Today, November 15th, marks the halfway point for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—write a 50K word novel during November). That means all NaNo participants should reach 25,000 words on their NaNo project by midnight tonight.
Yikes! That sounds like a big number—and it is—but I passed that milestone on November 11th. So far, I’ve been ahead of the word count curve (which matches with my real goal of finishing this whole novel). And so far, I’ve been loving NaNo because I’m learning so much from the experience.
Four Lessons from NaNo: The First Half
- Write Every Day
We’ve often heard the advice to write every day. We’ve heard it so often, in fact, that we blow off the advice. Or we think we’re doing a good enough job of it already, so we don’t question or change our habits.
But for me, I discovered that, No, I really wasn’t doing as much writing every day as I thought. Now that I am, my word count is climbing higher and faster than I thought it could.
- Create Daily Word Count Goals
The nature of the NaNo website, where we report our daily word count, has been hugely motivating. I want to hit that 1667 words every day, even if I’m ahead. The NaNo website’s “My Month” calendar widget with the colors for whether you hit or missed each day’s word count is awesome. I wish I had green for every day. Again, even if I’m ahead, I still want the green on that day. I angst over the fact that my calendar isn’t solid green. *whimpers*
For me, just keeping track of my daily word count isn’t enough. I want a goal I can aim for, so I can call a day a “writing success.” (Sometimes it’s the little things, right?) Most of all, I want a color-coded calendar to see my status of meeting each day’s goals. Does anyone know where I can find one for after NaNo?
- Know What Motivates You
By keeping track of our daily word count, we have better insight into what works to motivate us. Is our daily word count higher or do we reach it faster when we want to get in our NaNo words before our favorite TV show? Or maybe our word count is better on the days when we reward ourselves with chocolate.
Obviously, I’ve learned that colorful calendars work for me. Call it the completion-ist or perfectionist in me, but hey, whatever works. I say again, if you know of an app or widget or something that will give me a color on each day of a calendar based on goals, you must let me know. *smile*
- Learn How Far You Can Push Yourself
By writing every day, we learn which events throw us off our game, and more importantly, which don’t. We learn whether we really need to turn off our internal editor to get the words in. (I haven’t. My word counts have all come from normal, perfectionist-me drafting, no ignore-the-errors word sprints yet.) We learn how many words we can get in on a normal day. We learn how much we can squish into a day if we’re not procrastinating.
Unlike my friend Gene Lempp, I didn’t write any blog posts ahead of time, yet I’ve been keeping up my normal blog schedule. Yay! Good to know I can do that. I’ve also learned that 1500 words a day should be doable for me on a daily, ongoing basis. Together with higher word counts during the weekend, I’ve been averaging over 2000 words a day, so 1500 a day should be easy-peasy for me.
All that said, I’ve seen plenty of my NaNo Writing Buddies take a different approach. Some drowned in the words on the first day, putting the rest of us to shame. Some are still at zero words.
I’m not judging. We all work best under different circumstances.
I know some of my friends write best under a deadline. Others write in insomniac bursts. Still others had various commitments in the first half of the month, and they hope to catch up in the second half.
But other Writing Buddies I worry about, especially those who haven’t done any words since their initial burst. Did they burn out and won’t be able to finish? Will they join back in later and win NaNo with everyone else? Only time will tell. But I hope it’s not like the Aesop fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.
For those of us who aren’t sure of what works best for us, NaNo offers a great opportunity to experiment and try different methods. I, for one, am grateful for this chance to discover my strengths and weakness. I hope to take these lessons and apply them to my writing after November ends. And that insight into what makes us tick might be one of the biggest benefits of NaNo.
If you’re doing NaNo this year or have you done it in the past, what did you learn about yourself and your writing? Did you (or will you) change your writing habits to incorporate any NaNo lessons? Do you know what habits work best for you? Do you know what motivates you? How did you discover those things about yourself?Pin It