And that’s a NaNoWriMo wrap

Well, that was an experience. My first NaNoWriMo. I didn’t quite make it to the end, but I did give it a red hot go for 25 days out of 30 and achieved 41, 750 words.

This (aside from the fact I didn’t achieve the ultimate goal of 50K) is a wonderful thing. It’s certainly more words than I’ve produced in a month before, and although it hasn’t brought me to the end of the story, I’m definitely a whole lot closer.


Where NaNo worked for me

I’m someone who responds to tracking and accountability. Entering my daily word-count into the NaNo web site, examining my statistics, and keeping track of my fellow writing buddies’ progress was all the incentive I needed. That and a desire to ‘win’ a challenge.

NaNoWriMo gave me the framework I needed to be more disciplined than normal. I wrote when I didn’t feel like it (mostly). I wrote on the evenings when all I wanted to do was watch TV, or read a book. I even wrote late in the evenings after I’d been out — and in the hair salon. I had my word quota to reach, dammit! There were a couple of days when I gave myself a break, but those were all factored in.

As for the whole ‘dismiss your inner editor’ aspect of NaNoWriMo… I found this liberating in some ways. I tried to adopt the attitude that it didn’t matter how the words came out, that all that mattered was the story itself. And even if the story went off the rails a little, which it did from time to time, I could just ignore the bits that hadn’t worked and recalibrate in the next scene. This helped me keep ploughing ahead without going back to rewrite and edit… a somewhat alien concept for me.

Where it didn’t work so well

The hardest thing about NaNoWriMo for me was coming up with scene after scene after scene… As I said in an earlier post, I usually take a little longer to mull over what specifically should happen next. The relentless pace of NaNoWriMo really challenged me in this regard, and was ultimately what defeated me in the end: Last Sunday I reached a point in the story where I felt I needed to start pulling all the strands together to work up to the climax — and for that I needed (need!) reflection time.

Maybe I could have gone on anyway, just to see what my subconscious dragged up. Maybe I could have gone back to insert some scenes from other POV characters I’ve been skimming over… Maybe.

But I didn’t. I just felt I needed to stop, think, mull. Ah well, nearly 42K words is not so bad!

Would I do it again?

Whether or not I officially participate in NaNoWriMo again, I might very well tackle something similar on my own terms. It’s certainly been effective for me, at least while I’m embracing this ‘rough first draft’ philosophy… It’s not something to be undertaken all the time, but for pounding out that rough first draft it’s been good — up to a point.

But maybe it’s enough to know that I can force the wordslinging upon myself for a week or two at a time, and in future I can take it from there. It’s certainly given me a new process to consider. Perhaps going forward I can set myself timelines that might have once seemed unrealistic, but which now are achievable through adopting some of these new found techniques.

When it comes to redrafting and editing though, that’ll be a whole new ball game. That’s when the novel will truly begin to come alive, and that’s what will take all the time.

And that’s actually the part I am looking forward to. I think there are two fundamental kinds of authors: 1) those who feel the thrill of raw storytelling, who love discovering what happens and therefore love the first-draft process and the editing not so much; 2) those who feel the thrill of making a story come to life, through the perfect balance of setting, emotion, character, conflict etc, and therefore live for redrafting, editing and polishing.

I’m the latter. Definitely.

So in that respect, NaNoWriMo could be considered a damn good thing to force me through that first draft process!

14 thoughts on “And that’s a NaNoWriMo wrap

  1. I haven’t done NaNoWriMo YET, but you’ve done a beautiful job of putting down all the reasons I would/wouldn’t do it. I do love how you jumped into NaNo with your MoJo on all engines, and I have to think that 25 days out of 30 gives you license to cross the finish line with a sense of heart pounding exhilaration!

    I’m definitely a Number 2 kind’ve writer, too. Alas, maybe NaNo next year, since I’ve yet to be in a place where I might hope to last the duration.. Until then I’ll just keep hanging with my generally slow, but steady pace.

    Congratulations, Ellen!


    1. Thanks, Barbara – this was the first year I thought I had any chance, and I’m pretty happy with how it went. It’s always good to try something new and maybe learn something about myself in the process 😉

      I think the stars needed to align (head space, time, wip situation) and they did. Maybe they will one day for you too.


  2. I’m more like author Number 1. I don’t think the word ‘perfect’ comes anywhere in my storytelling process. I feel like if someone else wants to read it as much as I wanted to write it will make me feel like I’ve accomplished something.


    1. Absolutely! Like the quote in my sidebar: “someone has been waiting their entire life to read the book you are writing”. The thought of that makes it all worthwhile 🙂 The idea is to connect with readers, isn’t it. So to achieve that – whether with a story that pours itself onto the page, or something more polished – is the endgame.

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment!


  3. You’re a rock star, Ellen! Nearly 42K words in 25 days is an awesome accomplishment. NaNo was also liberating for me in suspending my inner editor for a while to let the story flow. That was difficult at first, and I know there’s a TON of work to do on all of the word slinging I tossed into my WIP, but I’m glad I did it and got most of the story’s essence down on the page.

    I am also looking forward to flushing out the core of the story when I move on to editing. I have lots of asterisks and highlighted areas in my manuscript where I know something is needed but couldn’t come up with it during NaNo. Cheers to all of us NaNo’s!


  4. I don’t think the two types of writers are mutually exclusive. I am definitely a number 1 kind of writer but I keep an eye of emotions, characters and conflicts for sure. My settings may not be as strong as they could be but I don’t really think that at this point the terrain/locality is all that important to my stories. And my words can run away a little but eh, hopefully the story has you by then.


    1. No I dare say not, but I think most writers would *prefer* one or the other. I think you’re a born storyteller, Lita! But that certainly doesn’t mean you’re allowed to ignore the rest of it… We all have to do all of it 🙂


  5. Congratulations Ellen! 41,750 is excellent!

    I also am a writer who needs “reflection time” and I think you made the right choice to slow down and take time to weave all the threads together for the climax. Thank you for a great summary of the pros & cons – I may try this one year. Not committing just yet though…


    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I think I made the right decision too… Although I’m still pondering a week later! I don’t think nano is for everyone, and I think one needs to be travelling down hill with a tail wind to make it… But good to stretch myself and give it a go 🙂


  6. Wow, Ellen, I’m so impressed!!! 42K is a fantastic effort, and across November (which in Melbourne, particularly, is a busy time of year). I was thinking of trying for a WriMoFoFo in February when things slow down, but you have inspired me to go for it sooner! Well done!


    1. Thanks, Nat! I was on a bit of a mission and just cleared everything aside… Still not quite sure how I managed the pace, given my track record. Really pleased. I’ll join you on a WriMoFoFo or two if you want! It would be good to have someone to be accountable to. I’m currently figuring out the next steps in the novel, and will perhaps tackle it big time in January, once we’ve cleared the December silly season.


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