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  • Adrienne Bell

The Lessons Of NaNoWriMo


It’s December. And you know what that means…that it’s no longer November! Another year of NaNo is in the books.


This year I decided to treat NaNo as a kind of boot camp. The necessary minimum daily word count of 1667 was higher than my Hella goal of 1370. I figured if I could keep the bumped up pace of NaNo going during the hectic month of November then I was in good shape for 2020.


So how did it go? Pretty good. I had some wins, some stumbles, and a learned a handful of lessons that will be helpful one January.


(As always, keep in mind these were my lessons. They might not be relevant to your writing routine, style, or goals. Feel free to take what you need, leave behind what you don’t, and use them as jumping off points for your own discoveries.)


1: I Can Do This.


No surprise—November was a hectic month. My schedule was filled with appointments and obligations. There were travel days and family visits. Big holidays to plan for. What felt like a dozen or so surprise problems that popped up during each day that needed solving.


And yet the words still got done. The morning of Nov. 1st, I decided that my daily word count was my #1 priority. That doesn’t mean it was the first thing that got done each day, but it meant that I wouldn’t go to sleep until it was done.


And, surprise! They every day they got done. Right around 1667 of them every damn day. Sometimes a little more, but never less.


Here’s a screenshot of my NaNo daily chart. I know it’s boring as hell—straight and steady. No jumps, no dips.




And if I keep this slow and steady pace during the crazy holiday season, then I know I can do it the rest of the year.


2: I Need An Outline


I worked on a side project during NaNo, one that’s been floating around in my head for a while. I thought that all that musing meant that I wouldn’t have any trouble simply sitting down and hammering out the story.


I was wrong.


Writing every day might have worked out, but writing productively every day? Well, turns I need a road map to make that happen.


The beginning went well, but by the time Nov. 8th rolled around it was clear the story was in trouble…and I couldn’t stop to figure out why.


Maybe if NaNo had taken place in April it would have been a different story. Maybe I wouldn’t have been overwhelmed with other obligations. Maybe then I could have taken a breath and a few hours to figure out where I’d taken a wrong turn.


But it wasn’t, and I couldn’t.


So Instead I figured it out as I worked. This means that now I have about 10 days worth of words (16,670 or so) which will need to be completely rewritten.


That’s 10 days of extra work that could have been prevented with a couple of days worth of outlining.


3: Tools Are Meant To Be Used


On a perfect day, I sit down to write at my desk at 10am. I plug my laptop into its stand, pair my bluetooth keyboard and mouse up to it, and turn on my ambient train ride sounds.


Let me tell you, November was short on perfect days. There were travel days and packed schedules and times I didn’t get home until after 8pm.


What I learned though was that I could use all those other writing tools that I thought were no good for me.


The most important of these turned out to be dictation. I’ve tried it before, but I didn’t enjoy it much. Turns out I like using my hands when I write. Also, I found saying my unrevised thoughts out loud, even behind a closed door, nerve-racking and embarrassing.


But on a few travel days during NaNo I was faced with a problem. I simply didn’t have time to type out 1667 words. So, it came down to a choice between dictation or missing day—and you better believe I wasn’t going to let that happen.


So at the end of travel days, I swallowed my pride, locked myself in the car (embarrassment factor mitigated), and told my story to the phone.


Was it my best work? Probably not. Do I want to do it every day? Hells no. But now I have another tool that I can add to the toolbox. Everyone helps get the job done.


So, how did your NaNo go? What were your victories and fumbles? What lessons did you learn. Come on over to the Hella Slack Channel and tell me all about it.

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