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Five Lessons From NaNoWriMo 2011

Five Lessons From NaNoWriMo 2011

Last night at approximately 7:45 PM, MST, I became an official winner of the 2011 National Novel Writing Month challenge! Officially I had a healthy word count of 50, 667 words, all of which are now safely tucked away in a Word document on my computer and an e-mail server ‘just in case’. To quote a famous fictional spy: “Yeah, baby!”

Here are five lessons I learned during NaNoWriMo 2011:

1. Throw the thought of future publication out the window.

I know the stories of people who have had their NaNoWriMo novels published are meant as an encouragement. But for someone like me who at times has to fight a ‘do it perfectly immediately or not at all’ mentality, it can be distracting. Remember: the important thing is to sit down and write. You can polish it up later, just like the people who did go onto publication.

2. Do what works for you to help keep you typing.

Allow yourself to be silly or serious or ramble-y. Interject yourself in the story. Have a character burst into song. Write whatever pops into your head. Eventually you’ll get back to the story or discover a brand-new one in the process. Whatever it takes. But keep writing.

3. Tune out the outside world if you can while writing.

For me this involved listening to music with headphones. During the last week in particular, I put together a playlist that helped keep me typing without distracting me in the process. For you, it may involve closing the door and turning off your cell phone. Find what works, and repeat it as often as possible.

4. Keep you cheering section updated on your progress.

I found posting short updates via sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and then seeing the responses the next day, helped keep me going. It was also a form of accountability. This year I even shared an excerpt from last year’s NaNoWriMo entry here on my blog (it’ll be up until Dec. 1st), along with a very silly bit from this year’s session with my Facebook friends. It was my way of saying thanks for all their support, and it gave them a bit of a glimpse into the process.

5. Your frame of mind when writing matters. A lot.

This is perhaps my most important takeaway from this year’s challenge. My secondary goal, you see, was to keep a positive frame of mind during this process. It was a struggle particularly on Day Four when, as my husband reminded me last night, I was ready to quit. But I stuck with it - the writing and the goal to have a good attitude. I told myself to be silly, to have fun, and to enjoy the process. And by the time my word count was verified last night, I was happy and excited not only about being done, but about what I had done. It was a definite improvement in outlook compared to after I had crossed the finish line last year. I’m even looking forward to developing an idea that popped up during Day 21 into a story of some sort.

Now I’m going to spend some time with a book or a magazine and cheering on fellow writers who are still pushing towards the finish line. Happy writing, everyone!

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