Lessons Learned from Losing NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo
National Novel Writing Month

I didn’t win. I didn’t even come close. NaNoWriMo got the better of me, but I am better for it.

I started out on the first of November determined to win. My strategy was to write no less than 2,000 words per day so that I would even be a bit ahead of the daily count. I did write more than 2,000 words some days. Others, not so much. By the time the end of the month rolled around, I didn’t even have half of the 50k words needed to win. You can read more about NaNoWriMo and my newbie enthusiasm in my post about National Novel Writing Month.

I’m not going to lie. I was a little sad and not just a little mad at myself for losing. I mean, I started off so strong. I could have made it to 50 thousand words.

Then, I realized that while I did lose the NaNoWriMo challenge, I actually learned quite a bit.

  1. There is quite a sizable writing community in my area. Before participating in this challenge, I would meet a writer here and there, but I had no idea we were so many. It made me feel much more connected. Some were published and others weren’t, but we were all struggling through the month together.
  2. It turns out that many of us WriMos (which is what participants in NaNoWriMo are called) are Doctor Who fans. I probably should have guessed this, but I was surprised to learn it. Before November, I knew only one other Whovian.
  3. Before National Novel Writing Month, I dabbled at writing something novel length, but it died a horrible death in about three or four pages. Most of my previous writing was poetry and flash fiction not longer than a couple pages. By participating, I found I have the ability to write something longer.
  4. NaNoWriMo is about getting words on the page. They don’t have to be good. It was a challenge to write parts I didn’t like, to write even when words didn’t come, to write without worrying about all the grammar and punctuation rules. I learned the value of the zero draft, because you can’t edit something that isn’t written. It was hard and liberating all at the same time.
  5. Because I previously only wrote short bursts of words, I didn’t fully understand my writing style. I started out the month with a loose plan and a plot idea. When I started writing, none of what I planned happened. The characters and story drove themselves and it grew organically. It helped me determine the kind of story I should be writing versus the one I wanted to write. It means I have to practically start my novel over, but it was perhaps my most valuable lesson.

Yep. I am a loser. And I’m Ok with that.

Just because I didn’t win NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean you won’t be seeing a novel from me sometime in the future.

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