October 22, 2012

On the Value of NaNoWriMo

Last week, I read this post from Farrah Penn, and it got me thinking about what I've taken away from NaNoWriMo about myself and my writing, even though I haven't officially participated since that first time three years ago.

For the first half of 2009, I'd been playing with an idea for a book, but it had been years since I'd written anything other than fanfiction (which I talked about here). Fanfiction was a necessary detour on my writing path, but it was emphatically just a detour, and I needed to get back on the main road, the road I started on when I was a kid using my saved-up dollars to enroll myself in writing programs instead of blowing it at the mall. But my progress was stalled because of the irrational fear that I wouldn't be able to make the transition back into writing my own stories with my own characters.

I thought about it and dithered a lot and then I heard about NaNoWriMo. It sounded insane. 50k words in one month? IMPOSSIBLE. And yet, people did it every year, and it sounded like just the thing I needed to kick my butt into gear and jumpstart the book. So, trepidation high and half-expecting to burn out after the first week, I joined.

Turns out NaNoWriMo is an AMAZING idea and not nearly as crazy as I once thought. I reached the 50k mark around November 20. I did burn out around 57k words, and the book was a phenomenal mess that would need mounds of editing and rewriting, but the fact was I did it. I DID IT. And that small (HUGE) accomplishment forever changed what I thought I was capable of.

What NaNoWriMo taught me about myself:

♥ I am capable of writing 50k or more within a month, regardless of other obligations like funerals, parties, holidays, and weekend trips (all of which happened that particular November).

♥ I can do it again if I put my mind to it. Every first draft I've written since has been completed within a month or less. Editing is something else entirely, but spitting out that first draft isn't something that scares me (much) anymore.

♥ I'm a plotter. My outlines do change, and I keep it flexible, but I have to have an outline.

♥ Writer's block doesn't exist if I don't want it to. Sure, there are times when the writing feels bland and nothing comes out right, but I write through it anyway. And when I go back to edit, I find they were either not as awful as I remembered or easily reworded for better flow. Editing words already written down is easier than staring at a blank page.

♥ I am horribly competitive. Seeing my fellow NaNo-ers' word counts jump up every day was exactly the motivation I needed to keep writing, to push for a few more hundred words, to keep going even though I'd already reached the day's word count goal.

♥ Even though fanfiction was my greatest teacher, the joy of writing my own story again eclipsed everything else, and I have never looked back.

Today's art: Hibari faerie with tonfas :P


Are you participating, or have participated, in NaNoWriMo? And did it teach you anything about yourself?

Have an awesome Monday, guys! ♥



 

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