Here are three things I’ve learned about writing from participating in NaNoWriMo.
Just Get the Ideas Down
I know a lot of people like to outline their NaNoWriMo projects. Some people have some very elaborate plans. Others, like myself, just sort of go with whatever comes up top of mind. There’s nothing wrong with outlines. I suck at them. But whatever you do, just get the ideas down. Even if the story is going off into a really weird direction, just go with it. You can always backtrack and rewrite it. Heck, you can start writing a completely different story in the process. Whatever you do, just get your ideas down.
It Doesn’t Matter How Many Words You Actually Write
Once I actually surpassed the NaNoWriMo 50K word goal. It actually isn’t all that hard if you have a few days to blow out the majority of it. But what I ended up with was a mess, with three or four versions of the same section of the story in some cases. I wrote a lot of exposition just to get the ideas down. But really, when I sat back and really thought about it, I decided I’ll just write whatever comes to me no matter how many words it is. Some days you’ll have 50 words and other days you’ll have 5,000. As long as you’re writing something somewhat coherent, and as long as you really write anything, you’re making progress… even if it’s not coherent. It’s all exercise.
You’re Going to Write Some Nonsense
Continuing on the theme of writing lacking coherence… when you’re trying to reach a word goal, you’re going to write some nonsense. It’s perfectly fine to go into stream-of-consciousness mode. Sure, a lot of it won’t fit with the story you’re writing. But since NaNoWriMo is a fiction writing exercise, it doesn’t really have to. You’re making it all up as you go along anyway and the beauty of fiction is that you can often frame it in a way where the reader can be able to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the story.
(BTW, there is actually a NanoWrimo for non-fiction authors. It’s called NanoWrimo Rebels. It’s a great idea and honestly is probably a lot easier than forcing out a novel in 30 days.)
Whatever you do when participating in challenges like NaNoWriMo or similar writing exercises, I’ve learned that you should just write as you normally would, just with somewhat more urgency. It can be a great exercise in getting out thousands of words that otherwise may not have come out of you had you not been prompted to do so.
And whatever you do, have fun with it. Don’t stress over it. I know there’s all this junk about writing a complete novel or come up with something that could end up being publishable. But don’t panic. Sure, you might. But more likely, it will just be a way to get yourself writing on a more regular basis.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo or a similar writing challenge? What was your experience and what did you learn from it?