Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why Part Five of the Writing Tips NaNoWriMo 2017 Countdown series sounds like something that’s a bit of a downer, but as great as NaNoWriMo is, it’s really NOT all about ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo. So, welcome to:
Part Five: 3 Reasons Why It’s Not About Winning @NaNoWriMo
And the rest of the series
Part Six: Get Writing Prompts By TFR Volume 1 For 99 Cents!
NaNoWriMo is great, because not only is it a community of like-minded writers who are all crazy enough to dedicate a month to writing an entire novel, but it’s also an epic learning experience. And sure, the bonuses for winners (those who validate their word count, which I believe you can start doing during the last days of the event), are awesome, but they’re not everything.
You Learn Your Limits
Part of what makes NaNoWriMo, well, NaNoWriMo, is the concept of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, which breaks down to 1,667 words per day. I touched on this in one of the earlier countdown posts, but one of the greatest parts of this event is that you can figure out what a realistic daily world count goal is. It doesn’t have to be 1,667 words a day when you’re not NaNo-ing (hell, it doesn’t have to be 1,667 words a day when you ARE NaNo-ing, just write, and it’ll all work out in the end, even if that end takes longer than you hope.
Not everyone has the time to bang out 5,000 words a day. Not everyone can write 500 (though, that’s a really great starting point type goal to hit, because it’s just about two pages in a standard sized Word document. Some writers are slower (for a lot of reasons, including perfectionism, and more on that in a minute), some writers are faster, some writers have to drag the words out of their heads, some writers have more days where the words flow, compared to when they don’t.
NaNoWriMo is diving head-first into the unknown, and you learn a lot along the way. I learned that I could finish a novel for the first time in six years, that I COULD spend days at a time not checking my Tumblr account, that fight scenes aren’t impossible, and that, if I try, I can come up with something really freaking cool. It’s up to you to figure out what you’re going to take away from NaNoWriMo, but I don’t doubt that you WILL take at least one thing away from this event.
You Learn To Break Through Writer’s Block
Writer’s block comes in many forms. My first Writing Tips post was about the 6 Ways To Transition Out Of Writer’s Block, and I think that was important that it was my first post, because writers need to know that it’s inconvenient, not permanent. Many writers, including the full-time novelists we aspire to be, literally can’t afford to just succumb to writer’s block. And during NaNoWriMo, Wrimos who have dedicated themselves to finishing a novel in 30 days get a taste of that.
Because it doesn’t matter how the words get on the page, as long as they do. If there’s a scene you’re stuck on (for me in the #WhoIsTalyaNightingale novel, it was fight scenes, including the one at the end, which I didn’t actually finish to my standards for about a year), or you don’t know where to go, then you just need to write through the pain.
You must keep writing in order to finish your story. Just write.
You Realize That It’s Not About Getting It Perfect On The First Try
What you write during NaNoWriMo is called a novel, but here’s what it really is:
This is a draft of a novel. And I’ll repeat: this is a draft of a novel.
That said, it doesn’t matter what words you put down, just as long as there are words that you put down. For me, as a writer, my second passes over my story are always my better passes over my story. That’s where I breathe life into it, so to speak. Why? Because your first draft is just a matter of getting the bones of the story out there, the framework. Without a framework of the universe you’re writing in, then you’re not going to be able to pull out the specifics and the little intricacies that make your world yours. Because it is yours.
In the email I got this morning from NaNoWriMo, it included a pep talk from writer Roxanne Gay, which was titled, “This is your novel and only you know how to write it.”
NaNoWriMo will teach you about yourself as a writer, how you write, what works for you, what doesn’t, what scenes you hate to write, even though you know you have to write them (see: fight scenes), what scenes you love to write, and how to move past things like sticky characterizations, characters you don’t like because they’re unlikeable, but you have to write them anyway (for more on that, take a read of 3 Ways To Write A Character You Hate, which is one of my most popular Writing Tips posts), and more.
If you don’t finish, don’t win, it’s okay. You win in a million other ways by just STARTING your novel during NaNoWriMo. No one says you have to finish it or reach 50,000 words. You might reach November 30 with only 40,000 words, or less. But that’s still thousands more words than you started with, and it won’t take much more pushing before those words become a novel-length story that you can go back into and edit into an amazing novel that you wrote, because you’re the only one who can.
No one can write the story that’s in your head. You can. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but you can use NaNoWriMo to learn and grow as a writer, and get better at your craft, which is the most important part of this entire exercise.
So, have a safe and happy Halloween, and when November 1 rolls around tomorrow, get to writing. I’ll be there too. Find me on NaNoWriMo at KathrynR47, or check in on Twitter for rants about writing, and maybe a peak into what I’m writing for #GroundhogOne.
Good luck, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for a special NaNoWriMo treat!