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I Won Nanowrimo and All I Got Was This Lousy 50,000 Words

This year I participated in my first Nanowrimo. I decided to do it partially for fun, partially as an experiment, and partially because I was struggling to really dig into something new.

The project I thought I would be doing after my first novel has refused to move out of Outline Problem City, and the story I had decided to pants a few weeks before Nano was actually feeling pretty good, but I’d only written maybe 5k words on it.

Enter Nano. I knew a bunch of writer friends doing it, and I kind of wanted to push myself, even though I know I have a tendency to go off the rails if I’m writing too quickly — especially if I don’t have a clear, thorough outline. And for me, half a page doesn’t really count.

But I threw Caution to the wind (Sorry, Caution!) and went for it. And for the most part I kind of enjoyed it. I’m not sure how successful it will end up being when I drag myself back to those pages and see what’s worth keeping, but I DO think it was valuable to get words down — and I do think I learned a lot about the story I want to tell. SOME of that story is even in the pages I wrote, so… bonus.

Here’s what I learned would help ME for future potential Nano ventures — which I’m still not sure I’ll be doing:

  1. Work ahead on “real” work. I think I actually did pretty okay, but my days would have been a lot more relaxed if I had been able to get ahead so that I could devote a set block of time each day to writing.
  2. Plan for the interruption of the holiday. This one I did! And it allowed me not to work for several days over Thanksgiving Break. But in future years I’d like to go even further and get even more ahead so that I can skip the whole week.
  3. Decide a month of two ahead of Nano which project I want to work on and craft a thorough outline. This is just me. As much as I DO enjoy the discovery of pantsing, I deliver better work — and I write faster — when I have a solid, in-depth outline to work from. Pantsing shorter work is fine. Doing it for novels? Not my bag.
  4. Find private space. I’m not someone who has to write in privacy generally. I’ve trained myself to write practically anywhere, from coffee houses to fast food places to indoor play areas to libraries to our minivan, either on a laptop or my phone. As long as I have a word processor and a pair of headphones, I’m good. But there’s a layer of guilt when I’m sitting next to my wife writing… while she’s working. It’s not her fault. She’s incredibly supportive. But it gets in my head. So… privacy.
  5. Try to ignore what other people are doing. While there’s a certain layer of healthy competition inherent to Nanowrimo, hearing other people easily rattle off day after day of 3-5k words, or push themselves to 10 or 12k days — there were times when it made me question myself and feel jealous. There’s no need for that. Whether you write 100 words or 100k, the point is that you’re moving forward.

Anyway. I’m 50k words closer to my goal than before Nano, and I’ve got a lot of material to work with.

Now the real question: is Scrivener worth it — even with my 50% discount? The clock is ticking on my decision.

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