Writing Lessons

Woman reading book in a library - Camp NaNoWriMo Lessons 2020

It’s nearly the end of May and Camp NaNoWriMo is well and truly over. I wrote about my preparations for the month in April is the Camp-est Month, which seems like a long time ago. One thing that surprised me was that 30 days of concentrated noveling has left me neglecting this blog but I’m back and I am with lesson.

Here’s what I learnt from completing my first ever writing marathon where I set my own goal – officially.

I work well when I have a small stretch goal.

I’ve always set myself either lofty goals or ones that are small before.

When they’re too lofty I’m so uncomfortably aware that I’m unlikely to reach it that everything feels hopeless so what’s the point. When they’re too small, they feel like they’re not even worth going after.

So, this time I made a goal somewhere in the middle. And I hit my word count goal every single day! Why didn’t I think of it before?

And with a plan.

I’ve always thought I was a pantser. And I do still love discovery writing, I can’t imagine starting a project without a good chunk of discovery-based fun.

But I realised that as a project progresses, I like a solid structure. Knowing where each of my characters is heading, how each scene fits into the whole makes the writing of it so smooth and fast.

Plotting allows me to writer faster. They’s still room for the joy of discovery but I don’t get stuck wondering if I’m taking this character arc in the right direction or where my characters should be next.

It’s a shame I dislike the outlining process. Yeah, I need to work on this.

But perhaps the most important lesson is that I don’t need a NaNoWriMo to write.

I’d begun to fear that I could only work on a project consistently if I was embroiled in November’s NaNoWriMo. Last month taught me why I failed to keep up a consistent writing habit come December.

I’d been pushing myself too hard. By the time December arrived I was creatively burnt out from pushing myself to get more and more words. Simultaneously I was worried about the quality of my work. Since I hate editing, the prospect of having to fix 22,000 words later when I could have quality work of only 10,000 stressed me out.

By lowering my word goal (and also celebrating even if I didn’t reach it) I found myself writing what feels to be better quality. I hope I’ll look back on it and think the same.

If you’re in same boat over NaNoWriMo burn out, give lowering the goal and celebrating-your-achievement-no-matter-what a go.

And how are all these lessons playing out now Nano ended?

I have taken a couple of days off this May, but not together. I don’t like to get into the habit of not writing and two days feels very close to forming a habit.

But beyond those days I’m still writing every day. I’ve broken my Nano daily goal a couple of times too, but mostly I’m back down hovering around the 250 words goal that I set myself at the beginning of the year.

I’ve had a few days beneath it, one being 72. And it took me 15 minutes to reach that! But I no longer care if it seems small. It’s 72 words closer to finishing my novel that I would have been had I not even given it a shot that day.

Just keep on keeping on.

What was your biggest lesson of NaNoWriMo?

2019 has been … a year. It’s not been great, for a lot of us. But amidst the chaos I have achieved a few things. 💎 Returned to acting & resurrecting this site. Sort of. I’m recording poetry readings again, for instance Edna St Vincent Millay’s Time Does Not Bring Relief. I’m still not in […]

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November is over and so is NaNoWriMo – the month where people around the world scramble to write a 50,000 word novella in 30 days. So what are my thoughts now I’ve had 24 hours to reflect on the event, and sleep. A lot. 😉NaNoWriMo 2019 has been the most successful NaNo I’ve participated in. […]

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