December 4, 2017

a look back at nanowrimo 2017

Last week I wrapped up my eighth consecutive year of participating in National Novel Writing Month. It also marked my eighth year of crossing the 50,000 word finish line.

Thanks to a new feature on the website, I can break down a few bits of trivia on what my NaNoWriMo career has looked like. In my eight years of participating:

  • I have written more than 435,000 words combined in Novembers.
  • My biggest word count day was in 2012 when I wrote more than 7,000 words.
  • My biggest word count year was  2015 with more than 65,000 words that month.

It's surreal to write that. As much as NaNoWriMo has become synonymous with November for me in many ways, I still feel like a newbie writer trying to figure out what the hey I'm doing. There are some tricks I've learned, but in general I'ms till always developing and honing the process.

In the interest of self-evaluation and -improvement, I wanted to take a look back at what worked, what didn't, and what I'm still on the fence about from my 2017 NaNoWriMo experience.

What Worked

Writing Adventures: I introduced the idea of writing adventures into my world in 2014. It came to me in a dream (or early morning wakefulness, but dream sounds better). This is basically how they work: I set a word count goal for the day. Then, I choose four writing locations and break down how many words I have to write at each location to reach the overall goal. As a bonus, I invite readers to submit words, phrases, or concepts for me to work into the writing as a creative challenge.

I did this twice this year and wrote more than 5,000 words on one day and 6,000 on the other. It works for me, because the change of scenery keeps me from becoming complacent or bored. The roving schedule breaks down the big, scary goal into bites I can manage. Four locations seems to be the sweet number for me, but I can't tell you why.

If you'd like to build your own writing adventure, you can download the free printable page I designed. (Get it here on my website under "Free Downloads From Me For You.)

Daily Writing: I didn't always write a lot, like on my Writing Adventure days, but I did write every day. Even if it was only 200 words. (My lowest word count day was 221 words.) This kept the work fresh in my mind and it made me shake the excuses I always make to stop writing. It also made me realize it really wouldn't ruin my life or my day to spend even 20 minutes getting something down. I kept this up after achieving the 50,000-word goal on November 27, and with any luck, I can carry it on until I finish this thing.

Advanced Meal Prep: This took some planning and a lot of work on my poor feet, but every second was worth the results. I ate well all month and never wondered what I'd have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner on any given day. It kept me from ordering too much take-out or fast food (though I did budget in some dining out). I even have a couple of meals still sitting in my freezer for consumption this month. With the exception of shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, it kept me out of the stores, which can be a time-consuming part of each week.

Perhaps I should make this a regular thing--not just for November.

What Didn't

Hotel Writing Excursion: Don't get me wrong, I wrote some words and had a lot of fun, but I wasn't nearly productive enough to justify the expense of a night at a hotel and room service. (Though room service was everything I dreamed it would be.) I didn't stick to my writing plan after the first hour, and I completely broke my no TV rule. That said, I can explain away why that might have happened, and I learned some lessons to potentially make it work better in the future. Also, I did finally figure out my outline and had great phone call/text messaging brainstorming sessions to help me pin down the story. I'll try it again, but this was not a success in my November.

Big Holiday Word Counts: Look, I still wrote, but I never reached any of my word count goals on the days I was prepping for, hosting, and cleaning up after Thanksgiving. Those were some of those 200-, 300-, and 400-word count days, which fell substantially short of my goal of reaching 1,000 words.

Scheduling Marketing in Advance: Yeah, I had the best of intentions on getting posts written and scheduled on my social media platforms, and it didn't happen. At all. My marketing ventures were minimal and unfocused, but you can't win them all.

Keeping a Positive Mental Attitude: No matter how hard I try, every now and again, at some point, I'm going to hate everything and feel like I am a hack who totally sucks. Maybe this should fall under "I'm working on it," but I probably have to concede that some days, I'm just going to be a little black rain cloud no matter what happens. In those instances, I should probably just contain myself so it doesn't spread to others.

I'm Working On It

Writing Sequentially: I really want to be one of those writers who starts with "once upon a time" and finishes with "happily ever after", but with the exception of year one, that hasn't happened. Ever again. I just can't seem to resist skipping around to where inspiration bites when I'm on that deadline. I'm probably making big, sloppy messes of my work, but someday, I'll figure out how to be good again.

Writing Before Work: I did well with this some days. Others, I barely managed 100 words in an hour of sitting at my computer. Still, thinking about my work first thing in the morning did help me keep it on my mind, which is a good thing. I need to work on going from sleep to full writing more quickly. I made progress on that this year, but I still have a ways to go.

Sprints and Speed-Writing: Like my two previous points, some days these worked and others they didn't. Maybe my writing routine is that I need to shake things up on the regular. Or maybe I just need to practice and be disciplined. There's a lot to love about both of these techniques, and I'm not ready to quit them.

So how about you, my fellow Wrimos? What did and didn't work for you this year? What are you still figuring out? 

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  1. The challenges look fun; glad you've found a way to keep it fresh that works for you. I'd get too distracted doing that.
    Why do you think writing sequentially is a better way to do it? What you're doing is obviously working for you, which makes it "best" in my book.
    Hope you have a bright holiday season.

    1. That's a great question. I think the benefit of going sequentially is perhaps ensuring you don't get repetitive and maintain continuity. I do sometimes get confused of whether or not I've said something (particularly revealing something about the character or his or her past). Plus general flow and pacing. So in my head, I think it would clear up some of those editing issues.