel, much less three. When I wrote those final words in Homeland, I realized I’d found the key to finishing a story. That key? Just keep writing. Don’t stop, not until you get to end of the story and type “The End.” For me, that was the most important lesson I learned from NaNoWriMo.

In a way, this post is a bit of a thank you to the creators of National Novel Writing Month. I couldn’t have learned these five lessons without you. I’ll see you again for July’s Camp, and I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn this time around.

What have you learned from NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments below!

~ Kayla

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